The Miami Heat came out in their first preseason game in an interesting fashion. With Jimmy Butler getting the night off, Tyler Herro stepped into the starting lineup with the usual crew, playing next to newcomer Kyle Lowry.
Before diving into specifics, there is one overarching thought that should be addressed: the things discussed about Lowry’s immediate impact on this team weren’t being overstated.
He changes the speed of the team, the energy of the team, and well, it’s something fresh.
Just like Bam Adebayo stated on media day, he was getting bored of being in the same spots on the floor every night. When playing next to Lowry, though, you must always be on your toes for that ball to fall right into your hands in stride.
Guys like Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin had great flashes as well, but in this piece, we’re going to focus on that starting group only. So, let’s hop right into it…
Lowry-Herro-Adebayo Three Man Sets:
I focused a lot on three-man sets when predicting the offensive actions Miami would run. The difference is that I said the Lowry-Robinson-Adebayo trio would be run the most.
But after Herro was inserted into the starting lineup, they began to run things with a purpose, looking like that group has been preparing in these slotted roles throughout the entire camp.
Looking at the first clip above, it’s simple: Lowry orchestrating, Adebayo screening for Herro to come off the curl, a 2 on 1 is forced, and Herro lobs it up for Adebayo to throw down. You know what I notice here? Comfort.
The other thing about this grouping is that it doesn’t always have to be Lowry setting others up, since his off-ball skill is absolutely a treasure. When I watched that scrimmage last Friday, one of my main takeaways with Herro was that the ball was going to be in his hands a ton. Emphasis on “a ton.”
And yet, that carried over quite a bit.
In that second clip, Herro comes up to receive the ball as Lowry relocates to the right wing. The 2 on 1 is forced pretty effortlessly as Adebayo slips, but something else stands out more.
Just watch Lowry and Trae Young. Obviously focusing on the defensive stuff with Young isn’t important, but notice the downhill space Herro is given. There’s no cut-off at the nail with Lowry being such a spot-up threat, leading to more and more lob opportunities. Or better yet, the floater.
Herro talked a little bit after the game about using that floater, even though it’s been in his bag for some time. He mentioned finding that middle ground instead of continuing to take it up on centers at the rim every play.
What is the difference with that floater now? It’s slowed down. He knew when the lob pass was being thrown up or when to shoot up that tear dropper. Even when the game is being played at a faster pace, he looks like he’s playing slower with the ball in his hands, and that’s a difference maker.
Finally, in the last clip, we see something a bit different. It clearly ended up in a failed lob pass, but the stuff run before that is more important. DHO’s have been a staple of this Heat offense for some time now, and while many hate to hear that phrase after it was previously spammed and overused, it isn’t going anywhere.
In fact, it’s going to be expanded upon. What I mean by that is that it won’t just be a Robinson-Adebayo set every time, since others can be mixed in positively. Just look at that final clip: Lowry hands it off to Adebayo and Adebayo hands it off to Herro for the double DHO.
DHO’s won’t be stagnant anymore. This stuff keeps the defense moving, and enhances each of those guys best skills. Let me just say, that three-man group will be effective. And it’s also clear the speed will be faster when all three of them are on the floor together.
Lowry’s First Three Tells Me Everything I Need to Know
When I say “Lowry’s first three,” I don’t mean ever. You may think that’s unnecessary to state, but it’s actually very necessary.
Aside from that, this one possession tells me a lot about this Heat offense this season.
Let’s start with that “speed” that continues to get brought up. The ball crosses half-court with 20 seconds on the shot clock, and the ball is being released with 18 seconds on the shot clock. That hasn’t been Miami Heat basketball up to this point, but it has been Kyle Lowry basketball.
Early offense could be crucial for this squad. Why is that? Well, the stuff that can be run early in the shot-clock heavily benefits this roster. Double drag ball screens, or just a simple drag as seen here.
Now, what is the second thing that stands out on this play? And no, it’s not Lowry.
Going back to that DHO discussion from before, it got pretty bland after a while because Adebayo was being forced into doing it every single time. When the team acquired PJ Tucker, I saw a plan rising out of nowhere.
Tucker may be somewhat limited offensively, but running hand-offs like this above is what will propel Adebayo even more. This allows him to play off the catch a bunch, and as seen yesterday, he got even more ball-handling reps than I originally expected.
The reason he was able to do that was because he was finally freed up. Tucker’s job will be simple this season, and Adebayo has needed “simple” in the front-court next to him for a while.
And of course, the last thing about this play is that Lowry above the break three. Miami has needed a guy who can punish defenses for going under on screens, and Lowry will do just that. It’s not about milking clock with him, it’s about getting the ball up when there’s an opening.
And once again, this Heat team missed that.
Is Adebayo’s Pace Just Due to Lowry’s Presence?
A hot topic since adding Lowry to this team was the pace that they could potentially play at. Coach Spo has typically played much more in the half-court in the past, but it was time to tend to the personnel.
I even asked Adebayo about playing at that speed in the scrimmage, which he said it’s important to get easy layups and fouls, since that’ll lead to open threes. And well, that was seen immediately in the first preseason game.
I talked about Adebayo getting in the open court nonstop last season, but this team translates to that way more. But is it just because of Lowry?
He’s a big part of that, but I wouldn’t say it’s just him. The first clip above will tell you why it’s not.
Lowry and Tucker defending the PnR, leads to Tucker stepping up for the steal and hitting the deck. Adebayo scoops and runs up the floor for the eventual foul.
What’s important about that? Well, that would’ve been Adebayo on the floor last season. They now have others who can play in the action at a high level, which hugely benefits Adebayo.
Now, of course, the majority of the credit goes to Lowry. Spo called him a quarter back to begin training camp, and that’s exactly what he is: full-court hit aheads, feeding the post, and the pure swing on the perimeter.
The second clip above is a true example of that. Lowry receives the ball on the run as the shot clock resets, and Adebayo is throwing it down on the other end with 20 seconds left on the clock. This looks different, but it’s a good different.
Some Spain PnR Already?
Not to continually bring up the DHO of the past, but there was a reason it was used so much: the team lacked offensive weapons, so they couldn’t really expand the offense broadly. But that changes this season.
We already got to see some Spain PnR, shout-out to Nekias Duncan of the Dunker Spot, and it didn’t consist of Butler and Lowry. I saw it a couple times in that Friday scrimmage, where Butler would have the ball, Adebayo would screen, and Lowry would screen the screener for the wide open lane.
— Brady Hawk (@BradyHawk305) October 1, 2021
Now we’re seeing it on the big stage with an interesting mix of guys. In that original clip, we see it lead into another Herro floater, and the reason is that he has the space every play to get it off.
For one, when Robinson screened the screener, that pop out to the wing will always pull the defender out with him. Nobody is leaving Robinson open on that pop out, which means more and more good things inside the arc for the downhill threats.
It’s not as much about them running stuff like Spain PnR yesterday, but instead, the ability to mix it up in a way they weren’t able to in the past.
Yeah, Half-Court Offense/Ball Movement is Different
This one play essentially is the theme of this team. Bringing up Lowry as a quarterback and a fast paced player doesn’t always mean in the open court. It’s more about how they can spread the floor, swing the ball, and create good looks.
Herro dribbles and passes to Lowry, Lowry throws a skip pass to the opposite corner to Robinson, Robinson gets to the middle of the floor and kicks it back out to Lowry in the corner, before a final swing to Herro for a contested three-point make.
That is new.
Now, I don’t want to sit here and compare the first preseason game to a playoff series last season, since they’re incredibly different circumstances, but it must be brought up.
It was stagnant offense, limited movement, limited passes, and just an offensive identity that wasn’t clear at all. Right now, I see a team that has more than enough space to work with on that side of the floor.
Go back and watch that play again. I don’t remember the last time the Heat had that much room in the half-court like they did yesterday. And while you may think a non-shooter like Butler could shrink the court, the passing and downhill gravity of his will only make this better.
It’s only one game, or one preseason game at that, but there are too many positive flashes to not feel good about this team. And well, a full off-season makes it seem like they’re fully energized for the season ahead.
Who would’ve thought?