The Miami Heat had the ultimate bounce back game on Tuesday night, beating the Indiana Pacers in intriguing fashion.
We can focus on certain guys in this one, but this was one of those cliche phrases: a team effort.
So, here are five takeaways from this one…
#1: The front-court projects coming up big without the front-court starters.
No Jimmy Butler. No PJ Tucker. No Bam Adebayo. That scarce front-court led to Erik Spoelstra plugging in Max Strus at the 4, but others stepped up even more in that spot. After a bad looking game from KZ Okpala and Omer Yurtseven against Detroit, they came up big in this one early on. The key: using them like themselves, instead of an Adebayo/Tucker role. Okpala was a very efficient 3 of 3 at the half, hitting a nice 3 in the corner, attacking well, and playing some of his best individual defense of the season in my opinion. Yurtseven was just playing one of his most active games of his young NBA career, hitting the boards hard, facilitating at a serviceable level, and setting some nice screens. These guys are still projects, but some reassurance in games like this is a great sign when down so many players.
#2: Duncan Robinson shifting has game little by little? Indeed.
The Duncan Robinson discussion is always an interesting one to have. Did he have another off game to evaluate or did he break the slump? But in the big picture, I have something else to think about: if the shot has been falling all year for him at a decent rate, we would be having the complete opposite conversation about Robinson. Why is that? Well, his inside game has improved more than anyone could’ve expected, and that’s not an overstatement. He took more dribbles in the last 6 minutes of the second quarter than he has in a single game all season. And those dribbles were leading to some nice looking sprays, nice retreat feeds in the lane, and most of all, an ability to really attack at a decent rate. His game has shifted, and threes falling like they were tonight puts it on full display.
#3: My microscopic game take: the defensive adjustments.
Looking at some things on a smaller level from this game, the defensive adjustments were intriguing, yet not unexpected. I don’t remember the last time an NBA team ran zone on the first possession of a game, but that was the case tonight. When Robinson and Strus are your front-court starters, it’s basically necessary. While that worked frequently, there was another outlet that didn’t work as much: blitzing. There are certain teams that just can’t work against, and there are certain lineups of your own that can’t work for. Tonight was one of them. Dedmon blitzing a pick and roll has worked well when PJ Tucker is the awaiting weak-side tagger. But when it’s Robinson or Strus on the back-side, it’s pure mayhem. Two passes, one lay-in. Obviously it didn’t last long since Miami played a great defensive game, but still something to keep in mind.
#4: The biggest individual basketball leap on this Heat team this season.
Speaking of microscopic takes, another young guy development must be discussed. I’ve spent a lot of time recently talking about Gabe Vincent, but something else must be discussed. The recent topic has been three-point shooting, since that shot has been falling at a much better rate, but the fact that he rounded out every part of his game throughout his slump stands out more. An off-ball guard had to turn into an on-ball threat real quick, as he told me before the season. Yet, his handles look as crisp as anybody on this team currently. It’s not just about the highlight-like pull-back dribbles for good looking threes, but instead keeping his dribble alive, constantly shifting the defenders body, and much more. If you asked me what’s been the biggest young guy growth, my answer would 100% be Vincent’s handle.
#5: Tyler Herro is back.
I think many of us were viewing the name Tyler Herro as a name on the injury report too much, instead of the complete offensive player that can come back and make an immediate impact. I wouldn’t say this was his best game tonight, but that’s what you would expect when first returning. Shots will be short, but his ability to still impact the game in his minutes and shoot through the slight “off” early is big time. Then, all of a sudden, another burst has arrived. One three here, another mid-range fade there. And well, that’s just Herro at this stage. Coming into the season, if you were to tell me you knew what you were getting from Herro on a night to night basis more than any of the top guys, I’d push back a bit. But that has been the case. Tyler Herro is back, and they’ve missed him.
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