The Miami Heat played the Charlotte Hornets again on Saturday night, but they had a new face in the fold: LaMelo Ball. Miami coming off an OT win, simultaneously including an unnecessary collapse.
Either way, they came away with a much needed win in this one as well, landing themselves only 1 game under .500. And the way the offense looked, it was a good momentum builder to say the least.
So here are some takeaways from this one…
#1: Miami’s opening stint showed off some of their intentional trends.
Before I get to how some of the things transpired in the first 24 minutes of basketball, I want to discuss some of the Heat’s intentional trends walking into this game. The first one was the Bam Adebayo element. They wanted him going at Mason Plumlee in the face-up game in that high to mid post. He can’t move his feet enough to stay with him, and it just unlocks so many things when Miami begins to move and cut like they did. Plus speaking of moving, the real takeaway from the initial game-plan was their pace. They clearly wanted to push in transition a lot more against this team that likes to do the same. It definitely wasn’t sustainable, but some interesting tweaks to keep track of.
#2: Well the defense has some cleaning up to do.
Although the Heat looked pretty crisp offensively to begin this game, it didn’t seem to matter. It didn’t feel like it at the time, but the scoreboard kept portraying that buckets were just being matched. The Heat were dipping off weak-side shooters and the Hornets continued to knock down shots. To put in perspective, Charlotte shot 54% from the field in the first half. That’s just tough to deal with mentally. To stray away for a second, that’s the reason I’ve said if a starting lineup shift was to be made, the move is to swap Caleb Martin for Max Strus. If the defense generally hasn’t been up to standards anyways, why not lean all the way into offense with Butler at the 4? It splits the reps of Strus and Robinson, pairs up Martin with his defensive pressure point buddy Gabe Vincent, and gives Miami a different dynamic. But hey, I guess that discussion is for another time.
#3: Aside from specifics, consistency and sustainability are the Heat’s main needs for fixing.
Big picture when looking at the Heat’s first few games of the season, we can discuss a couple different issues that need to change. The starting 4 spot, defensive liability, three-point shooting, etc. But the overarching point is that even when those things do make an appearance, it just can’t be sustained. As I stated in my first takeaway, pace was being pushed. Then it faded. Three-point shooting was there. Then it faded. Assisted field goals were at an incredibly high rate. Then it faded. That doesn’t mean things don’t need to be fixed up from the outside to propel this, but they just need to find a way to stop getting away from the intentional game-plans. If they can find that balance of consistent effort, they would be in a much different spot. Take the third quarter for another example. Getting back to the play-book, they scored 25 points in 5 minutes. That reflects the potential of a high powered offense. Yet once again, you can’t stray from that.
#4: Max Strus continues to do things.
While storylines have been flying surrounding this Heat team to begin the year, we haven’t had the time to truly discuss an internal roster one which is Max Strus. Who has improved the most from season to season? I would give that award to Strus this season, who has been one of their more trusted and consistent players. From hitting big shot after big shot upon entering off the bench to begin the year to the all-around polishing across the board, he’s playing at an exceptional level. We can talk about that “all-around game,” but the bigger point to make is he’s taking his role and exceeding expectations. And that role is three-point shooting. One thing you can bet on: Max Strus is going to get his shot off no matter what, and that’s the type of thing this offense needs.
#5: Some minor mental notes I took from this game: X’s and O’s.
We haven’t had a game in a while where I wasn’t spamming late-game execution in the final takeaway spot, but here we are. Instead, I want to just throw out some mental notes I took from this game on the X’s and O’s side. The first one includes the incredible movement we saw from the offense tonight, but more specifically Jimmy Butler. He’s never really a high usage cutter or mover in this Heat offense, but well, he was tonight. And that is the exact key to making the Tyler Herro starting lineup thing work. The second thing I noticed was more Bam Adebayo in drop. A trend that should not be a momentary thing. It works at a high level with his versatility, without shooting yourself in the foot with a smaller roster. The last thing I fed into a bit already, but this team is better scripted. Like a quarter back on that initial drive, this team operates better with structure. Tyler Herro sometimes makes those problems look smaller when he’s cooking, but staying with the game-plan will be a staple for me all year.