The Miami Heat lost to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night, and well, it was a wild finish.
Miami didn’t even seem like they’d be in that position, but they made a late push to only trail 2 with 10 seconds left and the ball in their possession. A Jimmy Butler corner three was the result, while it felt like that was the last option on that play.
Anyway, here are some general takeaways from this one…
#1: Patchy stretches to finish first half: turnovers, inability to get into actions, blending into defense.
To touch on some negatives of Miami’s early play tonight, the stretch in the second quarter where Atlanta went on a 14-3 run showcased some things. For one, turnovers can’t happen in general, but essentially against teams that don’t mind getting out and run. The reason for the turnovers could be thrown in a few different directions. The easy thing to say is that it was visible they couldn’t flow into their offense as smoothly, but why was that the case? No Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro, the highest usage guards on the team, means the usage rates raise for others. Gabe Vincent is obviously one, but an interesting one was Caleb Martin. He’s been given the keys to fill every role, but that one did not feel necessary to trigger actions. Those issues began to lead into defensive struggles during that stretch, which is the bigger picture problematic element.
#2: It’s not specific schematics with Max Strus. It’s a mindset.
Watching Max Strus go for 15 points in the first half leads to some individual game takeaways with him. There’s nothing different or outrageous about the way he’s used or goes about his offense, but his mindset is the only thing that is different. For one, I don’t think he’s ever seen his on-ball defender. Why is that? Well, he’s never had time to take note of him when the ball is in his hands, because that ball is going up as soon as he sees a green light opportunity. But when dissecting more scheme specifics, his cutting has been a very useful, surprising element that makes him more of a weapon within Miami’s movement offense. He’s instinctive. When he cuts, it’s in the moment. When he shoots, there’s nothing else on his mind. And well, that’s a pretty great trait for a shooter of his caliber.
#3: Pick and roll scoring threats anyone?
When Bam Adebayo was out, the element they missed within their offense was that rolling pull-up threat, since no other front-court mate could provide that. Now, without Lowry and Herro, they showed to be lacking the ball-handler scoring element within the PnR. Gabe Vincent has emerged immensely in that space, really reading situations well when the defender goes under a screen, that it’s his turn to pull. But looking across the roster tonight, aside for Jimmy Butler who wasn’t showcasing it often, they just didn’t have that scoring threat within that action. That was why we saw more hand-offs, Adebayo perimeter surveying on cuts, and usual perimeter ball movement. Their hands were tied behind their back without that head of the snake, but obviously adjustments are the story of their season.
#4: Bam Adebayo-Omer Yurtsevem?
The Bam Adebayo-Omer Yurtseven front-court combination has been a hot topic in terms of lineup projections recently, and well, we saw some of it tonight. After PJ Tucker went out early, they were forced to move in this direction, which as I’ve said is the one scenario where it makes a ton of sense. Now, with what we saw, the defensive flexibility is definitely intriguing. It’s something Adebayo is very comfortable with, as Yurtseven drops in the pick and rolls and Adebayo can switch out to anyone without worry about the backside or offensive rebounding. But as great as this is, it’s not all rose pedals as expected. The offensive spacing is still heavily forced. And it was clear Erik Spoelstra would agree, as most of the sets being run were double off-ball screens with those two, so the strong-side interior would be clear. There’s some good and some bad, which is exactly what happens when you’re filling a hole in the lineup. It won’t be the last we see of it.
#5: They had a chance…but couldn’t capitalize.
No Kyle Lowry. No Tyler Herro. No PJ Tucker. That was the story for Miami in this one, as their offensive showing, as noted prior, was just very underwhelming. Add onto that, Jimmy Butler was just not playing like himself on the offensive end, simply lacking that shot creation that was so heavily missed in this one, capping it off with a missed alley-oop layup to take the lead late. Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, and Max Strus are consequently relied on so much more, but they did their part in a general sense. We so often hear the phrase “We have enough,” but it didn’t feel like that was the case with the top heavy guys either dropping out or not playing to their standards. Beating a team twice less than 2 weeks ago is usually an awkward formula, and we saw that from a desperate Atlanta Hawks team. But ultimately, they had a chance, but couldn’t fully take advantage late following the impressive come-back. Plus, down 2 on the last play, a fading, contested Butler triple wouldn’t have been my choice.
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