The Miami Heat played in a back and forth battle in game 3 in Atlanta, and man was it a back and forth.
Jimmy Butler three to Trae Young three to PJ Tucker three to late Young floater to go up 1.
But here are some takeaways from this one, mostly focused on pre-late-game execution, which I’ll focus on later…
#1: Heat’s offensive first half recap: a little bit of Jimmy Butler, a lotta bit of Tyler Herro.
The Heat scored 54 points in the fourth quarter, yet exactly half of it was scored by Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro. Things weren’t fully going their way for a majority of that first 24, but it really was a transition of those two that I named. Butler came out in attack mode, basically spamming both ends of the PnR. Getting to his spots as the ball-handler, while forcing Trae Young to make a decision as a roller. Both were working, which put Miami in a comfortable spot early. Then as Miami tried to counter the Hawks run, it was solely Herro who kept them afloat. Playing a bit more off the ball and his catch and shoot three ball was falling, but he looked really free-flowing in terms of getting to his spots in the mid-range. After some were questioning his effectiveness a bit, he came out firing in game 3 for 15 first half points.
#2: The Hawks with the game 3, home team boost: collective shooting.
Looking at the first half stat sheet, it felt like the Hawks were shooting the ball from the outside at a much higher clip. The Heat struggled from three, shooting 6 of 23, which is 26%, while the Hawks were 5 of 14. But like I said, it felt like that number should be much higher. The reason was that it wasn’t the three-point shooting that was hurting them. It was a bit of interior play, and a lot of mid-range play. Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and De’Andre Hunter seemed to make it a priority to flow right into that face up jumper. Like most game threes go after trailing 2-0 in the series, that home team tries to make that big push in that first half out of pure desperation. But as I mentioned before this game, it wasn’t Young that was the worry. It was collective shooting, which is exactly what they provided.
#3: It’s clear the Heat do have a reliance on role players.
The way the Heat have gotten to this point as the 1 seed in the Eastern Conference has been through complete contributions from player 1 to player 17. Depth has been killer for this group, and the Heat have had big moments so far from their role guys. The big Duncan Robinson game 1, while PJ Tucker took over that third quarter. Full Gabe Vincent dominance on both ends of the floor in game 2, as Dewayne Dedmon provided a big second half. Yet in game three, that reliance showed a bit. Robinson, Vincent, and Max Strus were shooting 3 of 10 from the field, while almost all of the shots came from deep, which contributed to the poor shooting early that I mentioned. But we saw it begin to turnaround, as Strus caught some fire to begin the second half. The ups and downs of the game had a lot to do with the ups and downs of the role guys.
#4: PJ Tucker: the ultimate impact player being showcased again.
When you hear PJ Tucker, you think of impact. Being trucked in the corner as the close-out guy tries to get to the shooter, setting solid screen after solid screen, and locking up Trae Young as the primary assignment. For one, that needs to be the starting factor, as Young kept trying to throw him around with his maneuvers, and he wouldn’t bite. Not many guys move their feet like that at his size, but he just battles like no other, which was obviously bothersome. Now, on the offensive end, he gave a monstrous third quarter, much like he did in game 1. In that game it consisted of 3 corner triples in a 6 minute span, yet in this one it was just calculated slips for his signature floater in the middle of the floor. Two will fly to the guard each and every possession, and he’s the guy that can swing a run. He’s the ultimate impact player, and you can tell his game is rising.
#5: Jimmy Butler takes a blow, Kyle Lowry goes out late. Just about getting out, yet they came out down 2-1.
Early in the game, there was a play where Butler drove and converted on the and-1, but there was deeper meaning to that play. Butler was laying on the floor holding his mid-section, which had people probably thinking worst case scenario. He ended up getting up and staying in the game, but that’s one of those things that possibly linger. Now, later in the second half, a report came out that Kyle Lowry would not return to the game due to a left leg injury, which kind of came out of nowhere. As the potential second round opponent Philadelphia 76ers took care of business late in their game 3, they should have a good amount of rest before that series would begin. And as the Heat continue to account for some scratches and bruises, rest themselves would be pretty ideal. But now they find themselves down 2-1 in the series…
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