Simply this game was insane. If you like scoring, this was the game for you.
The 4th quarter consisted of the Suns and Heat just matching buckets, but the Heat stayed the course with Butler, Bam, and Lowry all coming up big.
Here are some takeaways…
#1: The Heat getting good bench production early on.
This has been a season for Miami where bench production as a whole isn’t the hottest topic. Although guys like Max Strus have shined when entering and Gabe Vincent has vastly improved, we’re talking about a team that is currently rolling out an 8 man rotation. But well, those three bench guys tonight were heavily responsible for the early offensive push. Vincent had 8 points, 3 assists, and 4 boards in the first half, but the bigger point was his half-court control and paint touches. He was generating great looks against a top tier Suns defense. Duncan Robinson was the recipient of that, knocking down an immediate two triples, while mixing in an in-between floater. Lastly, Dewayne Dedmon even provided some serviceable minutes. They’re not looking for anything special from him, just be neutral before Bam walks back to the scorers table, and did that early on.
#2: A substitution change from Miami.
When documenting certain trends that we see from the Heat, the substitution pattern was one of them tonight. The main thing we’re used to is Jimmy Butler playing the entire first quarter after Bam Adebayo exited first, which just basically means those two are being staggered. Yet tonight, we saw a minor shift. Max Strus and Jimmy Butler exited at the 5 minute mark, as Adebayo anchored that first quarter lineup. Then after 3 minutes, he walked back to the scorers table with Dewayne Dedmon. The only main change there is Butler played 3 stretches in the half instead of the usual two. Will find out more on that adjustment, but stood out for now.
#3: I still believe defensive creativity should be coming.
When talking about the Heat defensively, we’ve seen them withhold the switching structure for years on end. But more importantly, they’ve always had the personnel to actually do it. Now that they lack the size, we continually see smart offensive teams punish Miami down low, as the Suns did with Kyle Lowry on Deandre Ayton. But more big picture, this defense needs to lose the predictability from night to night. They may lack size, but they do obtain versatility. We’re seeing them embrace some of that with the 2-3 zone, but we still need to see more drop coverage from Bam Adebayo than a possession here or there. They will lean offense, but still need to tinker in other piles once in a while. We saw a bit of that with Dewayne Dedmon blitzing in the second half, but Booker and Ayton picked that right apart. (Which had to do with Miami’s rotations for the most part.)
#4: Heat fighting through the random scrub Heat killer trend.
The Heat have this bit where random role players seem to dominate them, but it’s been quite some time since we’ve seen it last. Yet this one came in a massive wave. Duane Washington Jr, who I put out there could’ve been an undrafted option for Miami a season ago, came out on fire. 16 points in about 5 minutes of game-time in that first half. A lot of that can relate back to my last section of defensive lapses, but it’s also just a certain player getting hot at the wrong time. Chris Paul being out meant more playing time for him, while the Heat’s defensive game-plan to start was essentially very Devin Booker driven. Giving him the Joel Embiid treatment with doubles was a sign of respect, but Washington made them pay.
#5: The Heat embraced a certain offensive style in the 4th quarter.
The Suns began to takeover to begin the 4th quarter, appearing to fully pull away. Miami couldn’t get rebounds, stops, and were looking different offensively. By different I mean not slowing things down into the half-court. For a minute there that didn’t look like a good thing. Caleb Martin was forcing on the break, and it looked like Miami ran out of gas. But after a string of stops on the defensive end, Miami was getting out and running. More importantly, with Bam Adebayo having his hands on the steering wheel. He was attacking with purpose, including a big time and-1 to cut the lead to 3 halfway through the 4th. It just kept happening over and over: finally, the Heat were letting Bam just do what he does best. Operating in the open floor with the game in the balance.