The Miami Heat finished off the road trip in Oklahoma City without Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, and still pulled away with the win.
An ugly start, continued defensive steadiness, and Tyler Herro tough shot making was the outlining description of this game.
So, here are five takeaways from this one…
#1: Well, ugly basketball begins right out the gate.
43-43 was the halftime score between the Heat and Thunder. And well, that doesn’t even tell the full story of how awful this half of basketball really was. For starters, on the offensive end for Miami, the three-ball was surprisingly falling, thanks to Tyler Herro who I’ll address in a second. But with that said, the Heat were 4 of 21 on twos through that span, which is exactly why this game was so ugly. Forced drives across the roster jumped off the screen while missing the team’s two best interior threats, leading to Miami letting the three ball fly more often. The Heat holding the Thunder to 43 first half points wasn’t just plainly elite defense either. They had good looks throughout, but Miami’s 2-2-1 press/2-3 zone mix up altered their pace early.
#2: All eyes on Tyler Herro.
No Jimmy Butler. No Bam Adebayo. That usually translates to a high shot attempt night for sixth man of the year candidate Tyler Herro. And yet, that was exactly the case, but not in the way you may expect. The OKC defense was ready for that as well, and the surrounding pieces on the floor with him meant the focus can expand even more. For example, he played a decently long stint next to KZ Okpala and Gabe Vincent, which was basically an immediate indicator to duck off their man to collapse onto the driving Herro. That led to him drifting out to the three-point line and letting it go, ending with a 4 for 4 stat-line from deep at the half. We know how good Herro is, but seeing him continue to score when 10 eyes are on him at all times is really intriguing. Every shot is a difficult shot, and he’s never fazed.
#3: Miami’s depth tonight showcases the questionable tags early in year.
Before the season, a primary observation of this group was the depth on this Heat team. There are unknowns when Victor Oladipo will return, Tyler Herro is the headliner, and some veterans fill it out. But when you’re without 3 rotational players, things shine through. Gabe Vincent has embraced his own defensive coverage called the 2-2-1 press, but the three-ball just hasn’t seemed to drop. KZ Okpala, in year three, still doesn’t seem to have the trust from the coaching staff. beginning with the continued offensive incapabilities. Omer Yurtseven, Caleb Martin, and others have taken advantage in their small spurts, but you get the point. The depth really isn’t a strong-suit. And when I say “depth,” I’m not talking about that nine man rotation, but instead the guys outside of it. Hence, the reason many await the return of Oladipo.
#4: Duncan Robinson looking like…Duncan Robinson.
As I’ve been discussing throughout Duncan Robinson’s struggles, we won’t see many mid-range jumpers or two point attempts until the three begins to fall. And well, we saw a Duncan floater tonight, so that explains the night he had. He can actually get down there in space when the close-outs are extra hard once they’re falling, and that was especially the case in the third quarter. Shooting it with confidence within different sets, and more importantly, from different spots. It’s not that he’s just hugging that three point line and looping it like a roller coaster track, but instead that he’s providing space between him and that line, forcing defenders to make a decision. And that decision becomes harder and harder when he’s shooting like…himself. Now, stat-sheet wise, that wasn’t completely the case, but in the game flow, his shots were big.
#5: Max Strus playing his role perfectly on a night it’s hardest to play your role.
When three guys in your nine man rotation are out, it usually means there is an incoming universal shift across the roster to step up. But in many ways, Tyler Herro did that for everybody. That allowed Max Strus to be Max Strus, and my takeaway is that he’s going to be huge with a healthy roster. When I talk about this team being both emotionally sturdy and positionally sound, Strus is a big reason for that. Not only through his placement on charges and steady shooting night in and night out, but also the trust the team has in him. He’s mentioned recently that getting back in shape will be a focus after recovering from that knee injury, but when playing a pure role, limited movement is requested. And when Butler, Adebayo, and Morris are all playing, the game will only grow simpler for him.