The Miami Heat came out flat. Let me rephrase: the Miami Heat came out extremely flat.
They did a good enough job defensively, but the offense caused Philly to overtake Miami in game three.
Jimmy Butler came out a little rough, but turned it around for a pretty complete game overall. But as I’ll touch on to finish this piece, the Lowry-Bam PnR caused the collapse late…
Anyway, here are some takeaways from this one…
#1: So, let’s talk about the offensive struggles.
Well well well. The topic of this Heat game when reflecting at halftime was just discussing the abomination status of this Heat offense. They scored 17 points in the first 15 minutes of game-time, and it was clear from the start it wasn’t their shooting night. For starters, every shot seemed to be short from player 1 to player 9 in the rotation, and Jimmy Butler especially didn’t show to have his legs under him. But schematically, it didn’t look like the offensive possessions were too layered. They weren’t getting awful looks early on, but missing good looks quickly transitioned into a game-plan of screen-roll-jumper. No off-ball movement, no flares on the weak-side, no overpowering ball movement. And that’s the biggest thing for me. Being short on your jumper happens, but not executing half-court sets completely in that first half is the difference maker.
#2: This is who the Heat are: balancing shooting struggles with superior defense.
Now that I touched on the Heat’s shooting struggles and offensive execution, it should be noted that this is who the Heat are. They’re contenders even when having offensive rough patches, just because of the superior play on the other end. Miami was somehow in this game even with that showing, since the game-plan on Joel Embiid and company was executed perfectly. Doubling down low, sending a fluctuating door of help baseline, fronting Embiid, funneling the ball into the correct match-ups. The Heat did it all. Aside from a few off-ball blown assignments, which happens when you’re rotating at the frequency of this Heat team, it somehow always felt like the Heat had a fighting chance even when down as much as they were. Once again, this is who they are. We know they can have tough patches in the half court, but the defensive abilities counter that into contending status. But still, that needs to be cleaned up as stated in the first section.
#3: The five-man shot creation lineup?
We spent game 1 talking about the lineup shift of Herro-Oladipo-Butler playing together, which simply didn’t look great in that opening stretch. The convo after game 2 was that the combination looked much better after some extra reps, and Spoelstra even stated after the game they’ve been working on that in practice behind the scenes. But now that Kyle Lowry returned tonight in game 3, we got an even different look. Lowry-Herro-Oladipo-Butler-Adebayo, which could also be known as: the creation lineup. All 5 guys can create for themselves and others, plus all can put the ball on the floor. But well, that clearly has some work to do as well. You can have an excessive amount of shot creation all you want, but the only way for it to work as that movement that I discussed earlier. Two-man action with the other 3 guys standing and watching won’t cut it. I believe it can work, but on a night where there’s zero spacing being provided, it just wasn’t the most effective grouping.
#4: The third quarter run: Jimmy Butler finding his game.
I touched on Jimmy Butler being a headliner of the short on jumpers club in game three, but he began finding himself in the third quarter. There were gaps to attack the basket for him early on, specifically with Joel Embiid in the action. He was oddly playing really high in the drop coverage, that Butler had to turn a single corner and it was a free lane, happening on two occasions in that first half. But as Miami was in a terrible offensive start, Max Strus sparked a run with two threes, then Butler took it from there. Instead of being a constant action handler, he turned into an off-ball mover for a few plays. Lowry found him off the baseline roam for an and-1, which was the turn. He began using his size advantage against opposing wings to body his way to the basket. And that right there is what makes Butler so tough to guard.
#5: The Lowry-Adebayo PnR ultimately hurting Miami?
We can sit here and talk about the offensive struggles in a 48 minute stretch or individual lack of shot making, but a specific two-man action was clearly not the effective punch they wanted it to be: Kyle Lowry and Bam Adebayo. Fast forwarding to the fourth quarter, while the story-line was the physicality with techs flying for PJ Tucker and others, the Heat were spamming the Lowry-Bam pick and roll. And well, it wasn’t going anywhere. You had Lowry coming off the screen every play with an open pull-up jumper sitting there, yet he wouldn’t take it. Instead, it was a feed to his roller, Bam, in a very tight window, who immediately looked for the next kick or total reset. Spamming a set with two guys unwilling to shoot over a certain span is never the answer. There were improving signs in the second half run, but it stalled. And this exact topic didn’t help that.
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