The Miami Heat kicked off round 2 against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night, and although there were minor bumps in the road, they really took care of business.
After struggling in round 1, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo really took control of this game. Together.
But as much as they’re the focus, PJ Tucker put them in this position under the radar.
Anyway, here are my takeaways from this one…
#1: The early, early offensive approach for Miami: Herro-Bam high PnR.
Before I discuss the offense in the first half big picture, I must first address what was working. After Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo had rough first round series, it was clear coming into this one that this match-up could favor them greatly. The drop is there for Herro to attack, and Adebayo has the size advantage over anybody not named DeAndre Jordan. So, Miami quickly evolved into high PnR madness with those two when Jordan or Paul Millsap were sitting in that drop. Herro’s able to create attention through his drop instinct once passing the three-point line, which transitioned into open lanes for Bam as a roller since nobody could stick him. That was when offense was peaking. But then, it declined. Rapidly.
#2: The offensive drought that followed…
Now, to enter the problematic parts of this Heat offense, it went from executed offensive sets that were clearly intentional heading in, into a whole lot of randomness in that second quarter. Miami began blending into forced drives and more forced drives until an open man was found. Yes, that’s the complete recap. They were no longer looking at Adebayo roaming baseline who would find a perfect deep seal. Combine that with shooting 25% from three in the first 24 minutes and you have yourself an issue. Butler had the jumper fall early with back to back mid-ranges when they went under the screen and a standstill three, but that turned into tough fade-away jumpers with wings guarding him. That’s fine against Maxey, but forced against others. It was clear at that point, adjustments were needed coming out of the half.
#3: Should we take a second for extra PJ Tucker appreciation.
In the first round against the Atlanta Hawks, after Butler, PJ Tucker was the most important player in the series. And well, he wasted no time in this one. Immediately picking James Harden up full court, switching and helping down low, while dominating as that weak-side help guy at the nail. When looking for the answers to Philly’s early scoring trouble, it was all PJ Tucker. But the reason I bring up the word appreciation is that while his defense was evident, he played a big role offensively. Yes he was 2 of 6 from the field with 5 points at half, but most of the Heat’s first half runs included him providing second chances and playing the “Bam role” at the 5. Then to start the third, it was even more Tucker. Forcing turnovers, creating for Bam off the slip and dime, hitting tough shots, and most importantly, getting them second chance opportunities. He’s been outstanding.
#4: Bam Adebayo showing up big time.
As I hinted at before when I mentioned the Herro-Bam dynamic, this could potentially be a Bam series before the Embiid return. There are mismatches all over the floor, for both face-ups against slower guys like Jordan or post-ups against smaller guys like Millsap. After being utilized a ton early than disappearing in that second quarter since they weren’t finding him, he began to be found to start the third when they went on their run. The point is not to harp of Bam’s shocking scoring punch in this one. It’s to showcase that he needs to be used like a top player on this team on the offensive side of the ball. I can understand aggression conversations, but there’s a point where he should be consistently have sets run for him. Whether it’s on the ball with guards screening, or backdoor stuff to feed him with mismatches down low, it’s the key to Miami taking that next step on this playoff run.
#5: The real reason the Heat are true contending threats.
When looking at this Heat team in the first round, there were glaring holes. Herro wasn’t himself, Adebayo wasn’t being used, Lowry going down changed things. Moving onto game 1 tonight, Butler wasn’t great, shooters were inconsistent, Oladipo lineups were in the mud frequently while finding themselves. Yet through all of that, the Heat keep finding ways to win. How? Well, I’m glad you ask: this Heat defense is stifling. They can go through a second quarter span where they forget how to run offense, yet still come out even. They have enough bodies to throw at any position 1 through 5, created a helping scheme due to the team being elite with rotations, and found a way to stop top talents. So, back to why this team is a true contender. Combining a defense that is elite of the elite with an offense that can go on wild runs is a good enough to be in that top tier.
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