Well, it was an interesting game one between the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat to say the least. There are so many different angles to approach this game from a negative aspect, but I’m going to focus on the late-game offensive execution here.
Some things that I’m looking to point out may seem minor, but as Erik Spoelstra said after the game, sometimes the deciding factors of a playoff game are the stuff “in-between.”
And yet, there were a lot of things “in-between” through 53 minutes of basketball, while I’ll begin at the five minute mark in the fourth quarter…
When talking about some of the odd statistics from beyond the arc, Jimmy Butler definitely headlined it. He attempted nine threes in this game, which is an interesting number for a player that usually finds himself inside the arc.
But speaking of bad three-point possessions, Miami sprinkled in some odd moments of chucking up threes in a very early shot-clock. They actually did a good job of controlling the pace early on, which is necessary in this series, but that control definitely seems to shift when settling for these type of shots.
In the clip above, two above the break threes before setting up offense occur in a span of about 20 seconds. That just can’t happen in a playoff game. Well, unless the guy taking it is Duncan Robinson.
Two wasted possessions in a tie game just doesn’t seem to be the recipe for success. Obviously this was a much different Butler, who went 4 for 22 from the field, but maybe the three-point element isn’t just a one game thing.
He said after the game, “I might shoot nine next game as well. They will fall.” I’m not so sure that he will actually shoot up nine on Monday night, but those shots will be there. The difference is that he must pick the correct times to put them up.
Here’s another minor element that went wrong, and it has nothing to do with a missed three from Goran Dragic who was open in the corner. The play actually worked exactly how they planned, but the action early on is the part to harp on.
Robinson setting an on-ball screen for Butler then darting to the perimeter after a screen from Adebayo was used frequently in this game. Too frequently.
As mentioned earlier, rough games for Butler and Adebayo mean that this set isn’t providing many options, even though it worked pretty well on this possession. Miami began to flow into this as their base set at times, while everybody knew what was coming next.
The main issue when Butler and Adebayo are off has nothing to do with their actual numbers. It’s actually about what it means for everyone else.
The spacing basically becomes non-existent in these moments, which is hard to do when you have the ultimate space provider on the floor, in Robinson. To that point, I feel there could’ve been some extra creativity on offense down the stretch, and I believe that’s one of the biggest adjustments that are made heading into game two.
Miami’s two stars hitting shots is an adjustment on its own, but the next element is providing some diversity.
For example, one thing I don’t think we saw enough of in game one is guard screening. It’s something I touched on in my previews, and it’s something that appeared to be coming in the second half. But it didn’t.
Specifically, the bench unit with Butler seemed like a perfect time, since Dragic or Herro screening could leave Bryn Forbes on Butler, which is exactly the purpose. Also, even though I’ll touch on the issues of Adebayo in this game down the line, some guard screening could’ve been great for him as well, whenever Brook Lopez wasn’t socially distancing from him on defense.
There’s nothing better for Miami down the stretch than a Butler-Adebayo PnR in an empty corner. It’s such a hard combo to guard, even when both guys are struggling. But there just seemed to be something a bit off, and I’m not just talking about their jumpers.
In this clip above, this is something we see quite frequently, but not in this fashion. Usually, it would be Butler probing left as Adebayo dove quickly, leaving the two options as a lob pass or an easy bunny, which may not have been too easy in this one. Instead he utilizes a snake dribble, allowing the recovery and leads to a jump ball.
To say that the issue with Miami’s stars was shots not falling is not entirely true, since the process of getting those shots looked to be the bigger issue. And yet, it still came down to one final shot, and I don’t think we see anything close to this Butler performance again in this series.
As much as we can talk about some of the errors and struggles down the stretch from the guys on the floor, there were some questionable moments regarding timeouts and decision making late in the fourth on the coaching side of things.
Everybody was aware that this game was in the mud, and that’s an understatement. This possession left Butler without a dribble and not a person to pass to, and yet no timeout was called with two of them available. This isn’t one of those free flowing situations where an out of the blue slip up occurs, since as mentioned before, the offensive spacing was an issue all game.
So, as we talk about offensive execution in this game, it’s important to note some of the miscues that occurred all across the board. Yes, Miami ended up tying it up anyway to go to overtime, but these type of “in-between” plays matter in the post-season.
And now, the current focus for the Heat at the moment by many observers: Bam Adebayo.
Butler’s issue at times was taking shots he shouldn’t have, while Adebayo’s issue was not taking shots he should have. And even though that’s been the way things have been trending all season, a week of preparation against an opponent that gives you a clear opportunity seemed to be the turning point.
For starters, take a look at Lopez in this clip. Forget the space between Adebayo and himself. Instead look at the space between Butler and himself. The element of Adebayo’s aggression has more to do with others than it does his own benefit or points on the board.
As I pointed out, spacing was an issue with the way things were going, but allowing a team to just double guys in the paint and not have to pay for it is exactly what they can’t do in this series.
Now, back to Adebayo, this is much more mental than it is physical. Yes, he can make that mid-range jumper at the elbow or free throw line. Yes, he can take an extra step in to get into rhythm closer to the basket. No, he can’t be indecisive.
If there’s one thing the Bucks defense exploits, it’s indecisiveness, and that’s exactly what Adebayo had on Saturday afternoon. He ended up attacking Brook Lopez, who did a great job around the rim in this game, leading to an unnecessary and contested shot at the basket.
The team knew what shot would be there. Adebayo knew what shot would be there. This wasn’t a surprise, and it won’t be surprising if this Miami team goes down if that doesn’t shift quickly. As I discussed this week, the deciding factor in this series is Adebayo.
Not to take an unrealistic leap in the post-season to will this team to win. But actually, just to be himself. And even though his attributes consist mostly of unselfishness, the occasional bucket to keep the Bucks defense honest is all that is needed.
Adjustments will be made heading into game two, and I don’t believe they will be major. As I’ve said, sometimes the minor adjustments are the most important.