The Miami Heat played the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night, and they played well for a major portion.
But well, that doesn’t seem to matter.
Late in the game, they fell apart on offense, while going away from the zone defensively.
They let this one slip away. Anyway, here are some of the takeaways…(some leaning into the early stages)
#1: A pull-up 3 point display against Portland’s drop.
The Miami Heat were 10 of 22 from three in the first half tonight, but that on the surface just doesn’t tell the full story. Kyle Lowry, Gabe Vincent, and Duncan Robinson all had 3 a piece, but with the exception of Robinson, almost all of these shots were pull-ups. High pick and roll, dropping Jusuf Nurkic, that’s usually a formula for Tyler Herro to dissect. Yet tonight, Lowry and Vincent picked up in that department, both taking them in transition and the half-court. Miami shooting this well from three-point land is always a good sign of offense and ball movement, which was the case early in this one, but I mainly direct the credit to a nod in the schematic department, as these guys knew coming in: that shot will be sitting there for me.
#2: The 2-3 zone just keeps on pushing forward.
I feel like I land on this topic many nights, and maybe it’s nothing new since it’s becoming one of their base coverages, but I just can’t skip over what we’re seeing there. After most buckets in the second quarter, I was on Erik Spoelstra rotator cuff since he’d abruptly throw up the number 2’s in the air at the unit on the floor, meaning he wanted them to settle into that 2-3 press. The thing about that zone in this match-up is it messes up Portland’s usual gameplan. They’re 29th in 3 point attempts this year, which is essentially what that zone tends to give up. And the threes they’re used to are high PnR pull-ups from both Lillard and Simons. That zone mucked things up for a while there, and guys like Strus and Robinson deserve a ton of credit. We know what Martin and Vincent are doing at the top, but those bottom box guys being in correct positioning allows it not to bend. There is some real comfort in this coverage.
#3 Gabe Vincent deserves some words.
Although I touched on the overall shooting of this group and Vincent being a part of that, the specifics need to be discussed. He’s just been super stable in his role this year, which consistently includes heavy fourth quarter minutes. The way he can wreck havoc on elite guards on the perimeter is a gift in its own, but when he catches a rhythm offensively, he’s a tough player to keep off the floor. The pull-up three was falling, but he’s generating paint touches, feeding to rollers, and playing much slower than his past seasons. Another thing to note is he’s playing in some heavy creation lineups, which means his off-ball control is crucial. And while the spot-up three hasn’t been as elite as you’d want, he has still been a pressure point. Vincent is a back-up point guard right now, but starts are coming with Lowry’s rest days soon to come. And I know many are comfortable in him there, just as he did in the playoffs last year.
#4: We know this Heat team can force turnovers, but they’re turning the page on capitalizing off them.
As I talked about previously with their zone, plus Jimmy Butler’s passing lane masterclass on a nightly basis, it’s pretty obvious that this is a team that can force turnovers even considering being smaller. But the issue so far this year has been scoring off of those turnovers. They’ve never been a team that runs in transition too often, but it’s almost necessary when looking at the lineups they’re running of smaller/quicker guys. In this game, they were moving the ball extremely well in general, but that proved to be the case even more-so in transition to cash in on some easy buckets. If they can try and convert on this consistently, it makes things so much easier in their half-court creation.
#5: Ball movement and taking care of the rock early? Yes. Consistently carrying into late-game? Well, no.
With the ball movement looking as crisp as we’ve seen it tonight against Portland, I already know conversations are brewing surrounding Tyler Herro. Yet while I believe off-ball Herro movement is essential for this group, I’m not a part of that group of thinking. This formula transcends personnel. When this team gets paint touches on-ball, moves a ton off-ball, and takes care of the rock, this will be a familiar result. Turnovers are killer for this group, which always tend to follow heavy ball movement squads. Yet when you have a night to get the best of both worlds, it’s a great development for this team’s offensive trends. The only issue is consistency, which always feels to be the case. While all of that was true for 42 minutes, it stalled in the last 6. Portland fought back as Miami wasn’t generating the same looks. Simply, a major problem. The shot profile can’t be this flip-flopped depending on the time on the clock. While I hit on positives throughout this game, this takeaway of consistency is by far the biggest.