Well, the Heat found themselves in an awkward position in the play-in, and it just got much more awkward.
After losing to this Hawks team, it’s officially win and you’re in, or lose and you’re out.
The problem is that even if they are in, the Bucks are standing there waiting.
But we will get to that soon. For now, let’s talk about this game…
#1: The Hawks punched first…and second…and third.
Well, that was quite the first half. Energy was going to be the key with this Heat team, and they lacked that even more than you can imagine. The offense was an awful watch by all means, but the defense was just sad to watch honestly. Easy switches, simple swing, bucket. Trae Young finding Tyler Herro or Max Strus, and going to work. Paint touch, kick-out, three. Repeat, repeat, repeat. That first half was an absolute route from the Hawks on offense, as they were just reacting to any coverage the Heat ran and knocking down the open shots. But like I said, the offense doesn’t deserve a break. 5 of 19 shooting at half from Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo is tough to look past. The reason it’s important is because it represented the amount of bunnies they missed. A surprising, yet not surprising, half of basketball for the Heat.
#2: Hello, Kyle Lowry?
There wasn’t many positives from the Heat across the first 24 minutes of basketball, but Kyle Lowry would definitely be the one. Somehow clawed his way to 19 points in the first half, and did it in an extremely smooth manner. He looked like he was playing in his Toronto days with the paint touches he was generating from possession to possession, and actually attempting shots at the rim. Also got to the line 5 times and knocked down a couple triples. He was the team’s best player in that first half by far. Now if I was to present this information prior to tip-off, I already know everybody’s response: “oh, the Heat are winning by 20.” Except with that level of play, they were actually the ones down 20. Just an odd profile.
#3: Okay, the transition offense needs some words.
We often joke about the Tyler Herro transition pull-up triples. You never know when they’re coming, and Erik Spoelstra only can’t say anything when they drop, as Herro noted to me recently. But in reality, this team’s fast-break play is exactly what I just said: a joke. We got one of those Herro transition 3’s early in the game as Miami had a 2-on-1, while Bam Adebayo parked under the basket. Missed opportunity. Another time rolling down the floor with some momentum, the ball found Caleb Martin on the right wing. Instead of running with numbers, he took that jumper that gave Atlanta the ball right back. Missed opportunity. Then to cap it all off, Herro circulating the floor and snakes into the lane in transition, yet he doesn’t meet a defender. He meets Caleb Martin who clobbers into him for another turnover. It’s one thing to not run in transition, and it’s another thing to not know how.
#4: The Heat’s third quarter counter punch: Tyler Herro going at Trae Young.
The start of the second half was the counter punch the Heat needed. As I detailed before this game, this isn’t last year anymore with how Atlanta is guarding Tyler Herro. No more Delon Wright hounding, instead it’s Trae Young baiting. Basically daring him: “Hey, takeover.” So the Heat said to kick off the third: “Hey Tyler, just go at him.” So he did, and cooked him 3 straight possessions into mid-range jumpers before the Hawks called time-out. And then the Heat caught a flow. Hitting shots, defending much better, role players stepping up. All of a sudden it was a 5 point game and Herro no longer had Young on him. They already adjusted, since they were just waiting to see if he’d do it. I can talk about the things that went right in that third quarter to make it a game, but the credit really goes to Herro for opening up the menu.
#5: The fourth quarter:
Hello, Kyle Lowry…again. One Kyle Lowry section wasn’t enough after his start to the fourth quarter. Down 13, entering the Jimmy Butler minutes. The Heat just needed something, and well Lowry answered again. Tough lay-ins, wild passes, and two massive pull-up 3’s before Butler re-entered with under 8 minutes to go. Heat winning the non-Butler minutes through their back-up PG? Well, they were only down 6 at that point, yet it fluctuated right back up to 11 after the Heat just couldn’t finish defensive possessions with the offensive rebounding disparity. Down 102-91 with 6 minutes left. Yet Lowry just kept fighting back by himself. Pindown, handoff, 3. Pindown, handoff, 3. Best game in a Heat uniform for him. Yet it never seemed to make a mark on the responding Hawks. Heat blitz, Hawks swing and shoot, and another rebound they would find for a dunk. The same formula was getting the same result.
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