Following all of the trade deadline commotion, the Heat faced the Rockets on Friday night.
What is that? Another clutch game?
#1: Tyler Herro-Bam Adebayo PnR: begins with Herro’s shooting, ends with Bam’s rolling.
At the half, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo had 16 points a piece. They were essentially the entire offense in that first half, but more importantly, they were doing it together within the same actions. Herro got some threes to fall on simple pull-ups early in the game, which changed their PnR coverages to come. Bam’s defender now began playing much higher, leading to pocket pass after pocket pass to Bam on that roll for a flurry of buckets. It should be noted this isn’t a good defense, but this sequence of events in this two-man combo is a constant theme when things break right. What needs to break right? Well to simplify things, Herro hitting from deep opens everything up. Once you force that back-line to adjust, this pairing is in business.
#2: The defensive game-plan against the Rockets.
The Heat were giving up switches every time down the floor right out the gate. Well that’s nothing new, you might be saying to yourself, but it was for very different reason. They weren’t trying to flatten out this offense, they were trying to bait it. Alperen Sengun gets Caleb Martin on a switch, as Adebayo waits for the entry pass. When he makes his first move, the double is there. They were forcing a turnover prone offense into potential turnovers. This was a good base, but we saw the overall pressure was lacking. Exactly half of their points in the opening half were paint points. Miami was getting beat on secondary attacks, and aside from that early wrinkle, the Rockets’ added burst on the perimeter was breaking them down for a 56 point opening half.
#3: Clearly a switch for Jimmy Butler.
As I talk about very often, Jimmy Butler can flip a switch whenever he chooses. Once the calendar turns into playoff time, he forms into an absolute dominant force that is as tough to slow down as any. When it comes to the regular season, we get examples of that. Some night’s he comes out, and you know what Butler you are getting. Activity in passing lanes, getting to the free throw line, etc. Other nights, such as that first half tonight against the Rockets, he’s in coast mode. It makes sense on the first night of a back to back, as he intends to play his first back to back of the season, but it’s also predictable. The Heat should be able to handle business against this Rockets club without an all-out Butler, but it speaks to this roster certain nights.
#4: No more trade talk, buyout market talk?
Let me take a moment away from the game to talk what is next. For a while there we were talking trade possibilities, but now I’m being bumped down a tier. After an insanely quiet deadline, all that is left for the Heat to gather involves the guys who have been bought out. That is a very heavy guard pool, while the Heat have clearly lacked front-court bodies all season, as their starting power forward continues to play out of position. Russell Westbrook? Reggie Jackson? Pat Bev? Yes, this is where we are now. I’ve talked frequently about the need for a change of scenery of some kind with this group, and following no trade, this is the only place left to do it.
#5: Clutch game? Clutch game!
At the halfway mark of the fourth quarter, Jimmy Butler checks in. Under the halfway mark of the fourth quarter, Bam Adebayo picks up his fifth foul. They trail by 5 points against a bottom feeding Houston Rockets team with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter. The Heat had 84 points scored at that point. As much as I noted the underwhelming defense at times, you just can’t score 84 points in that amount of time against any team in this league, especially weak defenses. The Heat finally got back on the board a minute later, as Butler got to the line on a reach in, cutting the deficit to 3. Shortly after, he took a trip right back to the charity stripe, now only trailing by 1. Heat forced a steal, flow into transition with 30 seconds left, as Vincent finds Herro in the corner covered. He leans left and buries the three, on a shot he just always seems to love. Now up 2. They ended up fouling on the other end, sending Jabari Smith to the line who buries both. Tie game, 10 seconds left. Inbound to Butler, who drives and gets fouled on his way. 2 for 2. Except off the inbound, Jalen Green converts a lay-up with less than a second to go. Out of the timeout, an incredible play by Spo draws up a back door cut for Butler for the win.