The Miami Heat faced the LA Clippers on the front end of a back to back, and the Heat closed it out late as the Clippers fought hard to make a comeback.
Another big shot from PJ Tucker in the corner was truly the dagger, as some Jimmy Butler late free throws put them over the top.
So, here are some takeaways from this one…
#1: Jimmy Butler’s best individual skill on display.
After seeing Jimmy Butler’s hot start on Friday night, it was clear that has left big toe was far from irritated. Flowing into offense nicely, hitting guys on back-cuts constantly, and well, being the defensive anchor in a very favorable defensive scheme. It may sound odd, but he’s better defensively against spread out talent. Big time names are individual fun for Bam Adebayo and PJ Tucker, but Butler’s home is off the ball. Ivica Zubac catches it at the elbow extended early in the first to get the Clippers into offense. Butler edges up slowly on the weak-side, then bursts. Butler always likes to call it timely gambles, but I call it a pure skill and knack that he possesses. Much like he can make unbelievable reads on the offensive end as a passer, his defensive reads bypass it by far.
#2: Duncan Robinson happened again, but mixing in other things.
When you see drop coverage, you see Duncan Robinson. As I’ve said in the past, it’s much easier for him to flow into looks with the task of just eliminating his one on-ball defender on the perimeter. But it puts a defense in an odd spot any time he touches the floor. It only takes one possession where a miscommunication occurs, and there Robinson is in space firing away a triple. Aside from those obvious elements, his reads were incredible early on. And when I say reads, I mean his off-ball ones. Moving with the ball on the attack, watching his defender sink into tagging mode, then flying right down the baseline for an easy layup inside. His cutting was great in this one, and like I said, it just puts that much more stress on a defense on a nightly basis. Crazy what making shots can shift.
#3: Oh, PJ Tucker was active early offensively? What a surprise.
When watching a Heat game this season, it’s impossible not to notice PJ Tucker on both sides of the floor, each and every possession. He’s just so active in that space, that it’s hard to miss his hard lay-out screens, crafty positioning within the perimeter, and volume shot making. The outside shots were there once again early on, but the inside flip shots closely followed. His presence down there was a necessity with the way the Clippers would collapse, and it actually led to a few trips to the line for him, on a night where there was a very friendly whistle on both ends. We can evaluate his impact as a role player under a microscope night in and night out, but the truth is he isn’t playing like a role player. He’s performing like a core piece, and it doesn’t look like it’s stopping anytime soon.
#4: Gabe Vincent decided to join in from one spot on the floor tonight. Just one.
Whenever Gabe Vincent is discussed on these post-game pieces, it’s usually me highlighting his defensive expertise with elite ball pressure and half court hounding. But tonight…tonight was different. Vincent absolutely exploded in the third quarter, three after three after three after three. Most of them seemed to come from that right wing without moving, but all jokes aside, this is a guy that has made two total transformation in the span of two years. Straight shooter converted to defensive stopper with point guard duties, while the shot now loops back around for another cycle. There’s great developmental stories in the Miami Heat’s franchise history, but then there’s Vincent. Simple in a class of his own in terms of immediate turn around stories. But as he told me before the season, he altered his jumper for the better.
#5: Predicting the Miami Heat’s late season rotation is a pointless exercise.
Whenever I address the Heat’s potential rotation late in the season after certain guys play well, something is noticed: it’s constantly fluctuating on opinion. But at this moment in time, it feels like one thing is apparent. As good as Max Strus has been, and can continue to grow the more games he plays, it just seems like he’s not in a simplified rotation if Duncan Robinson is playing this way. We were saying the same thing when Robinson went through his slump, but now that Robinson is moving, it doesn’t look like he’s going back. The way is to clearly lean toward defensive guards, in Vincent and Caleb Martin, who are shooting at an incredible rate at the moment. Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo will be back eventually, but for now, these two guys are filling in just fine.
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