The Miami Heat came away with a win against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night in an anticipated matchup. Even with Tyler Herro out, they got it done, mostly due to the two-ways of last season, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus.
So, here are five takeaways from this win…
#1: Miami’s defense setting the tone early on.
In the beginning of the second quarter, the Heat forced the Bulls’ 10th turnover of the game, which doesn’t even tell the full story. DeRozan shooting 2 for 5 and LaVine shooting 2 for 6 in the first half doesn’t tell the full story either. It was just about the discomfort the Bulls were in from possession to possession, and lineup to lineup. The zone popped up again, Miami placed PJ Tucker on DeRozan so that he’d land on Vucevic after the screen, and they were just hitting the passing lanes as a whole. When you’re without one of the best scorers on your team, in Tyler Herro, it’s expected that defense would be the way you dictate a game. And they did just that to start.
#2: Tyler Herro out, Max Strus in.
Tyler Herro was a late scratch, after Spoelstra mentioned before the game he was a bit “under the weather.” That ultimately meant Max Strus would step into that next open slot, even though it felt his name would be called even if Herro played. Either way, he came out firing. Literally. He may have been the team’s leading scorer at the half, but the more important stat was he attempted the most shots on the team in that span. With 9 shots, 5 were threes and 4 were twos, just showing how this game was being played overall. We saw a bunch of different combinations with Strus, but the ultimate takeaway is this: he should never be on the outside looking in with Markieff Morris out and Victor Oladipo still healing up. Ten man rotation should be the next call before benching one of you’re better three-point shooters on a team that struggles from beyond the arc.
#3: Kyle Lowry the scorer made an early appearance. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo the facilitators quickly followed.
As we talk about the way Miami was generating offense, early on more specifically, it was almost a total flip in terms of individual player roles. Kyle Lowry came right out in scoring mode, getting to the basket twice in the first minute for easy layups. His drives were definitely up in this one as well, which meant simple kicks were the outcome. But not in the way you’d expect. Swing, swing, and there’s Butler or Adebayo in that mid-post waiting for the ball. Butler then drives and kicks. Or for Adebayo’s sake, he unfortunately waits for the double to come instead of attacking the smaller defender, and hits the cutter. That formula led to the two of them racking up 7 first half assists, and it did wonders to maximize the bench guys specifically. Without that big chunk of usage from Herro, the reliance on base offense was crucial.
#4: Duncan Robinson getting the ball up, and shifting his spotting.
This wasn’t one of those breakout Duncan Robinson nights where he shoots the ball like he used to. But what he did do is step up in the shot attempt column when others were drifting. Without Herro, you can push past inefficiency into the mindset of just getting them up, which he did. Some started to fall, but something interesting that followed was his willingness to begin scoring on the inside. Lay-ups, back-cuts, mid-ranges. That’s not really Robinson, but it needs to be in the prolonged stretch of poor shooting. Of course we can continually talk about the hope of it returning to normal, but there must be that in-between time where you utilize a non-Herro game to try and get out of it. It may be in his head, but the overarching mindset has yet to waver.
#5: Gabe Vincent continues to come up huge for Miami.
Speaking of guys on this roster on the outside looking in, that was Gabe Vincent’s role for most of the season. He was an intriguing defensive spark when needed, but that has finally flipped. It all came down to threes falling for him, and we’ve finally hit that moment in time. But is that the only difference? Actually, I don’t think so. Opinions can fly about the recent play of Kyle Lowry all you want, but the fact that Vincent can play next to Lowry at this stage is a major difference maker. Vincent’s playing with confidence, he’s not a one-dimensional offensive player at this exact time, cannot be taken advantage of on the defensive end unless he’s facing a much bigger ball-handler, and the shots are now falling. The back-end of the roster is doing their job, and now all eyes are on the top-end of this team.
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