The Miami Heat played the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night without Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Avery Bradley once again, and came away with a very impressive win. Here are five takeaways from this game…
#1: Well, Kendrick Nunn is officially back.
The story of the night for the Miami Heat was Kendrick Nunn. With Goran Dragic and Gabe Vincent starting tonight, Kendrick was the only guard off the bench, so it was clear he’d get a good amount of minutes. But the questions were about how he’d perform in those minutes. And well, he looked like rookie of the year candidate Kendrick Nunn. He scored 16 points in the first half, going 6-8 from the field, scoring from the outside, off the dribble, off cuts, and more. The overall reason for this though was confidence. His body language was just very different throughout the game tonight, and that’s when he performs at his best.
#2: Duncan Robinson’s impressive three-point shooting and three-point efficiency.
If Kendrick didn’t have this unexpected comeback game, Duncan Robinson would probably be the primary story. He hit 4 first quarter threes on 4 attempts, and I don’t know which number is more impressive. His efficiency continues to be a huge part of his game, which is clearly a great thing, but it seems like his attempt numbers matter more than the percentage, especially without Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro. After that first quarter shooting display, he didn’t attempt a three in the second quarter. This team needs Duncan to get as many shots up as possible, since as seen tonight, it opens everything up for others. His game looks to be evolving game by game with his increased role, which we will most likely look back at this stretch down the line as the moment Duncan took the leap.
#3: Miami’s big man defensive versatility continues to impress.
I think this takeaway goes without saying, but it truly needs to be noted after seeing the match-ups with Toronto. Bam Adebayo being able to switch onto a guard out on the perimeter is clearly impactful for this team, but seeing Precious Achiuwa enter doing the same thing makes it stand out. The Raptors strength is their guard play and the Heat’s weakness is their guard defense, but it doesn’t look as problematic when the bigs switch out without hesitation to lock them up on the perimeter. It doesn’t make this issue any better, but it does highlight that ability on a nightly basis. There’s never a dull moment with Miami’s interchanging energetic big men, since even though they don’t play together, they clearly bounce off each other.
#4: Kelly Olynyk doing the small things.
It didn’t seem like Kelly Olynyk would be in tonight’s takeaway piece, but the stat-sheet solidified it. He scored the ball pretty well tonight, but truly stood out in the other areas. He rebounded the ball well and dished out plenty of assists, which is needed with Jimmy Butler out. He played in plenty of lineups with Precious Achiuwa, which meant he was needed to be the facilitator. He’s also great at making the skip pass to an open man, although it sometimes leads to unnecessary turnovers. Kelly Olynyk seems to be forming into a great fit with the starting lineup, especially since it gives Bam his space to work in the mid-range area.
#5: Miami handles a guard heavy Raptors team without their top guard defenders.
Now, the overall evaluation from the night is actually the guys that Miami was missing. Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley being out makes you wonder about the perimeter defense on any given night, but especially when facing a Toronto team with Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. Miami’s guards defending them were Kendrick Nunn, Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, and Gabe Vincent, who actually defended quite well during his minutes tonight. The point is that it’s a great sign for Miami to win a game in that department, no matter if Toronto has been struggling or not. This win is clearly a confidence booster, but they will need to do it for another 48 minutes in 48 hours.