The Miami Heat won a close one against the Sacramento Kings on the second night of a back to back.
Lets hop right into it.
Here are my takeaways…
#1: Kyle Lowry comes out in a different offensive version.
As the Heat walked onto the court without Jimmy Butler on Wednesday, it was clear they shouldn’t take this scrappy group lightly. They still needed some type of veteran presence to settle this group’s offensive structure, and Kyle Lowry was just that. In the first 15 minutes of basketball, Lowry tied his season high with 17. But the key there was that he looked kind of springy. He was engaged, was getting paint touches consistently, and hitting the necessary pull-ups out of both pick ad rolls, and off some curls. This Kings defense showed early that the middle of the floor would be open, as Lowry read that pretty quickly. Building this type of rhythm is a crucial aspect of this team when Butler returns.
#2: Competent back-up big minutes from Dewayne Dedmon?
The back-up 5 position has been a hot topic when evaluating Heat basketball, and the first name that has generally come up has been Dewayne Dedmon. His minutes haven’t looked great to begin the season on both ends, yet he was looking pretty good early in this one. He kept picking up the phone in that first half, as he celebrated a pair of above the break triples. He also had some strong boards on the interior, made some very nice passes in that mid to high post, and was generally in the right spot. Now, the shot selection is still extremely questionable. You just never seem to know the next shot to come from him on a given possession, but once he finds himself a bit like he did in this one, it’s the perfect innings eater before Bam Adebayo re-enters.
#3: Some extra perspective into Miami’s 2-3 zone.
I’ve talked a lot lately about the Heat’s reliance on the 2-3 zone defensively. It allows them to play two negative defenders at the same time, without having the worry about them being picked on in isolation. It also alters opposing teams’ shot profiles, since they can’t run the same actions that they normally do. But I do have one other thing to add when watching it in the first half against the Kings: when dealing with guard play with quick bursts off the attack, they can muck it up in an instant. As Malik Monk spaced on the right wing, he would attack off the catch and get to the middle of the floor pretty effortlessly. And well, that’s the exact thing you don’t want to happen when in zone. Now it’s a scramble, unnecessary help comes, and an open bucket on a spray. It’s a minor aspect, since the zone has been fantastic for them, but it’s the tweak they will be eyeing.
#4: The Heat’s third quarter offense: the high post/back-cut game-plan.
With the Heat searching for an offensive hub, it seemed like an easy choice for that to be Bam Adebayo consistently in the second half. His mid-range jumper started dropping, which basically forces his defender to stay away from the rim once he enters play-making mode. Well once that occurred, we saw Miami find something that works: it wasn’t a specific set or action, instead it was reading the one-on-one overplays. As Strus inserted the ball into Bam in that high post, his defender was already shedding over on the potential hand-off. Strus reading that, instinctively cut back door with Bam hitting him. Shortly after as Dedmon entered, we saw the same thing yet this time with Herro. High post entry pass, Herro’s defender was playing ahead, and boom another wide open back-cut. That’s how you create the anti-gravity of this Heat offense, so it’s just something to monitor.
#5: Another late-game walk-through.
As it seemed like the Heat stalled mid-way through the fourth quarter, the building got a little bit of energy. A wild Herro tip-in followed by an Adebayo tip-in himself cut the lead to 2 with the team gaining some flow. Speaking of that flow, Herro was the main element of a rhythm finder. Got into his mid-range pull up two possessions in a row for some much needed buckets, tying the game up at 96. Shortly after, the Heat were late on a rotation giving Kevin Huerter a decent look from three, giving the Kings back a 3 point lead. Coming out of the timeout, the Heat had a play in mind: quick DHO to get Bam the ball back in space. He got an easy bucket out of it. Next play, Bam hits Vincent out of the mid-post on a back door cut, like I discussed before. Then to capitalize a run, Lowry gets two feet in the paint, kicks to Herro, who swings to Strus for three. 4 point lead. The Kings came back the next two possessions with a lay-in and a foul on the bonus, tying the game back up at 103 with 50 seconds left. The Heat came back with a Herro-Bam PnR which led to a Herro lay-in, while Mitchell immediately answered back with a lay-in of his own. 32 seconds left, Lowry flows into his favorite turnaround jumper to give Miami a 2 point lead again. Yes, I know. A lot. Now that Kings have the ball, it somehow ends up in the hands of Sabonis at the rim, who gets fouled. 2 for 2. Final possession, ball in the hands of Herro. He gets it in isolation, pump-fakes, leans, game-time. Heat walk away with the win off the clutch bucket.