After taking care of business against the 76ers in Philly, the script flipped back home in Miami even with no Joel Embiid.
Shooting, awful. Defense, possibly worse. Just a clear lack of consistency in all areas.
#1: Different defensive look from what we saw in Philly.
71 points, 11 threes. Those were the first half numbers for the Philadelphia 76ers in the first half, on a night that they were without Joel Embiid. I’m going to discuss minute distribution next, but the Butler and Bam-less minutes play into this heavily. This team falls apart on both ends in those stretches. But in terms of the defense, they were obviously forced into a different style without Embiid, but the pure will and grit shouldn’t go anywhere. Yet it did. They lacked physicality and were just non-existent with on-ball annoyance. They were switching a good bit when they weren’t in zone, which felt odd considering drop would force the looks you want from them: mid-range pull-ups. We can talk shooting all day, but the defense being inconsistent takes the cake for importance.
#2: If it wasn’t clear before, the Heat need one of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo on the floor to be successful.
With Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo logging right around 16 first half minutes, they were on pace to play slightly north of 30 total minutes. Aside from that being an issue, they were almost mirroring minutes in that first half in a way we haven’t seen in some time. That forced the Heat into a 2-3 zone for a long period with Oladipo and Martin headlining, which has been successful, while the offense is heavily reliant on Herro and Dipo creation every play. Zeller-Martin-Strus are not going to create their own shot, basically forcing Miami into a very obvious offensive base for the time being. Thus forcing the loud 20-2 run from the 76ers. This team simply needs a Butler or Bam hub at all times, and they certainly will need more floor time in general considering the spot they currently sit in.
#3: Jimmy Butler vs the switches.
When it comes to a positive element of this match-up, specifically with this version of the 76ers, Jimmy Butler against the switch always feels to be their best offensive bet. He was searching for the Maxey or Melton switch what felt like the entire first quarter, and it was food each and every time. A couple of and-1’s later, it leads to much better shots across the board as they shot over extra help immediately. The only issue about them sending slight doubles his way? Well, the Heat shot 1 for 8 from three in the second quarter. So as they were shading extra defenders, he seemed to be making the right play time and time again, but it would result in a clank off the rim and transition play for the Sixers. Just something to keep in mind for counters in further match-ups.
#4: All eyes on guard play.
To reflect quickly on my earlier point about Butler and Bam not being on the floor, the reason it’s such a big deal is due to the fact it places a ton of weight on the shoulders of their guards. Tyler Herro didn’t have core on-ball presence as a scorer, Gabe Vincent was extremely inefficient, Victor Oladipo isn’t much of an offensive shooting threat, and Max Strus has his ups and downs. When it comes to the guards, the inconsistency is something to continue to point to. Like I said before, Butler/Bam hubs are crucial. Why is that? They get them into their best half-court actions, instead of the usual perimeter led sets. They just can’t have these nights from their entire guard room.
#5: Well if you want good news, I’ll give you the one single thing…
When it comes to the standings, the Heat currently sit in a play-in spot. But when scanning further up the standings, you would notice the Heat are only 1.5 games behind the Brooklyn Nets. The only good news, like I said, is that Nets also lost tonight to the Knicks, who will be in this building in 48 hours. At this point, the goal is to simply chase the Nets to get out of play-in range. It feels odd to say on a night like this where they get washed off the floor by Philly, but one of their most favorable first round scenarios would be this exact match-up. Try and take your chances in the game-plan department against Embiid and company, instead of a play-in riot right before matching up with Giannis or Tatum. The goal is the 6 seed. I didn’t think I’d ever be saying that.