The Miami Heat faced off against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Friday night, and fought through some adversity to exit with the win.
Tyler Herro offensive domination, Bam Adebayo defensive control, and trying to balance the RJ Barrett showcase.
So, here are some takeaways from this one…
#1: Tyler Herro is back? Oh yeah, Tyler Herro is definitely back.
It feels like we haven’t seen Tyler Herro play in quite some time as he was healing from that knee bruise before the All Star Break. But he returned tonight, and man did he provide something offensively as he entered early into Miami’s awful offensive start. I’m going to talk about the team’s pick and roll attack in a second, but Herro was making plays in the lane in a way that was needed majorly. High pick and roll, pauses as he awaits his screened defender to recover, and loops in front of him to hold him off. He then bursts forward into his floater with absolutely no-one in sight to contest. That summed up his hot start early with 15 first half points, but he was also 3 of 4 from deep, taking advantage of what came his way off the catch, while mixing in his pull-up comfort zone against drop coverage.
#2: The need for the screen, and the PnR effective spam from Miami.
Speaking of Herro’s control inside the lane, that was the Heat’s game-plan early as nothing was being generated from the deep mid-range or three-point line. The Knicks did a good job of blocking off the paint, as the Heat continued to plummet inside into contact, while consequently not receiving a friendly whistle. But one change in the set shifts the entire outcome: the need for the screen. Eliminating that initial defender and running 2-on-1’s against drop bigs is always the outlet that should be looked at first. Kyle Lowry began to get to it, which led to Bam Adebayo and Omer Yurtseven finding themselves on the positive end as rollers. We’ve seen nights where three-point shooting keeps them in a game, but pure pick and roll spam is what got them back into this one in that first half.
#3: Miami’s view of their defensive structure tonight.
When reflecting at halftime about Miami’s defensive game-plan, it was slightly different from what we’re used to against this team. For one, it should be said that this Knicks offense falls right into the Heat’s biggest defensive strengths. Swarming guys like Julius Randle in that high post is what they basically live for, leaving him with a 1 for 9 first half. But the issue was that in the meantime, RJ Barrett was gliding into a 30 point half himself. And well, it almost felt like Miami was okay with that. Essentially the opposite of their game-plan against Dallas. My issue with them on that end tonight wasn’t the way they were defending Barrett, but the reason he got hot. Poor transition defense kept feeding New York good looks on the break on kick-outs, sparking that run. That’ll need to be cleaned up.
#4: Jimmy Butler’s inside play the third quarter go-to as Barrett and the Knicks chip away.
It was an up and down matter for Jimmy Butler’s scoring throughout this one, and the reason I say that is he was a bit inefficient to start. But once the third quarter arrived and Miami’s starting group still wasn’t generating enough offense, Butler began to turn it up. It felt like the isolation possessions were seen a little too frequently, but they began finding outlets to free him up, and attack certain match-ups right back. One major element that was found was using Butler as the product of screening back-door, as guys like Adebayo scan from the top of the offense. Then he continued taking it into the body of the scorching Barrett, getting him his fourth foul late in the third quarter. Butler ended up scoring 8 straight for Miami in that span, just through his physical attack, which once again aligns with their offensive game-plan I discussed prior.
#5: Pure Bam Adebayo dominance on the defensive end.
Julius Randle gets into the deep mid-range late in the shot clock mid-way through the second quarter. Only Bam Adebayo stands in his way, as he throws him up a pump-fake to get him up in the air. The issue: once you picked up your dribble with Adebayo defending, it doesn’t matter what comes next. Bam lands, turns, and still finds a way to absolutely blanket the Randle shot attempt. That’s why he’s the best defender in this league. While some may question his urge to create shots for himself in those one, it was pure defensive dominance all the way through. Aside from the one-on-one match-up with Randle, he was everywhere in the passing lanes, recovered on pick and rolls at such a high level for big time blocks, and most importantly, shined as the weak-side threat all night to both deter and send shots back. Offense is obviously the primary side of the ball in this sport for most, but man will you value the defensive end much more when watching these masterclasses.
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