Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Knicks

Heat heading back to Miami to play in a game 6.

Shooting issues, free throw shooting disparity, and Jimmy Butler looking bothered.

Some takeaways…

#1: The Heat’s first quarter defense…

The Knicks first quarter included 14 points and 7 turnovers, as everything just looked absolutely atrocious. Heat forcing them to make spot-ups, and Erik Spoelstra deploying Jimmy Butler into his most comfortable role. Bam Adebayo is the continued anchor, but Butler is the moving chess piece that can strictly wreck most actions an opposing team tries to run. For example, the Heat have stayed with that adjustment to plug Butler onto RJ Barrett. That basically means he will place 2 feet in the paint as an action is being run, ready to muck things up. Barrett missed some early shots that Butler wanted, but that gameplan didn’t stop there. Barrett foul trouble meant Josh Hart entered for him, yet Miami kept things the same. Now Butler helping down even more often. Jalen Brunson found his way in the second quarter, but the way Butler controlled that first quarter on that end was loud.

#2: Some ugly offense to start for Miami…

As the Heat walked into the half only trailing by 3, it felt like a decent spot considering some of the offensive numbers. 16% shooting from three, Butler wasn’t in that takeover mode yet, and 2 starters were a combined 3 for 14. It definitely wasn’t pretty, yet it took a big punch to start the second quarter to even put them in that position. I’ve talked often about that five man bench unit that keeps winning their minutes, but I guess you can’t go to the well too many times. They couldn’t score, and the Knicks found a high pace groove to open things up for their offense. From there, that’s when Brunson entered his scoring mode. But those are the stretches where the Heat just simply miss Tyler Herro. Somebody to create their own shot a bit, and get a unique wrinkle in the offense instead of just reacting to pick and roll coverages. Even with that, they stayed afloat.

#3: Guarding Max Strus…

I’ve been keeping some tabs on Max Strus in this series, mostly since I haven’t understood the way they’ve guarded him. He’s not a guy like Duncan Robinson who is going to run off 2 screens into a handoff before shooting. His game is to quickly pull off the catch and find gaps to put up a comfortable look. Yet the Knicks have given him more air-space than I ever imagined he would see this time of year. Game after game, his looks have felt extremely clean to me. Now when they start to crash the close-outs, he’s been willing to really attack the rim well. In his last 3 games, he has 10 two-pointers. In all of April, including regular season, play-in, and playoffs, he had 9 total two-pointers. Part of this is without Herro it’s needed, but man has that been an important thing to see from both him and this offense.

#4: Jimmy Butler not finding his Playoff Jimmy flow.

So far in these playoffs, there haven’t been many moments where Jimmy Butler looks anything close to ineffective. As the Heat’s shooting plummeted and the Knicks help peeled closer, Butler looked more out of sorts than I’ve seen in quite some time. He had trouble getting to his spots, and even more trouble finding ways to assert himself on a consistent basis. He kept making the “right basketball play” by finding the open shooter most plays, but man it didn’t feel like the correct decision with the same result coming up. Don’t know if I would blame the shooting, the ankle, or just an off night, but either way it was a necessary thing to note as the Heat had some true issues scoring cleanly. They finally found a flow to finish the third, cutting it to 10, but that wasn’t even on-ball Butler. Just an interesting game for him…

#5: The fourth quarter…

As I said before, the Heat cut it to 10 heading into the fourth, looking to make that official offensive punch. Duncan Robinson led that for a bit, as he knocked down a tough corner triple, contained on the opposite end, and flowed back down the floor into a drive and kick for the Lowry three. 7 point game, 8:30 to go. To continue that Robinson run, out of the timeout, he gets a steal as Lowry ends up in a late shot clock triple to cut it to 4. Brunson answers on the other end, and Robinson comes right back. An incredible run by him to energize Miami. Mitchell Robinson with an open dunk extended their lead back to 6 with under 6 minutes to go. The next stretch including the Heat leaning in the “hack-a-Robinson” direction, which is uncharacteristic for Spoelstra it feels. With 3:30 left, the Heat found themselves in a 5 point game as they call timeout to draw something up. Butler comes off a double drag screen, right into a pull-up. For the next few possessions, the Heat were running that same play over and over: Butler on-ball, Robinson popping for gravity, and Adebayo rolling. It got them decent looks to clear that right side of the floor, which was the idea. They force a 5 second violation with a minute to go, as Bam gets a dunk on the other end to cut it to 4. Heat foul on other end, back at 6. And well, a few free throws later, the Heat are heading back to Miami to play in game 6.

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