The Heat kicked off their road trip in Charlotte, and it didn’t go as expected.
They came out playing well, but that faded quickly.
No defensive resistance, missed opportunities offensively. Heat fall late.
#1: Tyler Herro/Bam Adebayo’s early scoring as drop killers.
Heading into this game, the game-plan was clear: a poor Charlotte Hornets defense that sits back in drop, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo should have a mid-range field day. Herro came out with that in-between game floater dropping, setting the tone for Miami’s eventual game-plan. The Heat weren’t attempting threes, since they were sticking with what was working offensively in that painted area. After Herro’s early floaters connecting, Bam continued that style. His mid-range jumper was still automatic right below that free throws line, as he would take Plumlee off the dribble on that short roll. But that was the last of a comfortable Bam, as his play slowly diminished. Playing more off-ball, interior defense was lackadaisical, and didn’t seemed fully engaged. That was big in the end.
#2: Jimmy Butler engaged, while in a troll mood.
When it comes to Jimmy Butler, he’s never taking things too seriously in any capacity, but today we saw that even more than usual. Facial expressions after foul calls, screaming after buckets, animated constantly. The main thing was that he was engaged in a game against a 14 win team, which we don’t see very often. He was getting to the rim a ton in that second quarter, walking into halftime with 16 points. The other stat category that will always tell you his level of aggression in a game is the steals column, which he had 3 at halftime. He was hitting passing lanes, and finding the ball a good hit even with the Heat’s lack of resistance at times. Which I’ll talk about now…
#3: The defense waiting for pickup…
Every night there’s a similar theme past the first 24 minutes. An in the mud matchup, as the Heat can’t score but defending at a high level. This time around, it was actually the exact opposite. After discussing the top 3 guys scoring well early, it should also be mentioned that it was only a 4 point lead at half. Why? Well there wasn’t much resistance at the point of attack for Miami, as the Hornets flowed their way into the paint as well for easy buckets. They were rebounding at a higher rate, and kind of out-hustling them on that end to start. Miami never seems to truly get up for games against weaker teams, especially on both ends. Both teams shot charts were very similar, but the Hornets defense matching the Heat’s defense to start wasn’t an expectation by any means.
#4: Hornets trade possibilities making noise?
As the Heat trailed by 5 entering the fourth, the Hornets offensive punch was led by PJ Washington and Terry Rozier with 25 a piece. Two guys who have been linked to the Heat in the past, and probably still will heading up to this upcoming trade deadline. Washington was extremely good in that in-between game floater, as Miami just couldn’t close those possessions with their defensive base wanting those shots. He then found his rhythm from beyond the arc, as we know he’s a solid stretch big from three point lane. Terry Rozier on the other hand was just in his shot creation bag. Step back threes, fadeaway jumpers, getting to the rim. He can be one of those hot and cold type of scorers, but tonight was one of those “hot” nights. And well, it’s clear that both of those styles are things the Heat could use right about now.
#5: An uphill climb late.
What once was a 13 point lead for the Heat, collapsed to down 12 in the fourth quarter. The offense fell apart, and the defense still wouldn’t wake up. Under 5 minutes to go, Bam finally was waking up. He got into the middy pull-up, then blitzed the ball handler for a swat to Butler in transition. 6 point game now. After a timeout, Kyle Lowry came out pushing pace. A transition lay-in, followed by an early drive and dish to Bam for the push shot. 2 point game. Yet the Heat couldn’t fully capitalize. Heat had some good three point looks that they missed from Herro, Oladipo, Lowry. But the true takeaway was the defensive energy. Off a jump ball in middle court with a low shot clock, Plumlee took Bam off the dribble for the lay-in. That just can’t happen late. A LaMelo Ball three put them back up 8. Defense didn’t show up, simple as that.