A Breakdown of Miami’s Late-Game Execution

While the Miami Heat are at the halfway mark of the regular season, it seems necessary to reflect on their first 36 games. Although there hasn’t been much consistency to this point, mostly due to the inconsistent rotations with players in and out of the lineup, Miami’s late game offensive execution must be noted.

It’s pretty clear that the Heat are always in a dog fight down the stretch, no matter the game situation, which may be a positive thing in the long run. So, let’s take a dive into some of Miami’s offensive possessions late in games.

– A Jimmy Butler shooting display

Why not kick off this dive into late-game situations with the one fresh on everybody’s mind. It’s pretty clear that a big portion of this article will include Jimmy Butler, since he’s the guy who will have the ball in his hands in these situations.

On a night without Bam Adebayo, a lot of the sets for Butler were running through Andre Iguodala. The first play was a normal DHO for Butler, which got denied and circled back through it. With zero hesitation, he pump-faked and got both defenders in the air, leading to an and-1 triple.

At this point, he was clearly feeling it, flowing into a tough step-back three over Eric Bledsoe, instead of taking it to the rim per usual in these situations. But I’ve highlighted this Butler ending in a past article, which is why the Iguodala part is important to mention.

One of the most widely known things about him is his high IQ and ability to read a defense. And on this play, he notices a very out-of-position Pelicans defense, and attacks the basket since there’s no protection. This sealed their .500 record before the All-Star break, putting this game out of reach.

– The Butler-Dragic PnR

Miami faced the best team in the NBA, the Utah Jazz, a few games ago, which went down to the wire as well. It was a 2 point game with 30 seconds to go, and the last thing you wanted to do was give the ball to a very effective Jazz offense.

Miami flowed into a Butler-Dragic pick and roll, which is something they go to frequently, with either Butler or Dragic as the screener. Dragic screened for him on this possession, allowing Butler to do what he does best. He had a much smaller Mike Conley back-pedaling, and put his shoulder into his chest, which sent him flying.

He hit a much needed floater to put Miami up two possessions, but the options on this play must be noted. For one, he could’ve dumped it off to Dragic for a wide open mid-range or floater, which would be the first option after the shot attempt. But also Duncan Robinson sliding from the corner to the wing could’ve been utilized, since Donovan Mitchell got caught watching Butler on the play.

It’s not a coincidence that late-game offense flows better with Butler controlling it, since the spacing is usually crisp when he puts his head down to attack.

– The normal Butler-Adebayo PnR, reading the situation

Now, there are a couple things to evaluate on this possession for Miami. For one, they have a comfortable 6 point lead with 30 seconds to go, but a bucket would put them up three possessions.

Of course they run the usual Butler-Adebayo pick and roll, which leads to a perfect dump-off to Adebayo for the lay-in. But the part to discuss is the ability to read a situation, as I mentioned in the past. The Raptors were running a very small five to close this game out, which means the clear plan should be to give it to Adebayo in the paint.

Once again, this highlights the comfort level and natural flow when Butler is the decision maker late in games, which is something a few top teams in the East lack.

– Tyler Herro shooting in rhythm

There’s one mutual reason for Tyler Herro’s shooting elevating late in games. Although it usually links to confidence, it’s actually the level of rhythm he shoots with in these situations.

Once again, it begins with a Butler-Adebayo PnR, while Herro loops around to the perimeter while his defender sinks a bit on the penetrating Butler. It seems as if the defender catches up to him when he gets the ball, but it’s too late for him to recover when he shoots with absolutely no hesitation.

Another thing to note here about Herro is the level of lift on this shot, on top of the amount of rhythm. It’s the main reason I discuss his recent struggles relating to missing some time, since when he gets a few games in him, the rhythm shooting becomes a given.

– Butler getting to his favorite spot on the floor

In a very important game on national television in an NBA Finals rematch, Miami needed to get back on track on the road trip after some tough losses. They were up three with less than two minutes to go, but this very possession ended up being the most important.

It is no secret that Butler will try to get to the free throw line at all costs late in games. On this play, it looked as if a dribble hand-off was going to occur, but Adebayo gave Butler the ball sooner, which basically meant drive baseline. He did just that, and went up rather slowly with his methodical movements, drawing the foul to put Miami up two possessions.

Although the late-game execution could’ve went in the total opposite direction with a turnover on the final play on an inbound pass, leading to an Alex Caruso miss, that cross-court pass to Butler is something they utilize regularly on the inbound. That basically means it was just a miscommunication, but still essential to mention while on this topic.

– A different plan down the stretch

Miami had trouble generating offense at this point of the game, which is why this exact play is important. Yet another Butler-Adebayo pick and roll begins the play, which is exactly why I wanted to dive into this type of article, and leads to a defense dissection.

Immanuel Quickley sinks into the paint, which further proves the amount of gravity Butler has when going downhill. Kelly Olynyk reads it perfectly and dives down the baseline, leading to a much needed and-1 finish.

This was the other play that must be shown in the same game against New York. It seemed like Miami would hold the ball for the entire shot clock to milk as much time as possible, but well, that was until the ball got to Tyler Herro.

He decided to end the game right then and there, which fully describes the type of player Herro is. Although this doesn’t really fall under the category of execution, since the primary plan on this possession wasn’t really executed, it still ended up in a positive manner, icing this game for Miami.

– Making winning plays

In a game without Dragic and Herro, while Adebayo had fouled out, Miami’s usual offensive sets could not be utilized. Obviously there’s expected offensive clutter at this moment, which is why the plan was to try and have Butler make a play late in the shot clock.

He missed a tough fade-away off the front of the rim, but Olynyk tipped it out for an extra 14 seconds on the possession. This ended up in a Kendrick Nunn three, which also clanked off the rim, but yet another tip-out from Iguodala this time, forced Houston to foul.

On some nights, you’re going to have to play in the mud down the stretch, which is something that favors Miami with the amount of gritty players they have on the roster.

– Butler-Bully-Ball to excellent defensive execution

I’ve dove into quite the amount of offensive plays from Miami, so let’s take a quick look at a defensive one. For starters, Butler decides to just go to work on Harrison Barnes, while being down 1 with 40 seconds to go.

But we’ve had enough Butler scoring talk for one article, which is why the defense is the focal point here. Butler goes for an excellent double on De’Aaron Fox late in the shot clock, leading to a pass to Richaun Holmes with Adebayo defending.

He got a piece of that shot attempt, which ended the game and snapped a 3 game losing streak. If there’s anything you want late in the game if you’re Miami, it’s Butler and Adebayo leading the charge on the defensive end, hounding the offense with constant switches and doubles.

– No Butler, no problem. Well, sometimes

Heading into this game, Miami just came off an unexpected loss to this same Pistons team. Obviously this was a very important game for Miami, even though they were without Butler and Herro.

And since those two guys were out, why not give it to the 34 year old veteran down the stretch, who always seems to bail them out when they most need it. They run a Dragic-Adebayo pick and roll on this play, while Dragic surveys the floor when he gets inside the three point line. As Mason Plumlee continues to drop, Dragic realizes the amount of space he has and hits a mid-range bank shot.

But let’s finish off this deep dive with another defensive possession. Jerami Grant looks to take Adebayo off the dribble, which doesn’t seem to be a great choice one-on-one. Grant looks to have beat him to the rim for half a second, but Adebayo angles it perfectly to cut him off, and rises up for an incredible block to clinch this game.

There are plenty of common themes when evaluating this team’s play late in games, but the overall takeaway is that a healthy team increases the amount of offensive options down the stretch majorly.

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