The Miami Heat faced a very different looking Grizzlies team in Memphis, and treated it like so.
After an early offensive punch, they never gained that rhythm back. Other than Tyler Herro and Caleb Martin, they weren’t getting much more on the roster.
So, here are some takeaways from this loss…
#1: Caleb Martin’s early hot streak.
That Heat first half went in a few different directions. An early 7-0 run for the Grizzlies transitioned into a 28-10 run for the Heat, then back to a Grizzlies hot streak the rest of the half. While I’m going to discuss the Grizzlies runs in a minute, I do have to mentioned Caleb Martin’s addition to that run. Miami began running a ton of drive and kicks, as Martin just took advantage of Memphis sagging off. He hit four triples early in the game, continually stepping into his jumper with complete rhythm. Plus it’s evident that he’s elite at reading the positioning of his individual defender. If that defenders’ body is turned, he’s attacking the front foot. If they bite on the jab, he’s immediately pulling. His reads just keep impressing.
#2: The Heat’s need for paint touches and paint points.
36 to 8. That was the deficit in paint points for the Miami Heat at the half, against a Grizzlies team who should be doing the exact opposite without their core guys. As Miami made their early run, paint touches were the trend. In games like this, Jimmy Butler always loves just sitting back and playing play-maker. So they spammed him as a post-split and screener hub, continually drawing defenders in under the basket into easy kicks. Fast forward to a bit later, we saw that all end. As the Heat went on an incredible three point run, they fell in love with it. That led to hand-off spams, constant flares without a ton of cutting, which just all equals one thing: not the Heat’s ultimate style. For this Heat team to thrive against any team, they need to dominate the paint on the ball.
#3: Back-up big man watch…
Looking at the bottom of the Heat’s rotation, we’ve been talking options. Duncan Robinson or Haywood Highsmith? Can Nikola Jovic get back in that mix? But the key is that word “options,” no matter the level they’re playing at. The issue is that they don’t have options at the center position. If it’s not Bam Adebayo, it’s Dewayne Dedmon. If it’s not Dedmon, it’s…Udonis Haslem? It’s just a quick fall-off in that room, especially when Dedmon struggles like he did in this one. There’s the eye popping aspect of missing easy ones around the rim, but the energy shift when teams begin going at him in actions just hurts Miami’s defense. The Grizzlies weren’t just running PnR at him, they were running isolations at him in their quicker lineups. He will have his moments about every 3 games where he goes on a run, but the consistency issue just keeps popping out. Who will be Bam’s back-up in April? That’s a very interesting question to monitor.
#4: The Heat’s Cam Payne game-plan vs Tyus Jones…different result.
Something I talked about extensively after the Suns game earlier in the year was Miami’s altered defensive game-plan. They’d close off the rim as much as possible, forcing that far floater from guys like Cam Payne possession after possession. Players in the Heat locker room voiced that to me as well, since it’s an inefficient look. They’ve done it a bunch of times this season, but there’s always that tip your cap moment. That’s what Tyus Jones was doing in this one, as he just kept knocking down that runner from a variety of different spots. It’s just a credit to him, since that’s still the wanted look from Miami’s perspective.
#5: Simply, Miami didn’t get enough from 3 core pieces.
What went wrong in this game, you may ask? Well, where should I start. At halftime, I tweeted that there were 3 elements of this game that went wrong early, and two of them needed to turn around for Miami to win. And well, that just didn’t happen. The first element was Jimmy Butler’s aggression, which happened for a few minutes to open the second half, since clearly it was the halftime focus entering the third. Yet it just wasn’t sustained or consistent enough. The second element was Bam Adebayo’s efficiency. Memphis kept sending two at Adebayo in that mid-post, which is a much different look for him, but there never was a developing counter throughout this one. And the last element is the bench. I talked about Dewayne Dedmon already, but what he know who he is already. Haywood Highsmith actually gave fantastic minutes on the defensive end. So a lot of focus is on Gabe Vincent and Max Strus. Both had great starts to the season, but have tailed off a bit recently. When you aren’t getting enough from your two best players, while simultaneously getting nothing from your only bench scorers, it puts you in a tough spot against anybody.