The Miami Heat took down the Toronto Raptors on Monday night, and it was quite the opposite of last game.
In the Bam Adebayo return game, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro led the way, Caleb Martin provided the spark, and PJ Tucker closed with a big shot.
So, here are some takeaways from this one…
#1: My early game Bam Adebayo evaluation: dominating on one end.
When a guy with the build of Bam Adebayo comes back from a 7 week absence, of course one part of his game is the fastest to come back: defense. The offensive stuff early honestly showed some first game jitters and excitement with some easy drops, but they were also forcing stuff to him as expected. But defensively, he picked up right where he left off. Against a very unique Toronto Raptors team with length and quickness, rotations must be super crisp when switching to this degree. And well, they were. No matter when they made that feed inside to that final pass into the paint, Adebayo was always lurking to muck up that end result. He’s a rotational monster, and it was good to see his speed wasn’t lacking. He’s been conditioning for some time now, so it isn’t surprising, but locking back down on that end for this next stretch is essential.
#2: More Tyler Herro talk: an important addition.
Something I’ve talked about since the beginning of the season is Tyler Herro’s developments against different coverages. He’s found outlets for each one, but a single match-up always caused trouble: length. And aside from a team like Cleveland with never-ending bigs, Toronto is as unique as it gets, especially when the defensive game-plan is to swarm him. Early on something was noticed: he just has to work so much harder for every single bucket than usual. The thing about that was he was working hard to find the gaps, and he was dominating in those gaps. He found the dead spots on the floor with the Raptors hedging super hard, and it’s hard to slow him down from there. Game impact is one thing, but making that much of a jump mid-season is a completely other thing.
#3: The difference in the hand-off.
The one thing on everyone’s mind heading into this one is how will Duncan Robinson respond. They inserted him back into the starting lineup for a potential Bam Adebayo revival with his shooting, and we saw some positive trends there. But when looking at the hand-off specifically, what changes depending on the big feeding Robinson? Well, I picked up on some things. Bam Adebayo sizing up on the strong side with some between the leg dribbles in the second quarter, as Robinson flies up the baseline shortly after. Adebayo doesn’t turn immediately, he gives one last size up dribble then hands it off to Robinson for a smooth transition. Bucket. When watching guys like Omer Yurtseven or Dewayne Dedmon run similar things recently, it’s a full body turn for defenses to read and pick their poison. Now, it’s quicker. It can surprise you. And there are more versatile threats. That isn’t why Robinson has struggled before, but there’s a noticeable difference among that grouping.
#4: Jimmy Butler’s all-around display: a career trend.
After essentially the worst shooting game of Jimmy Butler’s career, going 1 for 11 from the field, he followed it up like he usually does. With aggressive scoring and total all-around play. He was filling up that stat-sheet on a night where it felt like he was forcing things many possessions to get Adebayo going, and rightfully so. But seeing Adebayo back meant a shifting role for PJ Tucker, and we saw a bit of a Jimmy Butler safety blanket added to the arsenal. Tucker has been plugged around in a ton of different places, but we saw a lot of dunker spot reps tonight. That means when Butler is dissecting pick and rolls like he was tonight, he’s going to find that trusted roamer when his defender begins to ball watch. Butler was the steady hand tonight, but more big picture, the offensive combo of Butler and Tucker is brewing.
#5: Caleb. Martin. Isn’t. Leaving. The. Rotation.
It’s just as simple as that headline reads. I’ve talked about the play of Caleb Martin in almost every takeaways piece, but the same ending is sustained: Caleb Martin has climbed the ladder, and he’s not climbing back down. There are good defenders in this league, but the current run that Martin is on isn’t normal. Shutting down elite guard after elite guard. Or at least slowing them down. Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Trae Young, Fred VanVleet, etc. Even if the stat-sheet doesn’t show that with that match-up, he just alters game-plans night in and night out. The fact that he can pressure the ball in this way is just something else at this level. Plus, he’s been shooting the three-ball in a way that wasn’t expected, and has provided rim pressure in surprising fashion. He’s a home crowd spark. Big play after big play, and well, he’s here to stay.
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