The Miami Heat faced off against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night, and man did they feel like two separate games.
Horrible offensive execution in the first half, while being way too slow on rotations defensively.
Then a major pick-up in second half led by Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro, yet they couldn’t get over the hump late to get a stop.
So Miami falls to 2-5, with the Warriors up next at home. Here are some takeaways from this one, though:
#1: First half evaluation: Where’s the energy? The intention? The purpose?
As the Heat slowly walked onto the court for tip-off, the first thing to evaluate is always the vibes. Is energy high? Do they know the importance of this final game of the road trip? And well, the answer to that first question at least was no. The offense for the first few minutes looked as bad as you could possibly project. The actions were not looking fluid at all, and the guys just didn’t seem in it to be completely honest. Yes the Kings were 0-4 coming in, but they have a pretty talented roster full of some hungry young guys who are ready to compete. When the Heat sleep walk into a building like this, bad things will continue to come. They began to dig themselves out of that hole to kick off the second half, but these are still developments to monitor.
#2: Points in the paint.
If you looked at the stat sheet at halftime, there was only one number that stood out more than the 71 first half points: 36 points in the paint. This has been a bit of a trend this season, and the first thing many will point to is Miami’s defensive scheme. It’s still an effective one to run when you have the correct back-side help, which if we’re going to be frank, PJ Tucker was just that. Bam Adebayo switches onto a guard, and Domantas Sabonis has Max Strus or Kyle Lowry on his back in the paint. But I wouldn’t say that was the main issue. If you went back to those buckets, many of the time it’s the point of attack defense to blame. Guys being blown by off the catch, Adebayo having to rotate over, and now the Kings are one quick dump-off for an easy lay-up. Going back to the last section, the intention was the issue here. The reason for that: well, you watched the second half. When the intention and rotations improve, everything else begins to follow suit.
#3: Well Bam Adebayo showed up offensively early on.
Bringing up that halftime stat-line again, I have to be straight up with you guys. I had no clue how Miami scored 49 points up to that point. When eyeing the process, that felt like more than you would expect. But a main reason for that ended up being Bam Adebayo. While everyone struggled generating any space or good looks in general, Adebayo would bail them out in many ways. Hitting his favorite push shot, getting to the basket, and well, that early aggression flipped into some rhythm in his all-around game. The pull-up got into the mix to finish that first half. Yet the other thing to keep an eye on: Bam foul trouble. With the big man room at the moment, they need him on the floor as much as possible. Some have been offensive fouls which means he’s being aggressive, but they have to find a way to tone it down.
#4: A third quarter shift for the Heat.
As I just portrayed the theories of the first half, the Heat could clearly sense it at the half as well. They came into that third quarter with a purpose, and a gameplan. The Kings defense is known for chasing teams off the three. So the Heat basically took that straight on and attacked the rim a ton in that third quarter, leading to Sabonis grabbing his 5th foul. Shortly after, you noticed Miami’s defensive intensity and rotations tune up a bit. And so did the offense, which Kyle Lowry deserves the majority of the credit for. He led by example and got Miami back into their usual ball movement, plus stepped up on the defensive end. They put together a 33 point quarter to open up the second half. If only for consistency…
#5: Well there’s Tyler Herro.
Tyler Herro has been the player of blame after the last game in Golden State, and I wouldn’t just sit here and say he came out firing. As I said previously, the offense in the first half was a whole lot of stagnant play, and a little bit of Bam Adebayo. Yet as I described the job Lowry did in that third quarter, there was one name I wanted to save: Tyler Herro. He changed the scoring outlook for this team in the second half. Attacking the rim in the third to get Sabonis his 5th foul, getting his pull-up to fall out of the high pick and roll, then hitting tough bucket after tough bucket throughout the 4th quarter. The team’s run in general came a bit late, but the silent but deadly Herro scoring run provides a bit more necessary clarity following his past struggles. Now it’s just about finding the correct flow in the half-court around all of these guys.