The Miami Heat had a very rough start to the road trip, but they got it back on track in probably the most unexpected matchup. They beat the Utah Jazz on Saturday night, and it wasn’t just one guy.
And well, to win without Jimmy Butler, you must have full contribution from the squad, which Miami did.
Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game tonight…
#1: Duncan Robinson. That’s my takeaway.
Seeing the ball go through the hoop for Duncan Robinson was not only important for Heat fans, but Robinson himself. Once one dropped early, it led to a flurry that quickly followed, which is exactly the type of stretch so many have been awaiting. As I’ve been saying all season, it wasn’t anything mechanical that has changed. And it wasn’t anything schematically that changed majorly either. It was just all in his head, and a two-game stretch where he shoots the ball well is all he needs. Some may say that one game will do the job, but him building on that confidence to do it two straight will be key for what’s to come. And well, it’s coming.
#2: PJ Tucker deserves some love.
We all know PJ Tucker is a good basketball player, and an important one at that for this team. But I truly don’t think he gets enough credit for all the small stuff he does on a nightly basis. Bail out wing threes with the shot clock expiring aside, the dude just does the dirty work. For his size, his rebounding is just so absolutely impressive, and it begins with his high level box-outs on guys who are much lengthier than him. Another element to this is his ability to step up into roles on this team that you wouldn’t expect. One of those was his offensive filler for Jimmy Butler, leaving him crossing half-court with the ball in his hands, and play-making from the mid-post position inside the wing. That’s not PJ Tucker, but it is when he’s called to do a task. And that’s why he deserves some love.
#3: The need for a back-up point guard is harped on, but it’s actually not the biggest hole.
Switching into some transactional/roster construction talk, there’s a common theme about this Heat team whenever guys go out. The need for a back-up point guard. Seeing Gabe Vincent continue to struggle offensively in that role upon being inserted may have put that on blast a bit more, but there’s a position that is needed so much more: front-court depth. Two guys get injured and what’s the plan for Miami? Just substitute Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, and Caleb Martin in for each other at the 4. We’re overlooking the element that Miami’s utilizing their guard depth to fill front-court holes, which is the bigger issue. It’s clear this team doesn’t trust Omer Yurtseven or KZ Okpala at this time, and Udonis Haslem is just unable to play for extended stretches. Hence, the bigger issue at hand in the big picture.
#4: Bam Adebayo had a good game, but one skill shined through.
Bam Adebayo is one of those guys who just does everything well on the basketball court. He can score in a multitude of ways, lock up your best player, and rebound at a high level. The one thing I didn’t mention: his passing. In my opinion, this was by far his best passing game of the season. Not in terms of assists in the box score, but through pure vision. His head was on a swivel, he was finding back-door cutters, and really taking matters into his own hands in that department without Butler, and even Kyle Lowry for a stretch. We know how good of a passer/play-maker he really is, but sometimes it needs to be reminded how much of it is just pure talent for his size and position.
#5: Kyle Lowry the scorer returns. As Bam says, “I like that aggressive Kyle.”
Much like Bam Adebayo, many Heat observers “like that aggressive Kyle.” That’s even more important to see when Jimmy Butler is out, but as we took away from the loss against the Clippers, waiting until the fourth quarter for Lowry time just won’t do the job. And it doesn’t always have to be the three-ball that allows him to be that guy. Actually, it’s preferably just the opposite. When he’s getting to that elbow pull-up and taking opposing bigs in isolation seems to be when he’s at his best as a scorer. Even fluctuating from that transition passing threat to transition scoring threat. Bam Adebayo loves aggressive Kyle. Jimmy Butler loves aggressive Kyle. Everybody loves aggressive Kyle. Why is that? It almost always translates to a W in the win column.
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