The Miami Heat extend their winning streak to 3 games on Thursday night against the Warriors. Victor Oladipo’s debut may not scream from the stat sheet, but this is the exact debut that the Miami Heat organization loves. Just lots of defensive impact, and resulting in a win. So, here are five takeaways from this game…
#1: The initial Victor Oladipo observation.
Victor Oladipo made his debut tonight, and it’s clear that offense won’t be the initial takeaway. Pat Riley’s first conversation with him was about “defense, defense, and defense,” and there’s a reason for that. He wrecked havoc on the perimeter early on, mostly since he is capable of locking on an opponent without relying on a switch. This works both ways for Bam Adebayo as well, since he doesn’t feel that he must switch every screen. The offensive side of the ball for Oladipo was a bit passive early on, which is not surprising, since he’s trying to find his fit into this unique motion offense. Once he becomes comfortable after a few games, the offense will look a lot smoother with him as the ball-handler, while the defense can be plugged in at any time.
#2: Miami’s identity is clearly defense, but it might be scheme more than personnel.
To further the discussion about defense, it’s not all about the addition of Oladipo. And honestly, it’s not all about the versatile personnel pieces including Butler, Adebayo, Ariza, and Iguodala. It’s mostly about the differing schemes, which becomes even more deadly when you are even average in individual man to man sets with Oladipo at the point of attack. The reason that scheme stuck out tonight was many plays where guys like Robinson and Herro would trap together on the baseline, forcing turnovers or transition offense. And although it’s very true that they’re improving from a team defense stance, the main element is that the Heat’s coaching staff is placing them in areas that they know they will thrive, or at least not get picked on. This team has a chance to be really special with the amount of weapons to swarm the perimeter, and that begins with the team’s young and versatile centerpiece, Bam Adebayo.
#3: Rotations become interesting, including Kendrick Nunn role and substitution timing.
It seems necessary to discuss the Heat’s rotation after tonight, since there were quite a few things that stuck out about it. For one, Goran Dragic being out meant the Kendrick Nunn situation wouldn’t be addressed at the moment, but I guess it was. Gabe Vincent got his name called before him even though he was cleared, but maybe he just didn’t feel 100% once the game started. The second part of this is Nemanja Bjelica getting the backup big minutes instead of Precious Achiuwa, which worked out pretty well due to Belly finding himself in the offense pretty quickly, while also spacing the floor. The last part of this includes the main guys, since Adebayo and Butler’s minutes have continually been staggered since it’s hard to survive stretches with both of them on the sideline. Although they’re capable of going to it more with Oladipo, it’s just never ideal since Adebayo’s game is not easily replicated, not only on this team, but in the entire league.
#4: It’s not about Duncan Robinson’s three point makes, but actually what comes next.
The recent talk involving Duncan Robinson has been strictly the shots he’s making, as well as the areas of growth that he is showcasing. That includes defensive instincts, a willingness to put the ball on the floor and attack, among other things. But when evaluating his jump-shot, it’s not so much about the three-point makes, as it is what comes next. One play in the first half stands out, when a possession following him making a three, led to two defenders flying high on him at the perimeter, as the ball found an open cutting Butler, which ended in an open Herro three. Those are the plays that are generated when his shots are dropping, and can ultimately impact Miami’s newest acquisition very heavily. I’ve discussed that gravity opening up the floor for an attacking Butler, since well, that was their only attacker. But surrounding Robinson with players who can penetrate may be the fix to the offensive roller coaster.
#5: Bam Adebayo continues to have flashes, especially late in games.
Enough defense has been discussed in this piece, which leads with Adebayo most of the time, but now it’s time to talk offense. Oladipo and Butler didn’t even have to be on the floor for a good amount of the fourth, since they trusted Adebayo to keep them afloat. Not only did he do that, but he gave them a major boost, sparking a run through his ball-handling abilities and active defensive hands to gain extra opportunities. This also refers back to the discussion about spreading the minutes between the three, since trusting Adebayo to lead lineups, and ultimately be aggressive when most needed in the fourth, changes a lot of things for this team in the big picture.