The Miami Heat fell to the Hornets on the second night of a back to back, behind another underwhelming performance team wide.
Tyler Herro and Jimmy Butler put up some points, but that was about it.
#1: What about the identity?
The Heat haven’t been a high powered offense or hot shooting team all season long. But they’ve hung their hat each and every night on the defensive end. This season hasn’t been full of a ton of pretty basketball, but they’d flow right into clutch game after clutch game in the mud due to their steady defensive structure. Now when you look at the rotations they’re running while going 10 deep, it’s pretty obvious the reasoning due to this flipped motion. About half of that grouping aren’t known as solid defensive counterparts. They’re betting on shooting and offense at this stage, but the result is clearly far from what they were hoping. I’m going to talk about the shooting next, but it almost feels like trying to get back to that gritty defensive style is needed with this group.
#2: The shooting….
Halfway through the second quarter, the Heat scored a total of 26 points. Part of me didn’t know how they even got to that number based on the amount of bricks from deep that were flying all over the floor. Shortly after the Heat made a decent sized run before the half to juice some of the stats, but I’ll get to that in a few. The shooting just continues for the Heat. Tyler Herro started this game 0 for 5, and it just seemed like every shot was short right from the jump. As for the bench unit, if we don’t count Cody Zeller for a moment, they shot 0 of 10 from the field in that first half. The role players just aren’t giving them anything, while Gabe Vincent didn’t even attempt a shot across the first 24 minutes of basketball. This isn’t a rough stretch, it isn’t a slump. It’s just basically who they are at this stage. Runs like we saw right after are the only counter we’ve seen for it all season.
#3: Heat make run, Kevin Love generating good things.
A little past the 6 minute mark of the second quarter, Tyler Herro knocked down a rhythm three on the wing. Next time down the floor he shot a corner triple that finally gave Miami some offensive hope. Timeout. The final 5 field goals of the half after that point came from Cody Zeller and Kevin Love. Yeah I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing on the surface. But when it came to a much needed Heat run, it was clearly a positive factor. Zeller was running the floor well for easy buckets off Herro to Butler attacks, while Love was just slightly finding his shot. A couple of rhythm threes put him up to 13 points and 8 rebounds at the half, basically putting on display exactly what this Heat team needs if the others were holding up their end of the bargain. Miami closed out the quarter on a 25-6 run, something that didn’t seem possible if you watched the first 18 minutes tonight.
#4: Similar story for Jimmy Butler back to back nights.
It’s been noted that many of the issues that occurred in Milwaukee came back up tonight in Charlotte, but another thing that was sustained was the play of Jimmy Butler. We saw Butler efficiently scoring and getting to the line just a night ago, and he elevated that even more tonight against the Hornets. The key word was efficient, since he’s been hitting that attack mode where his shot profile is calculated into smart shots only, instead of some of the lingering fade-aways or three point chucks. It’s part of the reason why we’ve been focusing on the supplementary parts even more, since it feels like he can carry his load whenever he chooses, especially considering he got to the line 14 times by the end of the third. Guys like Gabe Vincent, Victor Oladipo, and Max Strus not having a single point through three quarters pretty much furthers that.
#5: Fourth quarter…
After the Hornets pulled away from Miami yet again, it felt tough for the Heat to battle back once again. But Tyler Herro’s bounce back, Gabe Vincent getting active with his first shot attempts, and some Caleb Martin relief buckets put them back at a tie game. Yet every time they’d get even, they would take a few steps back with the inability to fully get over that hump. LaMelo Ball responded with a run of his own from deep, as Jimmy Butler countered that with some more trips to the line. Fast forward to the 4 and a half minute mark, a turnover gave the Hornets an easy bucket to extend their lead to 6 prior to a Heat timeout. Butler kept up his attacks, marking his 20th free throw attempt of the night, yet the stops weren’t being generated behind some tough middy’s from Gordon Hayward. As they trailed by 5, a kickout to Herro was made on the right wing, as he fakes a pass and hits a rhythm three. Shortly after, he flows downhill into a floater to put him at 33 points on the night. Around 2 minutes left in the game, Heat run an inverted PnR for Bam with a screen from Butler, leading to a dunk. But the Hornets just kept scoring on the other end. With a minute to go, an Adebayo turnover in transition was deflating, which led to an offensive board and slam by the Hornets to put the lead back at 5. Ball-game.