The Miami Heat took down the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night, behind aggressiveness from Bam Adebayo and a scoring takeover from Jimmy Butler.
But here are some takeaways from the match-up…
#1: Intentional Bam Adebayo transcends any potential trade deadline acquisition.
Watching Bam Adebayo to start this game, it looked like it was heading in the wrong direction. Losing the ball at the head of the offense, almost seeming like his wrapped hand is restricting his ball-handling. But that aside, we saw an intentional version of Adebayo on the offensive end, and that transcends any possible trade or any expected version of Victor Oladipo upon return. If Bam is playing like this, by attacking mismatches on smaller defenders, gaining momentum on drives, and straight up trying to score, then Miami’s ceiling is raising. But to be fair, Adebayo was shooting 3 for 13 at the half, which in my opinion should not matter. The attempts is the main element, and he was causing positive things offensively. Now, he even followed up my piece on his defensive improvements with another absolute masterpiece. This is a team that you can switch everything, and man did he switch everything. Locking up anybody they threw his way, which leads into my next point.
#2: Both Charlotte and Miami matching their first half offensive plan.
The Heat clearly struggled to shoot the ball to start, but how did they generate enough offense? Well, it was simple: attack the mismatch on the block each and every possession. Part of that was Adebayo against PJ Washington early, but it was just simply Jimmy Butler doing Jimmy Butler things. Getting position in the post, scoring around the rim, or drawing fouls consistently. But Charlotte began to blend into a similar offensive mindset. While the Heat were punishing them on the interior, the Hornets were searching for the favorable switch. And well, that was Tyler Herro most of that second quarter. Guys like Miles Bridges would get the switch, the Hornets would space out, and it led to either two things: a score inside from Bridges on the mismatch, or hitting the open spacer after Miami’s weak-side defender pulls down. Both teams navigated the offensive advantage, but funny enough, they were much more alike than you’d think.
#3: Big picture, does the winner come down to who controls the pace?
Coming into this game, my overarching take for Miami was the pace would have to lean in their favor. This is a young and athletic Hornets team who love to run, and the Heat should really slow things down and grind it out. And with the poor shooting on both sides to start, that was point Miami. Yet as things began to pick up, and Charlotte made that second quarter run, you could sense the Heat falling into that constant running trap. Now, to zoom out for a second due to the possibility of these teams seeing each other with higher stakes, that’s who will come out on top most nights. Another reason it would favor Miami in a playoff series is because the game naturally slows down anyway, but when a young quarterback like LaMelo Ball is running the show, he can dictate however he wants. It would just end up being the LaMelo Ball-Kyle Lowry show.
#4: The Jimmy Butler takeover upon us again, but frankly, this one was…odd?
As Jimmy Butler walks off the court late in the third with 27 points, it raises an eyebrow in some ways. Why is that? Well, it was one of the weirdest scoring takeovers I’ve seen from him all year. Sometimes it’s just pure free throw line antics. Other times it’s hunting mismatches to get easy looks off the drive. But tonight, that 27 kinda just…happened. All jokes aside though, the way Butler can just slowly chip away and expand a lead like he did in the third is really a skill. Like I mentioned before, he took over to start with his ability to take control of mismatches on the block, but he was a late shot clock killer as time went on. We’ve seen Miami’s role players takeover many nights, but seeing Butler and Adebayo control throughout is a great sight.
#5: Navigating the first round match-ups.
We’ve seen Miami face many of the teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff standings, we’ve seen some trends. And no, I’m not just basing this off of one loss or one win. The Cleveland Cavaliers can clearly provide some problems for Miami offensively, just due to the length they can throw out there, and pretty much block off the entire interior whenever they choose. The Toronto Raptors are one of the most unique teams in that range, just due to their switchiness and grittiness, but that’s a series that could clearly wear Miami out before moving on. And now, the Charlotte Hornets. It’s a talented young group who have a high ceiling and low floor from night to night, due to the way they can score in a spark fashion, but Miami matches up with them decently. It’s one of the few teams they can switch everything against, and the attack is pretty much there to be taken all night. It’s Heat basketball, and it wouldn’t be the worst match-up in the world come playoff time.
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