The Miami Heat had a tough matchup on the second night of a back to back without Bam Adebayo, but came away with a win against the Memphis Grizzlies. Jimmy Butler led them with 27 points, as they prance into a 5-1 start to the season.
So, what are some takeaways from this big win?
#1: Bam Adebayo out calls for Miami going 5 out.
With Bam Adebayo being ruled out before tip-off tonight, there were some rotational adjustments for Coach Erik Spoelstra. While I expected to see an Omer Yurtseven insertion, they went with Dewayne Dedmon and relied on small-ball play when he wasn’t on the floor. And with his early foul trouble, we saw a lot of those minutes. PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris making up the front-court, before mixing it up with some Max Strus minutes at the 4. With that said, a theme was in place for the offense. They couldn’t work it into their centerpiece center in the mid-range tonight, leading to a total shift, beginning with 5 out offense. It’s not something we’ve seen a ton of in recent years, but with the names I just mentioned in the front-court, they were kind of forced into it. And well, the outstanding ball movement allowed it to work perfectly.
#2: Miami’s bench as a whole comes out big to start.
I touched on Miami’s bench being a lot smaller in this game with Dedmon moving to the starting lineup, and that means they needed immediate offensive production. And I’d say they did just that. Late in the second quarter, the Heat bench shot 65% from the field on 17 total attempts. Max Strus pin-down pulls, Markieff Morris’ early hot hand, and continued Tyler Herro aggressiveness. Last season, Miami didn’t have the ability to be without Adebayo and have the bench pick them right back up, but simply, this is a different team. Herro deserves a lot of credit for his ability to lead lineups for stretches, but the role player play on this team has been incredible, and another “role” player with a higher ceiling could be on his way soon.
#3: Silent scorer Jimmy Butler returns.
Jimmy Butler is a lot of things. He’s an unbelievable passer. He’s as good of an off-ball defender that I’ve seen in this league. He can get to the free throw line even while officials are keying in on eliminating that some. But well, the scoring description doesn’t come up enough, since he’s just a silent killer in that department. His finishing this season has been outstanding, and the interior having some extra space this season allows him to get those easy put-backs that he’s always relied on. Another thing to mention is that it’s not all being generated at the rim. Butler has his legs back. He’s shooting three balls with confidence, those mid-range jumpers are falling, and the bunnies are flowing much smoother than they were against Indiana. More on Butler’s plate without Adebayo was no problem as he strolled into a 23 point first half. Key word: silently.
#4: Heat’s defense continues to wreck havoc as much as possible without the anchor.
One of my focuses watching this game was going to be the defense without Bam Adebayo holding it down on the back-side. And well, Miami actually held their own more than I expected. For one, the Heat going small did not mean they were losing anything defensively, since Morris and Tucker are both strong and quick enough to match-up with so many different guys. But as much of an anchor Adebayo is, Butler continues to shine as he’s right at home, which I drilled all off-season. Adding so many extra defenders obviously is a plus to that end of the floor already, but it shifted Butler’s role. He’s now outside of actions more often, meaning more anticipating passes that develop in front of him and doubling whenever he chooses. I may have said that would be his role, but I didn’t think it would click this early. Yet, Butler always finds a way to settle in quickly.
#5: So, are the three-point worries surrounding Duncan Robinson officially gone?
Do we worry about Bam Adebayo defending at a high level? Do we worry about Kyle Lowry passing at a high level? Then you shouldn’t worry about Duncan Robinson shooting at a high level. As I’ve said after all these games where he’s struggled shooting from deep, it’ll come together. Tonight, Robinson was at 5 threes on 50% shooting from deep and it wasn’t even the fourth quarter. A run in the third quarter from him sparked it, which is always the case with shooters like himself. Seeing the ball go through the hoop 3 straight times in a stretch is all it takes to get back on track, and Robinson did just that. Plus, he had one of his better defensive games of the season, moving his feet in isolations and contesting/recovering on shot attempts. A game like this was needed, but now it’s time to build off it.
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