The Miami Heat beat the Hawks in game 2 to go up 2-0 in the series, but it wasn’t as simple as the last time around.
Atlanta had a responding punch late in this one, but Miami came right back with one of their own.
All behind Jimmy Butler’s playoff high with 45 points.
Five takeaways from this one…
#1: Jimmy Butler playing his own game, after dominating the free flowing form in game 1.
Coming into this game, the main point I was making was that even though Jimmy Butler played a really complete offensive game on Sunday, it wasn’t his usual half court approach against this type of defense. By that, I mean he should be attacking weaker guards like Trae Young, or smaller bodies in general, down low in the post off switches. And well, we saw that more and more in this one. But more specifically, he was abusing the pump-fake down low to create advantages, and man were they biting on them every time. He even mixed in a few early triples, and the blueprint of each were completely different. A stand-still flat-footed one on the left wing, then a pull-up on the right wing much later where he rose up over the top completely. But that’s just Butler.
#2: Smaller lineups continues to be the trend here.
As talked about in game 1, the Heat went the Gabe Vincent route and it payed off. But zooming out from just Vincent specifically, it’s forced their lineups to downsize consequently. We saw a ton of Lowry-Vincent together, which works since the Hawks ran a ton of Wright-Young, but now it’s Tyler Herro sliding down to the 3. It worked really well for certain stretches, since the key to it is not being oversized on switches on the other end, which they weren’t. They don’t have any players to worry about in that state, other than maybe Danilo Gallinari. We should continue to see this throughout the series, as the Butler at the 4 has continued heavily. And speaking of small ball, after Bam picked up his fourth foul to begin the second half, Miami went small in the front-court with Caleb Martin slotting in. That sparked a run at that time, as Butler began to heat up even more.
#3: Keep an eye on the free throw trend.
The Heat got some of the Hawks’ perimeter guys in foul trouble early, including 3 fouls for both Huerter and Bogdanovic in that first half. In that span, they also shot 19 free throws, which pretty much doubled Atlanta’s number. A lot of that refers back to my first takeaway with Butler and his pump-fake, but the entire team was putting some pressure on the defense in that way as they increased their competitiveness on that end from game 1. The reason I say to keep an eye on it, and not to fully focus on it, is due to the fact there’s a certain team in their bracket that has been on a free throw frenzy. Joel Embiid, James Harden, and the Philadelphia 76ers could be up next, not to look too far ahead, and Miami semi-matching them at times would be interesting.
#4: I hate to use a cliche, but this team is just tougher than you.
I know I usually spend most of my time diving into specifics, but a game like this presents something pretty obvious: this team won’t back down. Whether if it’s the first 5 minutes of game 1 with Butler going at it with Young, Kyle Lowry getting a double tech in game 2, Max Strus going right back at John Collins in the third, Tyler Herro jawing at Young after he pushed Vincent, and much more antics, this team is just ready for the response to any jab that is thrown their way. Once again, yes it sounds cliche to be raving about toughness, but that’s what this group is based off of. Taking charges, being physical, and diving on the floor for every loose ball is what makes every game in a 7 game series hard to play against this group of guys. Which is also why the dynamic of 76ers-Heat would be so intriguing.
#5: Dewayne Dedmon deserves some love.
On a night full of Jimmy Butler dominance, there were some mixed in performances worthy of noting. Herro began to find himself for stretches, Martin provided a nice boost, Strus did his thing on both ends. But the Heat’s physical back-up big needs to be discussed. His energy was shown in this one for sure, but he also cleaned things up around the rim well and had promising flashes for extended time with Adebayo in foul trouble. The reason I bring this up is that this ideally wasn’t his series. No Capela, Hawks go small, and he’s still out there keeping up with the crew. I know I keep foreshadowing to a potential second round matchup with Philly, but that’s his series. That’s when he will be needed most, and this type of consistency would be big.
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