Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Bucks

The Miami Heat faced off against the reigning champs tonight, and both sides looked quite different. No Giannis Antetokounmpo, no Jimmy Butler, no Bam Adebayo.

With that said, many short term takeaways can be made about this group, but the second night of a back to back without you’re two best players is why it’s hard to harp too much on this game.

So, here are some things I took away from this one…

#1: The Heat’s offense falling right into the Bucks trap.

Seeing the Bucks scoring 69 points in the first half may immediately equate to discussing the Heat’s defense, but I feel there were more things to note the other way around. The first reason for that was Milwaukee’s defense was schematically set up to compete tonight, and they did their job early. Everybody was instantly uncomfortable on that side of the floor with their solid help defense into quick rotations. That blended into an even worse trend for the offense: settling for shots. The mascot for that description was Caleb Martin threes, since the Bucks began to help further and further away for the ball to land in that exact spot. If he tried to penetrate, they were ready to help and rotate again. It’s more credit to Milwaukee early than pure Miami issues, but the shot profile cannot shift that dramatically.

#2: First half: comparing the top duo performances.

In a game when all headliners are off the table, in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo, the top dogs still matter. Well, the new top dogs. That led to all eyes on Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton for the Bucks, and they did their part, combining for 31 first half points and just controlling each side of the ball in the ways that they usually do. The issue was that Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro weren’t able to match that rhythm, as their first half is summarized by a combined 4 for 18 half of basketball. Once again, a lot of that refers back to the previous takeaway with the way the defense flipped completely between each team, but it’s just hard to win games like that. Herro being swarmed and Lowry on the second night of a back-to-back are the primary reasons for it falling off early.

#3: The bench player of the game continues.

Thinking back over this previous stretch, it always feels that Miami has one of their current/previous two-ways headlining a game in some way. Omer Yurtseven killing it late last night, Gabe Vincent stepping up when needed, Caleb Martin providing a spark. But tonight seemed to be Max Strus’ night after seeing his immediate impact in that struggling offense. Some quick threes kept Miami in it to some degree, basically keeping the theme of Robinson and Strus switching on and off every single night. To touch on a positive, discussing specific bench pieces stepping up in a scenario without Butler, Adebayo, Morris, and still no Oladipo, is a great sign in the big picture. And when it’s Strus, it’s an even bigger indicator due to him having the best odds to sustain his spot in that nine-man rotation for the remainder of the year.

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#4: Did Miami have enough? I don’t think so.

When Coach Spo or players talk about this team in terms of injuries, the same exact phrase comes up: “We have enough.” But it’s one thing to say it, and another thing to take it into consideration on a night like this. My opinion: they just didn’t have enough. That’s not a reflection of depth, since as I said before, many of them have done their part, but it’s much more about the overall structure when missing your two best players. The team’s leading scorer is missing, of course scoring is down. The team’s leading rebounder is missing, of course you’re losing that battle. They can squeak out some games, but until Butler returns, it’ll be hard to fully struggle in both of those departments from night to night and be okay. And frankly, high level play from Lowry and Robinson can mask them not having enough. When they look like guys on the second night of a back to back, it’s clearly different.

#5: On to the next.

The Ja Morant-less Memphis Grizzlies are up next for this Miami Heat team, which is important to note in this post-game piece since it represents the Heat’s mindset tonight: already on the plane ride home. This next slate of games should be interesting for Miami, and the focus should be all about getting past December 15th, as the weaker teams in this league are all they will be facing to finish off the month. But that two-week period before the easier games is all about one thing, and one thing only: Jimmy Butler. It feels like we’re trending towards him suiting up on Monday night, but it feels necessary if Miami wants to end up with a W. Yes, the Grizzlies may be Morant-less, but with a win tonight, they’ll improve to a 4 game winning streak. And hot shooting teams that can hurt you from multiple angles screams the need of your best player on the floor. So, on to the next.

 

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