The Miami Heat faced a short handed Philadelphia 76ers without Joel Embiid and James Harden, yet couldn’t slow them down.
Tyler Herro continued to get hunted late for all of Philly’s offensive possessions, and Tyrese Maxey couldn’t be stopped.
So, here are some takeaways from this one…
#1: So, about this group’s energy in this one…
We often talk about this Heat team in a bright light of high energy and not taking defensive possessions off. Yet, in this one, I couldn’t give this team those adjectives. We’ve seen a trend where less talented teams catch Miami off guard through playing with more energy or purpose, and that was the case in this one with no Joel Embiid or James Harden. The only guy on this roster that was playing with his usual energy was Caleb Martin, since his close-outs and off-ball sticking wasn’t down by any means. And speaking of those close-outs, that’s the easiest way to judge a team’s energy in the game of basketball. We saw that picture the last time against Philly where Embiid was surrounded by 3 Heat jerseys, which clearly means there’s a mental step back when reading that injury report.
#2: Jimmy Butler keeping Miami alive early offensively.
Jimmy Butler finished the first half with 15 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds, which seemed like he was the only guy able to efficiently dissect this Philly defense and keep Miami’s offense alive. A lot of that refers back to past points about rim pressure, since 7 of his 15 came from the free throw line. When guys like Tyrese Maxey would switch onto him, he would take advantage, which is the only thing you could ask. Big picture, this defense looks a lot different without Embiid, which changes up the usual Herro PnR dissection that we’re used to, but it kicks right back in Butler’s facor with constant switching and inside presence. In this one, he was it in that first half.
#3: For future reference, a key exploitable element against Philly in the post-season.
To zoom out a bit more, and away from the Butler dominance against switching, it should be mentioned that won’t be a Philly post-season wrinkle. Most lineups will consist of drop with the occasional blitz, which is why guys like Herro are mentioned often in this match-up. But along those same lines, Duncan Robinson is a big piece to this match-up. Looking at this game tonight, there’s been a trend whenever Philly faces him that they’re going to overplay him a ton. They will double out, push him away from the 3 point line, and have Mattisee Thybulle trail him all night. And that type of stuff opens up the back-side actions a ton. Miami wants that focus to be on him in that way, so others can counter, which happened in moments in this one, referring back to Butler’s first half attack. But if there’s a playoff match-up for Robinson, he can really open things up in a potential second round series against the 76ers.
#4: Kyle Lowry and Bam Adebayo: the need for consistency in shot profile.
As Philadelphia got in a rhythm defensively by stopping Miami’s primary attacks, something was noticed. It consisted of a lot of funneling inside the lane, which is usually a formula for big time rim protectors. In this case, it was just altering Miami’s looks. That blended into a Kyle Lowry realization, where he all of a sudden began pulling that three-ball as they would go under on screens. Nobody is worried about that shot dropping, but it’s just about taking it so Miami can open up their main sets. The other guy who works into the convo of shot profile consistency is Bam Adebayo. He got on a roll in the third quarter, and he did it in one simple way: using his body around the rim. When he takes contact, it gets him in a rhythm to go up and score, which gave him 10 points in half the quarter. But like I said, the ability to consistently go to it just wasn’t there. It’s situational.
#5: A reference point to rotation questions.
If you want to know what the Heat’s nine man rotation may look like in the post-season, it felt like this game would be a great reference point. For starters, there are many advantages to playing with Markieff Morris as your back-up big, but it’s also not a consistent thing they’re going to lean toward. With that said, it fits perfectly with what’s been said about Dewayne Dedmon and him switching off as the back-up 5, not only series by series, but game by game. The reason we’re comparing Morris and Dedmon, and not Morris and Martin, is because that isn’t a conversation at this stage. Martin is a complete lock, and it’s for reasons that can go unsaid. The final evaluation includes the hot and cold nature of Max Strus. The reason I’ve been calling him a situation piece who can plug in when needing a boost, is due to the ups and downs that we’ve seen. When he’s cold, it’s hard to stick with that move, since it bleeds into defensive problems heavily. He will still be used, but not as a rotation lock in a series.
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