Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Bulls

The Miami Heat faced the Chicago Bulls in their season opener, and well, it didn’t go as expected.

They came out playing well out the gate, but that stalled quickly. The defensive lapses began to add up, as DeMar DeRozan continued to “heat” up.

So, here are some takeaways…

#1: Tyler Herro kicks off his new role with a scoring punch…with a changing profile.

There was no doubt that Tyler Herro would be a focal point of the starting group’s offensive flow, but his usage was peaking to an even further degree early. An immediate pull-up three to kick things off will always be a good sign, but the next possession spoke volume. Herro pick and roll, Chicago Bulls blitz. He showed patience, waited it out, flowed downhill, snaked insane, and put up the floater. Bucket. Shortly after, as Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo created, the ball ended up swinging to Herro in the corner for a spot-up three. The point is that his shot profile looks much different, while simultaneously looking much better. Pull-ups, spot-ups, blitzes: you know the deal. He’s just confident against all of it to start the season off.

#2: The rotation at the moment…

The starting lineup wasn’t much of a surprise heading in, (Lowry-Herro-Butler-Martin-Bam) but the questions were pointed at the bench unit without Victor Oladipo suiting up. Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, and Dewayne Dedmon were going to form the 8, but how would they regulate the rest? Well, the answer was quite simple. They went the Duncan Robinson route, and played him next to Strus for long stretches. Yet the key about the rotation is that they are matching good combinations. For example, they want to mirror the minutes of Herro and Bam as much as possible. So, they sub Butler out first, to then have him anchor the bench unit shortly after. It’s a solid philosophy to split up on-ball threats, but the next evaluation period will include how Butler and Oladipo look together once he returns.

#3: Caleb Martin isn’t PJ Tucker, and they won’t treat him like so.

Who will be the PJ Tucker replacement? That’s a question that has been asked all off-season, and the answer to that question has been Caleb Martin. Yes, he’s subbing into the position that he filled, but he’s not truly filling his role. Martin is surprising people with his growth at the moment, since he’s doing things that we’ve yet to see from him. Step 1 was the ability to size up defensively. Miami placed him on DeMar DeRozan early for the sole reason of predicting the switch, ending with him trying to hold his own on Nikola Vucevic. He had some good possessions early, but they continued to post him up a punch in the second half, proving the difference between PJ Tucker and himself. But the offensive stuff is a change of pace as well: rim pressure, tighter handle, better shooting, and constant movement. For an unexpected example. the dude literally ran a pick and roll for a tough mid-range pull-up early on. This is a different player right now, and there’s more to explore in my personal opinion.

#4: Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry struggling.

When looking at the stat sheet at halftime, two things would’ve caught you by surprise. Bam Adebayo was 1 for 10 from the field and Kyle Lowry had 0 points on two attempts. On the Bam front, he was just missing easy buckets at the rim time and time again. Bunnies, dunks, etc. I mean he was aggressive, but he didn’t have that usual focused flare from the jump. Lowry, on the other hand, wasn’t even looking for his shot. There weren’t many actions I can recall that he was heavily involved. Most of the offense included Bam or Jimmy post-splits, or Herro created buckets off pick and rolls or curls. I truly believe the Bam element is just one of those nights where easy ones don’t drop, but the Lowry part of it is about engagement level. Herro and Butler can only do so much to keep this group afloat. They’re going to need some type of punch on nights like this from Lowry and/or Bam.

#5: A step too slow defensively?

As the Bulls continued to pull away in the third quarter, there was a consistent theme: DeMar DeRozan tough buckets and sleepy Heat defensive possessions. This Heat team goes through shooting/scoring slumps all the time, but their energy and defensive rotations, specifically, usually carry them. That wasn’t the case for long periods in this one. Bulls were getting easy buckets at the rim and simple back-cuts were end results, which is far from a Miami Heat product. If there’s one thing this Heat team can’t afford to lose this season, it’s those crispy rotations on the defensive side of the ball night in and night out.

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