The Miami Heat beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night on the first night of a back to back. It was a pretty all-around scoring performance, which wasn’t headlined by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo surprisingly. So, here are five takeaways from this game…
#1: Max Strus was indeed….loose.
The trio of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Duncan Robinson had 1 more point than Max Strus at the half, and that just sums up this season for Miami. By that, I mean it just continues the discussion of inconsistencies and not knowing what you’re going to get on any given night, or from which individual player. But tonight, that player was Max Strus for many stretches. He’s a shooter, but that description would sell him short for his unexpected explosiveness when moving downhill. He sprints in transition, moves swiftly off the dribble, and even searches above the rim for put-backs. He’s an interesting player, but most importantly, he’s a spark guy, which is exactly what Miami needed tonight. The reason that he is so interesting, though, is that he can be plugged into Miami’s developmental system over time, which has proved to be so effective with players like himself.
#2: Miami wanted rookie year Kendrick Nunn and they got something better.
I’ve spent plenty of time in these articles discussing Kendrick Nunn’s specific skill-sets or individual performances, but this must be evaluated in the big picture. Early in the season, many people were calling for rookie year Kendrick Nunn again after he didn’t look like the same player. Fast forward a couple of months and they have something much better than anything proven in his rookie season. Once again, I don’t think anybody expected this level of shooting from the outside, especially on a consistent basis. And although I’ve harped on his use off the ball lately, his eagerness to get the ball and search for buckets off the dribble basically saved this game from getting out of hand. Nunn said a while back that all he needs is playing time to prove himself, and he’s done just that.
#3: Trevor Ariza loves the three, but his attacking seems to be even more lethal.
Trevor Ariza had some great moments tonight, specifically to begin the game in the first quarter, but something must be noted about his offensive game. He’s labeled as a 3 and D guy, which is something he seems to live up to with the amount of three point shots he takes every night, but that doesn’t tell the whole story on the offensive end. When he attacks the basket, good things happen, and it’s really that simple. Combining his length with his patience off the dribble leads to a pretty positive result, but it just comes down to him searching for it more and more. He did throughout the first half tonight, and it led to an efficient 12 points in that span. It’s hard to point out things to add to his game when he’s one of the few guys clicking, but it truly is apparent.
#4: Duncan Robinson is the fastest player to hit 500 threes, and somehow his game is still growing.
The story of the night for Duncan Robinson is that he hit his 500th career three, which he was the fastest player to reach that mark in NBA history. Clearly that is quite the accolade, but this is just the beginning for him. Not only do I mean there are many more threes to come, but actually he has so much more room to grow in other areas. Although we can talk about his close to perfect three-point night, there was one shot inside the arc that occurred tonight, and that one stood out most. Mid-way through the third, Dewayne Dedmon rises up to the perimeter for a high pick and roll with Robinson. He avoids the screen, which eliminated his defender, and flows into the painted area where he rises up for a soft jumper for two. And those are the moments. Those are the flashes. Those are the shots. He has so many more limits to reach in his offensive game, and due to the amount of work he puts in behind the scenes, he will get there.
#5: On to the next one.
The final takeaway from this game has absolutely nothing to do with this game, since now it’s all about the next one. Miami plays the Charlotte Hornets tomorrow night on the second night of a back to back, and that’s a game that Miami will want to get when evaluating the standings. An important thing to mention is Jimmy Butler’s need tonight, since although the minutes weren’t an exceptionally low number, he didn’t have one of those takeover nights that extract a lot of energy. LaMelo Ball and Malik Monk returned tonight for Charlotte, which means Miami will probably need a different Butler tomorrow night. And well, essentially a different energy level after the ball is tipped, due to the fact it took Miami some time to bring that tonight. On to the next one.