The Miami Heat made their way up to Orlando on the second night of a back to back, which always feels like their biggest challenge no matter the season.
An underwhelming 44 minutes turned into a wild comeback to finish the game, heading into OT, and Miami took care of business.
So here’s four negative takeaways and one long positive takeaway from tonight (lol)….
#1: Horrid first half for Heat offensively, referring to a certain matchup.
This Heat half-court offense is already a grind in the first place. Three point shots just won’t fall, they are clearly under-manned on this roster when eyeing the reserves, and the scoring begins and ends with a mid-floor touch from either Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler. But why did it look *that* bad in the first half? Well, this Magic defense has the two components that Miami usually hates seeing: flat-out switching and length on those switches. That blueprint basically screams trouble for the guards. Every pick and roll was flattened out off that simple switch, and it doesn’t help the shooting cause when 7 foot small forwards are contesting shots off every catch. Most of the time it’s Miami doing it to themselves, but tonight it’s clear this type of matchup structure is something they want to avoid by any means.
#2: The way teams are guarding Bam Adebayo.
Bam Adebayo came out scoring pretty well with 6 early points, knocking down his dotted line jumper that he feels so comfortable with. But the water was shut off the rest of the half essentially, which was the theme of the entire half court scoring. Adebayo was still the best scorer for them through that initial 24 minutes tonight, which says some things, but I’ve been wanting to note how teams have been defending him. He has a strong base/hub, and it involved two spots essentially: off the catch in the mid post and off the roll in any space within the interior. When it comes to the regular mid-post entry, teams rarely will flat-out double him, even though we’ve seen it occasionally in the past. But when it comes to the stuff off the roll, teams are taking it away as much as possible. Pinching in from corners is the easy choice for opposing defenses, since they’re daring you to make a tough skip pass to the close corner. Bet on a struggling Heat three point shooting team to knock down that shot instead of their favorite shot making hub. It makes sense, but they have to find a consistent area of dictating their own shot profile instead of letting defenses choose it.
#3: While we’re on the first half issues topic, let’s talk defense quickly.
In the first half, the Magic shot 50% from three and basically had their way in the paint for different reasons. We know they’re going to switch everything, but one thing they are great at is sending calculated doubles to force turnovers. On the flip side when it comes to big picture comments, the Heat’s normal help defense has been off as of late. Too many times the short corner defender doesn’t rotate for the cut-off, as the Heat’s base is always to pack the paint and give up the three. You can always tell their energy level by those simple principles. In that first half, the missed help assignments created a ton of easy buckets for Orlando. And the key to Miami turning it around in the third: team defense. You can tell when they’re engaged, and clearly that was an Erik Spoelstra theme at half.
When it comes to the Miami Heat, they’ve been recently known for having a ton of depth, partly due to the revolving door of new ready to go projects at the end of the bench. But then you take a look at the reserves tonight: Jamaree Bouyea on a 10 day contract, who simply is unwilling to take any sort of jumper that’s available. Orlando Robinson, who fights on the boards and never feels to be a true negative, but doesn’t provide much offensively other than an occasional put-back. Haywood Highsmith, who I’ve been a fan of his rotational minutes in general, yet it’s clear the only scoring is the possible spot-up three you may get when left wide open. And lastly, Max Strus, who I’m sure you are familiar with by now. The point is this: when the starting lineup is inefficient, there’s no coming back from that. There’s no true offensive creation in that second unit whatsoever, which makes this so tough. It’s not only reliance on Butler and Bam being on the floor, it’s reliance on them generating almost every look. That’s basically the takeaway.
#5: Late-game comeback…
Usually I’ll start at the halfway mark of the fourth to finish these pieces, but let’s dig a bit deeper tonight. Down to the 4 minute mark, the Heat trail by 9. Bam took it down the open floor and ended up getting to the line off a leap to the basket. Shortly after, Herro found his spot in the lane for a tough floater. Timeout, 5 point game. After some back and forth, Vincent knocked down a transition corner triple to really give Miami some life, but Banchero kept answering. But then Butler began entering that mode. Mid-range bucket into easy back-door lay-in into another low block turnaround with 36 seconds left to cut the deficit to only 2. Miami ended up putting together a stop on defense off a Gary Harris missed three, and Vincent got fouled on the rebound. Free throws to come, as he buries both. Magic had a chance to take the lead off a nice inbounds play to Banchero, but Bam makes an incredible defensive play at the rim. With deja vu of the night prior, Heat inbound in a tie game with 1 second left: fading Butler three that misses. OT. And the next few minutes was all about Herro and his floater, continually finding his spot and rising up with one hand for touch shots. To put Miami up 5, Butler hit a side stepping baseline jumper with under 2 minutes left. Following some Magic moments, they had a chance down 3 to tie this thing up, but it didn’t fall in their favor. Heat win.