The Miami Heat fall to the Toronto Raptors this time around, after some back and forth late.
Heat now 1-3.
Some takeaways from this one…
#1: A look into an interchangeable defensive system for Miami.
As the Miami Heat trailed 48-43 at half, it always gives you a moment of reflection as to what the primary issue is. Both ends of the floor had problems in prior games, but the defensive end seemed to be cleaned up generally early in this one. From a positive perspective, I thought we finally got the defensive mix that you would be looking for with this Heat group. The first few possessions included some Bam Adebayo in drop, which I’ve been asking for. It then altered back to the soft switching, while shading help over for double teams more often than not. Following those sequences, Miami leaned into the 2-2-1 press and 2-3 zone when Gabe Vincent and Haywood Highsmith were at the top of it. The point is that Miami’s defense was problematic when it was one dimensional. Being creative and unpredictable is all you can ask for.
#2: The Dewayne Dedmon element.
While we imagined Bam Adebayo would be gunning for the DPOY award this year, I didn’t think Dewayne Dedmon would be given any credit for that. But when you open up the on/off numbers, or simply the plus/minus, the Dedmon stuff jumps off the page. But even more-so, it jumps off the game-tape when watching. He can’t truly move at this stage, which creates problems for this team on both ends. He doesn’t have the back-pedaling quickness to fully contain in drop, while his offensive role is just to simply “float” after a screen. Not much intention, not many positive outcomes. Simply, the minutes have looked bad to begin this season, and the status of Omer Yurtseven on the injury report becomes more and more intriguing.
#3: The Heat aren’t being quiet about the offensive combo that works best.
Something I’ve been discussing all off-season for Miami, when projecting the starting lineup on the season, was the Tyler Herro-Bam Adebayo pick and roll connection. And well, it’s lived up to the hype early in the season. Herro has recorded 1.47 points per possession on 61% shooting as the PnR ball handler, which only ranks behind Luka Doncic and Jaylen Brown. Adebayo has recorded 1.25 PPP on 68% shooting as the PnR roll man, only ranking behind John Collins. But the bigger headliner is that they aren’t afraid to lean into it. Heavily. The entire offense seems to be operating around that two-man action, and we’re seeing minor layers added to it and it’s only game 4. One of the more fun X’s and O’s story-lines to follow for this team.
#4: A very great Jimmy Butler approach.
As the Heat made a solid third quarter push, it required us to zoom out a bit. Bam Adebayo with some highlight-type strong attacks. Tyler Herro continues to be the shining piece. Yet Jimmy Butler was just quietly coasting to having a pretty great game. Trips to the line, a couple triples, mismatch hunting, solid facilitating, and great efficiency. We know what the role of Butler in the regular season looks like compared to the playoffs, but this is a great example of him not having to do *too* much while still putting up numbers. Combining my last takeaway with this one, a specific Herro-Bam PnR stood out late in the first half. Butler set-up at dunker spot for interior gravity, while he roams from box to box. Herro hit Butler who knocked down the floater. The shot profile mix is a healthy one.
#5: Late-game execution.
Jimmy Butler walks to the scorer’s table of a close game with 5 minutes left in the 4th. A bit of a back and forth pursued with some forced offense from Miami. A perfectly executed Spain PnR turned South late as Bam took off too early and it clanked off the rim. Raptors started to get some easy buckets down low, seemingly putting Miami in an awkward position with Butler entering with 3 mins left in the quarter. Fast forwarding a minute of a 6 point game, the Heat force a miss and run into transition. Tyler Herro, in Herro fashion, pulls up for three on the break to cut the lead to 3. All of a sudden the ball ends up back in their hands with a little over a minute to go, and we get another Spain PnR siting. Perfect result with VanVleet switching onto Bam, yet Herro shoots a tough shot that just misses. On the other end, Vincent did his best to contain, but Siakam got to his sweet spot for the mid-range bucket. 5 point game. Good play-call out of the timeout for Butler to drive on a curl screen for the easy lay-in. Yet as good of defense they played on Toronto following that play, Gary Trent just hits an insanely tough shot in the deep corner. Ends in a loss for Miami.