The Miami Heat came out with a win in a close one against the New York Knicks. After a late Tyler Herro three, followed by more Jimmy Butler scrappiness, the Heat extend their winning streak to 3 games. Here are five takeaways from this game…
#1: Miami’s first half roller coaster caused by Jimmy Butler’s minutes.
There were clear ups and downs in the first half for Miami, and it was all due to the playing time split involving Jimmy Butler. Jimmy came out early with an offensive purpose, which was to get to the free throw line. But other than that tactic, Miami had no other effective early offense. They shot 33% in the first quarter, which allowed New York to climb back into it. As Butler exited after that, it seemed like Miami simply fell apart, which caused Miami trailing by 13. But once again, Butler enters and changes the entire dynamic of the team, leading to easy buckets for teammates due to his downhill gravity. It’s a pretty obvious topic to discuss overall impact with Butler, but it needs to be noted when he controls the pacing of a game for a half when nothing was being generated.
#2: One of those Kelly Olynyk shooting nights.
When Kelly Olynyk’s name gets mentioned in one of these takeaway pieces, it’s either a very poor shooting night, or an elite shooting night. And well, it was one of those nights for Olynyk where everything is falling. One of the most important shots of the game for him is the first one, since there’s usually a sense of the direction in which he’s heading the rest of the game. He shot 5 for 6 from beyond the arc in the first half, which basically kept Miami afloat to finish the second quarter. He also wasn’t bad defensively tonight, since he had a pretty favorable match-up that didn’t involve a lot of movement. When Miami gets this type of Olynyk, it opens a lot of things up for others, especially since opposing teams have to make decisions to continue to hound Duncan Robinson, or key in on Olynyk for a bit.
#3: Kendrick Nunn improving in necessary offensive areas.
I discussed recently the different areas of Kendrick Nunn’s game that has improved, but one that was on display tonight was as a catch and shoot guy. Being a spot-up guy was not a part of his game that he was very comfortable with last season, but the continued confidence over this past stretch has allowed him to thrive in this area. Nunn has found himself on essentially every one of these pieces as of late, and the reason that’s important is because consistency has been his area of worry. Not consistency throughout a game, but consistency from game to game. And he’s proven since his first opportunity this season that he can do just that, but the starting position has truly elevated that point even more.
#4: There’s still a lack of rotational clarity.
Other than Miami figuring out that Kendrick Nunn being the starter and Tyler Herro playing off the bench works so well, there’s still a lot of uncertainty with the overall rotation. This doesn’t have anything to do with Gabe Vincent filling in for Goran Dragic off the bench, but more about the fit with the other guys. As I’ve mentioned with Andre Iguodala, he fits well with one of Bam Adebayo or Jimmy Butler, and Coach Spo seems to notice that as well. But him going to that more means increased lineup complications. Another player that falls under the category of rotational clarity is rookie Precious Achiuwa. All of his minutes come when Adebayo needs a break on the sideline, which means he has no time to get into any sort of rhythm. These small personnel things will be altered as the season progresses.
#5: Bam Adebayo learning the ways of Jimmy Butler.
Adebayo and Butler are basically the only two players worth discussing in that second half, but it’s about the way that they were scoring their points. When I asked Adebayo about Butler after Sunday’s game, he discussed learning things from him, such as drawing fouls at certain parts of the game. And well, we began seeing that tonight, since both of them lived at the free throw line all night. Although Butler utilized it to generate offense and momentum for the team, Adebayo used it for a self boost in his offensive game. It’s clear that is when he can bring on-court intensity and energy, but it also channels his aggression. If he can continue to get to the free throw line as a natural part of his game, that changes a lot of things on nights when he struggles a bit getting into a rhythm.