The Miami Heat played the Toronto Raptors once again on Friday night, and fell short this time. Miami’s early struggles put them in a hole, and a couple of late pushes just weren’t enough. Anyway, here are five takeaways from the game….
#1: Slow start for Miami, fast start for Toronto.
The first takeaway that was apparent tonight was the slow start Miami came out with. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with energy though, just mostly an inability to get into their normal offense. Toronto clearly made adjustments from Wednesday to Friday night, mostly by trying to eliminate Duncan Robinson and Bam Adebayo from the offense as much as possible due to constant double teams. And it’s hard to make adjustments to the adjustments when you don’t have Jimmy Butler or Tyler Herro, as well as Goran Dragic in early foul trouble. But those excuses are unnecessary, since they just beat this team the other night with Kyle Lowry. Either way, Miami’s poor shooting early was the primary reason for their early struggles, especially since the role players couldn’t capitalize.
#2: Kendrick Nunn not only looked like himself, but looked better.
Even when Miami’s entire offense could not get in a rhythm due to constant doubles on Bam and Duncan discussed earlier, Kendrick Nunn became the only reliable scorer. He continues to showcase the ability to get downhill and to the basket, but more importantly stop on a dime for the immediate pull-up jumper. The offense can be discussed continuously, but what really stood out was the defensive end. He was very active on that side of the floor all night, but really thrived once Miami switched into a 2-3 zone. That’s when he began to look most comfortable, and a high comfort level is the most important attribute for his overall game. Seeing Kendrick Nunn look like himself once again is terrific in itself, but seeing him look like an improved version of the guy who placed second in rookie of the year voting last season is even better.
#3: When the role players don’t play their roles early, it doesn’t end up well.
As discussed previously, Duncan Robinson and Bam Adebayo had their hands full with Toronto’s defense early, while Kendrick Nunn handled the offensive load. But what about the rest of the team? Well, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus had major opportunities but did not play very well on the offensive side of the ball. Kelly Olynyk did not have many early minutes after Toronto went small, which would’ve been a huge boost before the Raptors got an early lead. The surprising minutes stat line in the first half though was 5 minutes for Precious Achiuwa. That has a lot to do with Bam playing 18 first half minutes, and they never seem to get inserted together. When the role players struggle early as demonstrated here, it’s pretty obvious how Miami trailed throughout.
#4: Bam Adebayo increases energy to begin the second half.
Miami clearly needed a boost of some kind to begin the second half, and Bam Adebayo took that upon himself individually. Mid-range jumpers and skip passes aside, he just brought the energy that Miami needed to make a run to begin the quarter. That was mostly sparked on the defensive end, which is no surprise. When the team is without Jimmy Butler, it’s needed to have somebody they can look to for some type of spark, and it’s great to see that Bam continues to take on that leader role. As he has mentioned in the past, there’s a big difference between leading by example, and leading vocally, and he looks to be evolving in both areas.
#5: Erik Spoelstra utilized exactly what he was given, plain and simple.
Before people begin to make comments about certain rotational decisions in this game, it ultimately doesn’t change a thing. Coach Spo went as deep into the bench as he could, due to the absence of Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Avery Bradley. Some guys down the line may not have performed as great as many had hoped, but that doesn’t fall on coaching or lineup insertions. And playing Brooklyn tomorrow night on a back to back makes those decisions even more viable. He utilized the cards that he was given. The issue was that he just doesn’t have that many cards in his deck.