The Miami Heat were in a similar position tonight as they were last, as they were sitting with a 12 point lead with 4 minutes left, yet the Nets stormed back.
Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro stood strong to hold them off on a terrific night for each of them.
So, here are some takeaways from this one…
#1: The process to try and stop the unstoppable Kevin Durant.
When heading into return night for Kevin Durant without Jimmy Butler and PJ Tucker, it’s clear that it is going to be a challenge. The early idea was to place Bam Adebayo on him immediately, while starting Omer Yurtseven at the 5 next to him. But as we know, it really doesn’t matter who you throw at him because he will get into his shot no matter the contest. Then we saw him hunting some switches, which just puts so much pressure on a Heat defense. When guys like Tyler Herro find themselves in space, Miami was forced to send that double across, which most of the time was Caleb Martin. The issue with that is you have the rely heavily on rotations on a night where you aren’t able to play your best defensive 5, leading to hot streaks from Patty Mills and others.
#2: The Heat’s free throw line antics keeping them alive.
After the Heat only got to the line 12 times a night ago in Milwaukee, they tied a season high with 21 first half attempts tonight in Brooklyn. When looking at this team on paper in this game, then watching them play in real time, the big key was that they did not have enough attackers out there to provide that rim pressure. That also limits space that shooters are getting on the perimeter. That’s where Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro entered. They were the only ball-handlers who could truly provide that, and they added 13 of the 21 first half trips to the line. I truly believe Jimmy Butler would be huge in a potential Nets series, and that has a lot to do with the ability to switch smaller guys onto him and getting to the line without true rim protection on that back-line. But tonight, drawing fouls kept them above water.
#3: Caleb Martin: a lock in a potential Nets playoff series.
Speaking of a potential playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets, one specific player jumped off the screen today as the perfect rotation piece for that match-up: Caleb Martin. That was even before he provided big time offensive energy in that first half for increased scoring and pace. The reasoning has a lot to do with the guard firepower off that Nets bench. When looking at Patty Mills and Cam Thomas, Martin is the perfect bench piece to enter with Herro to hound those talented scoring guards. Obviously there’s a lot that could change with possible Heat rotations by that time, but for now, that’s a pretty obvious baseline to lay down. And if he can provide the stuff he showcased offensively tonight, it’ll definitely be tough to look away from him.
#4: This is the match-up for Bam Adebayo…clearly.
We’ve seen Bam Adebayo put points up in this building before, as he glided to a 41 point night in there last year. But he picked right back up where he left off tonight. It was clear from the jump that this match-up really favors him schematically. With the spacing around him due to constant shooting, combined with this Nets defense having a perimeter base, pocket passes are there all game. Meaning: Bam Adebayo is there all game. Aside from that schematic element, the fact that Andre Drummond is his 1-on-1 match-up on most face-ups speaks volume, and tells him that it’s go time. When Adebayo is flying to the rim like he was in this one, you can see why he’s so special. But it just comes down to the consistent trust to run offense through him completely, more specifically on isolations.
#5: The Duncan Robinson-Max Strus dynamic tonight.
When looking at this game big picture, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro are definitely the story-lines. But a major element of this game was the Duncan Robinson and Max Strus dynamic, and they weren’t for the same reasons. Strus simply caught fire in that third quarter, providing a huge boost for this group who struggled hitting from deep tonight. Robinson, on the other hand, was one of those “struggling from deep” in this one. Yet, he still impacted the game in quite some fashion, and that was through his passing. As I said before, this is a Nets defense that focuses heavily on perimeter related stuff, meaning Robinson continued to see two in his face. Pocket passes were made for Adebayo runways, but that wasn’t all. He was getting into the lane a bit, which led to a big play in the third where he threw a two handed kick-out to the opposite corner for a Strus 3. That combo was huge, but clearly for different reasons.
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