The Miami Heat faced the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night, and it was a pretty different game than the last one. No Jimmy Butler, no Bam Adebayo, no DeMar DeRozan.
Yet, Miami came away with a win due to a bunch of guys stepping up yet again.
So, here are some takeaways from this big win…
#1: Duncan Robinson and Kyle Lowry coming out in a different manner.
The first takeaway on many of my post-game pieces this season have been on Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson. But not usually in a positive way, especially with both of them on the same night. Robinson missed his first shot of the night, then didn’t look back. Pump fake, one dribble, pull-up mid-range was his first bucket of the night, and it triggered a three-point shooting parade shortly after. That’s the formula. Lowry also came out shooting the ball well, but his passing stood out even more. 12 first half assists pretty much sums up that entire point. When he’s playing with his natural flow and assertiveness, that age of his fades away quickly. These two guys have been trying to find a rhythm next to each other, and both of them enhancing their biggest skill is the way to do that.
#2: An offensive tweak without Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
Mid-post touches every single play down was the nightly occurrence when Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and even Markieff Morris was in the lineup. But without them, the offensive purpose has looked rough. Spamming perimeter movement, hand-offs, and normal pick and rolls. But over the last two games, Miami’s found an outlet. Instead of the mid-post with those guys I named, they’re using PJ Tucker and Lowry on the wing three in similar post position. It gives Lowry spacing to score, while also providing more room to play-make in a smaller guys body. Tucker is a threat to run a hand-off or set a quick screen, while also giving guys their spotting on the floor on the weak-side. Mid-post insertions was the team’s base, but they’re finally reviving an offensive home to get back to.
#3: Dewayne Dedmon looking like much more than a valued role player.
Dewayne Dedmon has deserved a ton of credit over this last stretch. When Bam Adebayo went down originally, I think everybody’s mind went to the same place: the back-up big minutes. The reason is that Dedmon is so solid that nobody questions his production, and he’s upheld that point. Night in and night out, he plays his consistent game of screening, rolling, and offensive rebounding. Tonight, though, he wasn’t afraid to show off that three-ball a bit more as well. He buried two shots from deep in the first half, while presenting the Heat with a great spark after Robinson and Lowry went off the floor. He’s the ultimate role player in this league, but his game can be expanded upon when needed in games like this. Many players with his build withhold restrictions, but he truly doesn’t in many ways. He’s a drop big who isn’t the quickest, but can blitz you all night with that recovering scheme. He’s versatile. Not on the floor, but in the lineup from game to game.
#4: KZ Okpala becoming a usable piece on nights like this?
We know what KZ Okpala is as an NBA player so far. Some restrictions offensively, tons of talent defensively, but an overall discomfort on both sides whenever he’s thrown in there. Over the last two games, things have been different though. The biggest difference, in my opinion, isn’t just Okpala doing anything insanely different, but instead who he’s lining up next to. I’m not so sure Erik Spoelstra would put a ton of trust into him on a regular basis, but next to PJ Tucker, the trust is undoubtedly there. Okpala and Tucker can interchange the big man match-up no matter who they’re facing, while the other is slowly edging down to rely on rotations. Hence, the struggling Nikola Vucevic tonight. If Okpala can continually be this playable this season, they can definitely use him with so many guys down.
#5: This is a big win…for many reasons.
Let me start by reiterating that Duncan Robinson needed this game. A home night explosion on the offensive end, while showcasing mental strength over physical strength. But as a team, the importance shines even more. This past Monday, Jimmy Butler returned and went out in the same game, leaving many predicting a gloomy stretch of games ahead. The reigning champ Milwaukee Bucks as the current 3 seed were up next, while the 2 seed Chicago Bulls quickly followed. Without Butler and Adebayo, that basically screamed 0-2. But well, Miami flipped that into a 2-0 stretch through hard overall play, and now we’re heading into another game on Monday to complete a 7 day stretch without Butler. Who knows if he will come back then, but either way, Miami has survived a stretch that didn’t seem possible. And after the 15th of December, things will get real easy for Miami up until New Years.
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