The Miami Heat faced the Toronto Raptors once again on the fourth game in five nights, and the Raptors got the best of them again late.
Miami was in control for the first 2 and a half quarters, but once offensive momentum shifts, a team like Toronto can easily take control.
They struggled once again within their late game offense, but Bam Adebayo dominated on that end all night.
Anyway, here are some takeaways from this one…
#1: Welcome aggressive Bam Adebayo to the show.
Bam Adebayo has been discussed a ton recently, and it’s been highlighted by his need to be aggressive. Well, right out the gate in this one, he was taking advantage of the areas he didn’t the last time around. The first one is when smaller defenders are guarding him. Last time against Toronto, it was post-up, dribble, double, kick-out. But as the Raptors began delaying the double, it left him in no man’s land. Tonight, he wasn’t afraid to immediately flow into that post hook, which is the perfect addition to that offensive bag. The other main element to his game is this: when he gains momentum, man is he hard to stop. He had some fast-break finishes, but one play to finish the first half stuck out. Takes it in from the wing, hesitates as a shot fake, then speeds up to blow by his defender and flip a wild scoop that drops in. When he’s operating from his comfortable spots, while being aggressive, he’s the scary talent we all know he is.
#2: Butler and Tucker back…Heat offense back? Well, at times.
There’s no doubt that the Heat’s offense fell apart in the last game against Boston. Was it due to it being the third game in four nights? Was it being without Jimmy Butler and PJ Tucker? Probably a combination of both, but I would lean the latter. For one, as we saw Miami’s offensive plan immediately in this game, they had counters ready from their past two losses. The drive and kick was back in action as Butler made his return, but they also had beatable slips and planned cuts against Toronto’s complete switching. Now that territory was all PJ Tucker. Many of us would just account offensive struggles to the lack of Butler, but Tucker is more important to this offense than you may think. He’s the functional piece to make it all go, due to his safety blanket ways following a screen and being the outlet to an even better shot. Yet, in the fourth quarter, they got away from it at times again. They reluctantly worked things through Tucker and Caleb Martin late in the clock, just showcasing an awkward sense of control in crunch time.
#3: Dominating the inside early.
To continue on an offensive topic even more, we always seem to have a section on good nights where it discusses their elite three-point shooting. But I’m looking in the opposite direction in this one. This team has a recipe when fully healthy to let that ball go from deep within their sets, then let that bleed into the inside game after blitzing is forced on ball screens. In this one, they flipped the script. They went inside early on a very lengthy, doubling team, and that blended right into the eventual kick-outs that Miami lacked in the last game. If we can see Miami with this type of uniqueness to their offensive game-plan, aside from lineups and individual sets, it makes them a very tough team to defend in the playoffs with all things clicking. Key word: clicking.
#4: Let’s take a second to recognize the opposition.
Watching the way this team battles against Miami every time around, we must zoom out for a quick second. There’s a recipe where Miami could actually end up facing this Raptors team in a first round, and man would that be an emotionally and physically drug out series. Yes I’d take Miami in that scenario, but it wouldn’t be easy. This Raptors team never stops on either end, they have guards like VanVleet and Trent who can pick out mismatches at an extremely high level in Miami’s offensive lineups, and switch at an uncomfortably high level to bother shooters. It would be a fun series to watch, but it may not be the best walkway for Miami in terms of them focusing on the long haul, since frankly, it would be a draining series of games.
#5: The minutes of Duncan Robinson, again, something to monitor.
This Raptors team definitely isn’t the best defensive match-up for Duncan Robinson who thrives heavily off operating off screens both on and off the ball. The hand-off is made, and immediately two swarming Raptors are forcing Robinson into quick decision making. But when evaluating Erik Spoelstra’s decision making, we see another scenario where he limits Robinson’s minutes in favor of Max Strus. I think there are a ton of match-ups where Robinson can pop off and be huge for them offensively, but the fact that this happens so often is an eyebrow raiser. And well, two high level guards will be returning soon, in Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo, which will make these decisions even more complex in terms of Robinson’s minute distribution when coming out cold.
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