The Miami Heat expanded their win streak to 5 in a row with a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bam Adebayo returned, while Jimmy Butler still dominated to lead Miami throughout. And now, they will be playing yet again in less than 24 hours on this back to back. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game. Well, four takeaways from this game and a trade possibility….
#1: Sprinkling in extra defensive schemes, including traps, zone, and the press.
I’ve done a lot of breakdowns on Miami’s defense over this past winning stretch, mostly since it’s really been an intriguing aspect. Not just because they’re playing solid defense and landing number one in defensive rating over the last stretch, but because of the way in which they are doing it. Forget about individual defenders, since they continued this without Bam Adebayo, utilizing not so great individual defenders in a team scheme. In tonight’s game, Miami really went hard on high traps out of the pick and roll, forcing Cleveland to make that extra pass. Now, at times it may not have looked as effective as it could be, since shots were clanking off the rim right to Cleveland’s lengthy bigs, leading to their offensive rebounds and paint points. But these continued altering schemes will be crucial against good teams, especially when the offense isn’t clicking.
#2: Duncan Robinson benefiting from offensive cutting.
The off-ball cutting has been yet another aspect that I’ve dove into quite frequently, but it must be discussed once again. I’ve mentioned the team benefiting from these actions nightly, but there were some individual benefits tonight. For starters, the first play of the game was a Duncan Robinson back-door cut for an easy layup, which led to extra spacing on the three following the early timeout. They got some favorable switches in the first quarter, which led to Robinson being patient when receiving the ball, forcing the opposing big to make a decision. Another thing this led to for Robinson was a pick and roll flow. It’s been clear that some PnR sets will fully maximize his offensive abilities with Adebayo, which is exactly what he did throughout, but didn’t shine as bright due to constant turnovers in the first half.
#3: KZ Okpala over Precious Achiuwa once again.
KZ Okpala got his name called off the bench for Miami tonight, which shouldn’t be surprising since Precious Achiuwa found himself behind Chris Silva with Adebayo out. Okpala gave Miami a pretty impressive defensive game yet again, while still trying to find himself on the offensive side of the ball. But the interesting part about this topic is Achiuwa not being utilized in this game specifically, due to the Cavaliers bigs dominating against Miami’s small lineups. This doesn’t mean he should be playing over somebody in particular, but it does seem like the type of game where you expand to a 10 man rotation, especially to preserve some guys for this back to back. The counter to that point would be maximizing speed for their advanced defensive scheme with trapping and intense zone play, but it’s still a bit odd that some trust in Achiuwa has faded away slightly.
#4: A short Andre Iguodala stint early was one of his best first half spurts of season.
When comparing Andre Iguodala’s early spurt to others throughout the season, it’s important to note that this was the best first half stretch he’s had this far. The reason for that is because he’s had some very important moments down the stretch this season that shouldn’t be overlooked. But tonight’s was so impressive due to the impact on both ends of the floor. He knocked down both of his three point attempts, while immediately sinking back into a 2-2-1 press, then down to a half-court 2-3 zone. Once again, Miami winning by a good amount allowed Iguodala to watch from the sideline mostly, since they will be playing in 24 hours against the Memphis Grizzlies. These Iggy flashes are the moments that will truly come up big in a playoff game, which is why I’m mentioning this.
#5: A Trevor Ariza addition to this two-way Heat team?
Although tonight’s match-up may not make you think another small 4 is necessary, due to Cleveland’s centers dominating the boards and paint throughout, it just expands the way Miami likes to play at the current stage. Kevin O’Connor reported the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder are in discussions, which would send Trevor Ariza to Miami. Now, some may evaluate him as a guy past his time of impact, but this would just sound so similar to the trade of last year to add some wings for the post-season. Another two-way guy, who Erik Spoelstra would love, since he’s the type of player he can “plug and play” in many spots. As I’ve mentioned many times, sometimes a tiny spark is more important than the player you’re attaining, especially in a situation where you’re not giving up assets of value. Although KZ Okpala may not love this move after finally finding a spot in the rotation, it’s the perfect move when evaluating a low risk, high reward trade for the post-season, who wouldn’t have a huge role to fill.