The Miami Heat beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, sweeping the season series with them. Although I’ll address five takeaways from this game, all eyes will turn toward the Victor Oladipo injury situation that occurred in the fourth quarter. But, let’s take a look at some takeaways from this game specifically….
#1: The Jimmy Butler experience, a common theme but an interesting element.
Although Jimmy Butler’s first half consisted of only one missed shot, the continued theme showed up once again. He was the leading scorer at the half with 11 points, but the team still thrives off his aggression. As he got some much needed buckets early on, it sparked some scoring runs from Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic, which will always be the case with this team. This isn’t to discuss the drop-off when he exits the floor, but instead the moments in which he slightly fades away into the corner to be an off-ball player. It’s not the ideal situation for Miami to need an ultra-aggressive Butler against a highly depleted Lakers team, but that was the case tonight, especially since they weren’t getting the Bam Adebayo aggression early either.
#2: Tyler Herro making leaps off the ball, which is needed in his role.
Tyler Herro had his moments in the first half, but the real takeaway is what has transpired over the last few games for him. He’s been highly productive on the ball since moving to that sixth man role, but his off the ball fit is the actual essential part due to the guys he is surrounded by. One example is his reads off the ball, since he seems to watch his sole defender’s eyes a bit more, leading to instinctive cuts to the basket for easy points. But getting back to the areas he showcased tonight, it was mostly from beyond the arc as a catch and shoot threat, which is key in those lineups next to Victor Oladipo as the ball-handler. The next part to the development of these two on the floor will be Herro playing as the ball-handler more, while Oladipo can become the threat off the ball who can attack in motion.
#3: Plain and simple, the ups and downs are a normal part of this team.
It doesn’t matter if it’s no offense, like it’s been for many games this season, or an ineffective defensive game, as portrayed against the Memphis Grizzlies, this Miami Heat roller coaster is just pretty normal at the current stage. When evaluating the overall issue tonight, it’s just the overall sloppiness and lack of consistent play on each end, while throwing in the lack of energy that was much needed in a game that they were supposed to handle easily. Now, Miami has always had trouble competing at that level in these majorly winnable games, but these type of games are very important in a season where the Eastern Conference is as closely packed as it is. If Miami wants to take that next step as a team, aside from the development or fit from individual players, team consistency is the one and only thing that fits that category.
#4: Victor Oladipo finding his offensive fit game by game.
It’s pretty obvious that Victor Oladipo’s offensive fit would progress the more games he played, but the leaps he made tonight were very crucial for the upcoming steps. Other than the simple scheme understanding, the next part of it becomes lineup fits, certain players he bounces off, among other things, which is why Coach Spo was able to experiment with that a bit after some life was shown by him in the third quarter. He was tied as the leading scorer for Miami at the end of the first quarter, and he didn’t attempt a field goal. They need him as an aggressive figure on this team, especially since the aggression levels are up and down with the Heat’s two stars, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. The attacking was important for Oladipo early on, but the falling jumpers off the ball will be the area that he’ll find himself in more and more. And the injury that occurred in the fourth quarter will be another thing to monitor, which could change this entire topic of rhythm, as an added obstacle could be given to Oladipo.
#5: Nemanja Bjelica back-up big in first half, Precious Achiuwa back-up big in the second.
Bam Adebayo’s foul trouble forced Miami to look at different options in the big man department, which is pretty limited as Dewayne Dedmon isn’t available to play yet. Nemanja Bjelica obviously had his name called early on, and he gives them a surprising drive and kick ability, with the emphasis on kick since he is more than willing to give the ball up. The issue is that his offense, particularly the shooting, isn’t what many may have expected at this current moment, since the catch and shoot ability should be the easiest part for him to slide into. Precious Achiuwa ended up getting the nod in the second half, since Miami needed more of an interior presence who will at least battle with athleticism. He got into some foul trouble of his own, but he had some flashes that gave Miami what they needed in those minutes, but these exact flashes reiterate the fact that his development in a Summer League or G-League would be so helpful for him right now.