The Miami Heat fell short in Washington on Saturday night, even alongside another big time Jimmy Butler night. The threes couldn’t fall once again, and it ultimately lost them a close one.
So, here are five takeaways from this one, mostly highlighting some individual takeaways from Miami’s core…
#1: Miami’s first half sums up the team’s new look theme.
1 for 14. That’s the Heat’s stat-line from three in the first half tonight. It feels like I start these pieces the same way every night, but that’s just because Miami keeps starting their games in the same way every night. Aside from an immediate Tyler Herro three when he came in, the team just couldn’t get a shot to fall from the outside for that entire 24 minutes. 43 points in that stretch of time tells you that as well, but there’s one more thing to keep in mind: the Heat were winning at that point. They have a very gritty group of guys who just battle when the game is in the mud, and if we’re talking about the first half specifically, Caleb Martin and PJ Tucker were huge reasons for that. When you can embody this new defensive team theme, role players are much more valuable in this setting. But as we saw, when there’s a scoring drop-off on the roster, it puts you in a very tough spot to win.
#2: Jimmy Butler spamming moves and getting buckets.
Jimmy Butler has been in the MVP race to begin this season, and it’s not just because of big numbers in the scoring column and fun post-game comments. For one, he’s been terrific on the defensive end per usual. Doubling when he chooses, handling his specific match-up, and getting pick sixes like another corner-back in town. But his offensive efficiency and impact has been incredible. He’s basically spammed one move for the past 3 games of the season, and it just couldn’t be stopped. Post position, get to the mid-range, and turn-around and fire. That shot has been falling, but the difficulty of those shots is the more important part to note. It’s a new team around him, which means new spots to operate.
#3: A big time Bam Adebayo addition: the usage of his shoulder in the post.
Bam Adebayo has made some pretty intriguing minor improvements this season. Overall feel, pursuing certain spots on the floor in the half-court, and now, a post gadget. A hot topic with Adebayo recently has been about him getting in the post more often, taking advantage of smaller defenders. But what about when he’s being defended by guys his size? That shouldn’t always equate to just shooting the mid-range jumper, so Adebayo’s beginning to put that added muscle to use. He’s utilizing the shoulder to create just enough space for quick hooks under the basket, or space to fire over the top. That stuff jumped right off the screen tonight, and his engagement in actually being aggressive allows it to shine even more.
#4: PJ Tucker, a steal, literally and figuratively.
Describing PJ Tucker as a steal is fitting just through his defensive presence on a night to night basis, but it completely transcends that. In terms of off-season pick-ups, Tucker had to be one of the best this past season, just through the lens of outplaying the money on the deal. For starters, the first half can be viewed in many different ways, but Tucker kept it close in a stretch where the game shouldn’t have been close. Fighting on the offensive boards and providing extra possessions was the major element, just continuing to do the dirty work like he always does. Then in the second half, Tucker’s scoring returned, including back to back possessions with corner threes from the same spot. When offense gets rolling and the primary scorers do what they do, defenders almost have to dip off Tucker in his spots. But well, he’s made them pay every single night.
#5: Tyler Herro flipping the script in terms of counteracting his scoring.
The catch and shoot three really plummeted for Tyler Herro last season in comparison to his rookie year. That led to him expanding his scoring inside the arc little by little, which has totally exploded to begin this season. But the interesting thing about a returning Herro on Saturday night against the Wizards, is that he did exactly the opposite in this one. He began the game 3 for 10 from the field, and just looked a little flat with all of his shots coming up short in the middle of the floor. That led to him firing from deep shortly after, and well, that got him going. Two above the break triples set him off in the second half, and everything just stemmed from there offensively. He’s doing some really veteran-like things just through his scoring reads against different coverages, and it isn’t going anywhere. But down the stretch of the game, he was being picked on defensively as the Wizards were taking him off the dribble each and every possession.
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