The Heat fell short against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night, in a pretty physical match to say the least.
Emotional highs to on-court lows, here are five takeaways from this one…
#1: An attacking Bam Adebayo to start, but a struggling Bam Adebayo to finish.
Bam Adebayo was a hot topic on social media prior to this game, and it was for some slightly different reasons. Much of it was discussing the current placements of him as an offensive threat, and my feelings on this have always stayed consistent: getting to the rim should be number one. He’s faster than most bigs he matches up with, and he’s stronger than most guards that switch onto him. Early tonight, we saw a driving Adebayo. Minnesota couldn’t stop fouling him, which usually is a great thing for Bam, but for some reason he couldn’t get his free throws to drop. And those misses ended up hurting this Heat team in the end. After that attacking mindset early on, Minnesota quickly made him uncomfortable in the fourth down low, which ultimately put Miami in the biggest hole of the night.
#2: Welcome, Gabe Vincent.
Max Strus being knocked out of Miami’s nine man rotation right now is not something I expected at all, especially considering Markieff Morris has still yet to return. Caleb Martin has basically been the Morris replacer, and he’s done that extremely well. The replacer for Strus, on the other hand, has been Gabe Vincent, and he’s making his minutes felt. For one, there’s essentially an entire defensive scheme that is aligned with his minutes, with the 2-3 zone. But secondly, his three ball was finally falling, which leads to a completely different player. He has the role player qualities, he has strong defensive capabilities, but shooting off the catch when the defense is rotating has been the one missing piece. Yet, it was filled in tonight’s game, continuing to justify his trust for Vincent off the bench in this stretch.
#3: Tyler Herro pushing aside rough starts: the number one year to year change.
I’ve done a ton of Tyler Herro talk recently, both on paper and audibly, but there’s one thing that must be mentioned aside from the X’s and O’s. Herro hasn’t had many “rough starts,” but there is a common denominator to that when he does: he finds a way to shoot his way out of it and bounce back. It’s something many young players struggle with, and it’s something he’s struggled with specifically in recent years. But this year, he just keeps fighting to get to his spots, keeps putting the ball up, and keeps hoping for a positive result. Since ultimately, when you’re as talented as he is, there’s a certain amount of confidence it will return. Not that it has to jump off the stat-sheet as an efficient night, but mentally that corner must be turned. It wasn’t fully turned tonight in that way, but at least there’s more trust in him late even with those odd starts.
#4: Whistles, technical fouls, and well, Udonis Haslem.
One of my takeaways have to be looked at from a wide lens: this game was pretty weird for a while there. A stretched out third quarter with technical fouls flying toward Udonis Haslem on the sideline, Kyle Lowry receiving his 5th foul, and Jimmy Butler-fan interactions. There was just absolutely no flow whatsoever, including long stoppages as the officials evaluated the positioning of Karl Anthony Towns and Gabe Vincent on a foul call. Usually games like this are a wake up call to this gritty Heat team immediately, but the Timberwolves have a dawg themselves in Anthony Edwards who thrives in the environment as well. Both teams weren’t backing down from a player on player perspective, but on the floor, Miami lost that battle.
#5: Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler switching on and off in the second half.
Kyle Lowry is watching from the sideline as one of the longest quarters continues to drag out in the third. With 5 fouls next to his name, he wasn’t going to see the floor until the fourth quarter. And after a horrible offensive quarter with that “in the mud” play-style due to constant whistles, he changed things to begin the 4th. Miami was down 88-82 at the beginning of the quarter, but by next timeout, the Heat led 89-88. That was thanks to Lowry settling the guys around him in an emotional game. But while Butler is the one on the bench now, Minnesota came right back with back-to-back threes of their own, leaving Miami in a frenzy for that other guy. Bam Adebayo couldn’t play his game down low with the swarming defenders, and it leaves a major takeaway for the need of Lowry and Butler to be out there together. It’s not possible most nights due to staggering, but that’s the changing factor. And yet, shortly after Butler entered, Lowry exited with his 6th foul.
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