The Miami Heat were in a back and forth against the Brooklyn Nets tonight.
Here are some takeaways…
#1: Let’s quickly talk match-ups…
As the Nets got set into their defensive stance following the tip-off, a bunch of things caught my eye. Ben Simmons on Bam Adebayo, Nic Claxton on Jimmy Butler, and Kevin Durant on Tyler Herro. For starters, that’s a lot of defensive length against a Heat team that is far from effective against size. Simmons on Bam just meant they could switch any pick and roll Miami ran, while Herro was going to see a lengthy defender no matter what. That forced Herro into an awkward state early since he couldn’t get to his usual spots off screens, but he found some off-ball pockets and early clock looks. He got comfortable even further early in the fourth, as his shot making found an uptick. The Heat obviously were fine on the offensive end as they were efficient and scored well, but the length match-up is still something to keep an eye on. The Victor Oladipo card makes it easier, since he’s not hugely impacted on either end.
#2: Heat’s first half wasn’t the typical: matching buckets with this Nets team is never the blueprint.
When we’ve seen two point games at half throughout the season in Heat game, it’s usually 46-44, not 66-64. The Heat’s defense will come to play in an ugly, “in the mud” match-up, but that wasn’t the case tonight. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were doing their usual isolation work that a defensive scheme can’t really counter, but very good offense would be a fine counter. The Heat were spreading the ball around well, generating paint touches, and shot 44% from three in that first half. It’s never the idea to go out and match elite shot makers that the Nets possess, but the Heat were doing it in their own right. An interesting thing to monitor. (A much more entertaining style.)
#3: Role player watch for the Heat.
When it comes to discussing Heat role players in this game, Haywood Highsmith would be a good place to start. He came out guarding Durant on the defensive end, and while Duran’t effectiveness may not reflect it, he was battling in a very good way to make it more difficult on the catch in the mid-range. He also had some bail-out buckets to begin this game with some direct drives to the rim. The bench was a huge positive as well, since they shot 8 of 11 from the field in that first half. I don’t want to include Victor Olaidpo in the “role players” section too much, but he really settled that group running the offense. Lastly, Orlando Robinson was a +14. Yes, that is new.
#4: Jimmy Butler bringing the usual fire.
As I said earlier, the ball wasn’t sticking for this Heat team tonight. The usage was being spread out pretty well, as the Heat were just taking advantages of the openings in front of them. With that said, Jimmy Butler was the one constant to the offense throughout this game. The hard drives, the activity on help defense to throw Durant and Irving off single coverage since he wasn’t the actual match-up, and continued trips to the line. He wasn’t dominating the ball in a noticeable way, but he was just keeping the energy high and reading certain pockets of the game. In the third quarter, he stole it from Durant, dove out of bounds for the save, got up and got fouled eventually at the rim. That’s something others can feed off of.
#5: The fourth quarter run…
As the back and forth in scoring continued, the Nets hit a bit of a weird wall with Durant getting injured and going to the locker room. As he was no longer on the floor, and Ben Simmons took a breather, the Nets defensive length diminished all of a sudden. Hence, the early fourth quarter run from Herro. He kept sliding into off-ball pockets which led into some on-ball pull-ups in the mid-range. The Nets counter-punched without Durant, finding their offense behind Irving drawing doubles, and triples, then dishing to their solid role players. Bam Adebayo was not having his best night, as Robinson checked in for him with 5 minutes to go…which was interesting, until realizing the hand was bothering him. Two minutes left, Heat trailed by 3, Robinson received it in the middle of the floor, kept it high, threw a risky pass to the dunker spot for the Butler dunk. Miami gets a stop the very next play, and Oladipo bombs it to Butler who catches and finishes. Heat now up 1. Now down to 15 seconds left, Irving misses a deep shot, Nets get an offensive board for the tip-in. Nets up 1. Heat get a great look on the end with a Butler drive, but don’t get the call. Heat lose.