The Miami Heat played the Houston Rockets on Monday night, but that wasn’t the important headline.
It was Dipo Day.
In Victor Oladipo’s return, it started out a bit rocky for the team, but nothing was rocky about Dipo’s composure on both ends in this debut.
Anyway, here are some takeaways from Heat’s win over Houston…
#1: There are rhythm players. And then there’s Tyler Herro.
On Dipo day, Tyler Herro quickly seemed to turn the second quarter into Tyler time. 8 of 9 from the field. 5 of 6 from three. 21 points. Those were just the stats from the second quarter if you are wondering. We saw a continuation of Herro’s recent PnR on-ball surge, where he kept getting by that initial defender and began to make plays. Not many players were making plays around him, so he took it upon himself. Began attacking the drop defender, drawing two defenders regularly, yet continuing to prance into pull-up jumpers or simple swings and relocations. But the key there is “relocation.” As the increased number of bodies begin to rotate over to him on the ball, it opens up his off-ball game. He can move without the ball and make defenses pay. Plus, aside from the X’s and O’s, he’s just the rhythm player of all rhythm players.
#2: Houston’s shot making providing early problems.
Looking across the Rockets’ roster tonight, guys like Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr popped due to their high level shot making ability and freedom to get plenty of shots up. Green opened up that dialogue by knocking down an early 4 threes, which should be said weren’t easy shots. The Heat were doing the thing where PJ Tucker would switch onto the big as Bam Adebayo switched onto Green or Porter, leaving them with a tough shot each possession. The issue was that when that switch wasn’t made, and he was pulled away from the possession, Miami’s rotations weren’t there. That was kind of expected, as this team is the anti-Bulls. They play their game against high level competition, but play down to teams like the Rockets. That’s what happens after a tough gauntlet of a week, but should be noted in terms of game flow.
#3: Jimmy Butler doing Jimmy Butler things early.
If it wasn’t for Tyler Herro going absolutely nuclear in that second quarter, Jimmy Butler’s name would be thrown around much more often in that first half. Herro settled them and gave Miami that much needed boost, but Butler was consistently himself, which is all they need. He was finishing well around the rim, but more importantly, he was getting to the line per usual. To tie these two guys together a bit, as they combined for 39 in the first half, we saw some empty corner PnR’s between the two. The reason that’s important is they were adjusting to what was happening. Herro was placing major pressure on the Rockets defense, meaning an empty corner eliminates strong side help. And with Butler looking strong on the interior, using him as a roller in space is useful. When Butler’s post efficient and getting to the line, that’s all you need.
#4: The Miami Heat’s interesting rotation questions.
As Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo return on the same night, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus get caught watching on the sideline as Erik Spoelstra rolls out a nine man rotation. I feel like that was an expected element to all of this, partly in preparation for the post-season. The way I’ve come down on the whole process is Caleb Martin is the true lock to the bottom half of the rotation, due to his big moments late in games and overall length he provides defensively. With that said, Vincent and Strus, but Vincent more specifically, are the sparks on either end when needed. If the point of attack has some holes that needs to be patched, Vincent enters. If the team needs some type of scoring guard play in light of a rough night for Herro or Dipo, Vincent enters. If it’s a rough go for Duncan Robinson, enter Max Strus potentially. As great as Vincent has been, situational sparks may be their late playoff role. But in terms of the regular season, guys will be in and out, meaning he will still have plenty of minutes, and even a few starts.
#5: Oh yeah, Victor Oladipo is back.
So the highly anticipated return of Victor Oladipo is upon us, and well, I’d say it went well. Before dissecting what was seen, it should be said that I’ve been saying for some time that the defensive end should be the area to watch instead of the potential rust offensively. With that said, that was my initial observation. Aside from the two charges drawn, he really looked sound on that end from the jump. He doesn’t give up any ground 1-on-1, and more importantly, he’s not a guy that derives strictly off speed. He’s a guy that uses his body to his advantage, and knows how to keep that ball in front of him. On the other side of the ball, there were clearly moments. He had an early corner triple, a nice 1-on-1 drive off the attack a bit later for a right handed scoop, and a fourth quarter hesitation and burst in the PnR for an explosive dunk. It’s only game one, and things will evolve, but that entry level defensive showing is a very important element.
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