The Miami Heat faced the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night after already locking up the 1 seed, and it had a real playoff feel to it late.
All the main guys played, and they got crucial late game offense reps.
Big Tyler Herro shot, nice Bam Adebayo control, and a major set up from Kyle Lowry late.
A clear confidence booster.
Even if the Heat are still not among the four favorites to win the East in the playoffs, according to Betway.com.
#1: Tyler Herro’s passing vision continues to spike.
Tyler Herro enters for Jimmy Butler, as the new substitution pattern sticks. Like most games, the first couple possessions look similar. Herro-Adebayo pick and roll, Herro draws two to the ball, and Bam gets a bucket. That happened immediately as he checked in once again. But then it was copied and pasted immediately after as a highlight lob pass for the Bam dunk. That combo is one conversation, but this version of Herro is the true conversation. It’s one thing to get to the point where you’re consistently drawing two, but it’s another thing to continually drop dimes out of that double since multiple guys are dropping down. They’re surrounding him with other shooters, since there’s always an awaiting Robinson, Strus, or Vincent on that weak-side. And that’s a post-season half court offense gift.
#2: Caleb Martin allows for defensive versatility.
Watching the defensive alignments early on, it could be foreshadowing something more meaningful down the road. In this instance, Caleb Martin is guarding the talented point guard, in Trae Young, which could also be the PJ Tucker role when he’s playing. But if the power forward is guarding the opposing 1, who is 6 foot Kyle Lowry guarding? Well, in this case, it’s the stretch 4 named Danilo Gallinari. It’s been clear this season that Miami likes to stick Martin or Tucker on those type of guards, but the issue is if the opposing front-court allows for Lowry to match-up with. Like I said, one that isn’t an interior threat like Gallinari is the perfect example. Sub John Collins in for him, and you must go in a different direction. But the point is that this allows for some defensive versatility, and that starts with these versatile wings like Martin.
#3: The Trae Young effect.
In a game like this, it’s more about projecting forward as Miami had the 1 seed locked up before even walking into the building. But the truth is that there are four teams who could potentially land in that 8 spot. And well, Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks are one of them. Yet when watching tonight, it’s clear that he forces you to empty the defensive playbook with a bunch of different surprises. As much as I talk about the match-ups from Miami’s perspective, Young is just that talented to bypass those things at times. Looking at the second quarter for example, there was a play in which Young tried to take Martin off the dribble for the entire possession. Martin wasn’t biting on any fake or cross. He locked him up for about 22 seconds, yet Young somehow slipped by at the last two for the lay-in. Those are the problems that he presents. It’s all about that 24 second clock, since he only needs that one second advantage to make a play.
#4: Bam Adebayo putting together a nice offensive night.
Instead of looking so far into X’s and O’s or stats, it should be mentioned that Bam Adebayo put together a nice little performance in this one on the offensive end. I’ve already touched on the stuff next to Herro, which is a major part of his scoring success, but his inside game seems to be growing night to night. There are plenty of bigs that he faces that clearly overpower him in size, but these slight fakes and baseline drives to get under the rim has gotten him to the line quite often as of late. As I said before the season when many were chanting for Bam threes, the better option would be his inside game to take a major step. We aren’t at the “major” point yet, but there’s definitely been a step. And that improvement could win Miami a playoff game.
#5: So, all eyes on that 8 spot.
The Brooklyn Nets took down the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight, which are the current 7 and 8 seeds. Since the Nets have the tiebreaker over them, that jumps them up to the 7 seed as we speak. The Hawks sit right behind, with the Charlotte Hornets sitting nice as well as they destroyed the Chicago Bulls tonight. Now it just comes down to eyeing the Nets final game, as that’s the team most people are worried about. They win that game, then they’ll find themselves in an elimination game at home in the play-in, meaning they’re one win away from landing themselves in the 7 seed officially. There are a ton of tiebreaker elements to this right now, but the Nets road to that seeding now leans in their favor. Should be an interesting week as Miami charges up at home for that first round series.
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