The Miami Heat played another late night West Coast match on Wednesday night, but got the win this time around against the Portland Trail Blazers.
This was an interesting one with an early Kyle Lowry ejection and a late ejection for Tyler Herro, but either way, Miami escaped with a much needed win in this tough stretch of games.
So, here are some takeaways from this one…
#1: Max Strus comes out of protocols, Max Strus comes out firing.
After missing the last 7 days in the health and safety protocols, Max Strus found himself in the starting lineup in his return. And we saw a recurring theme within his game, which is that he never misses his first shot. Ever. Aside from that and his high level confidence from deep, it’s always much more big picture when bringing up this specific name. The reason is that with a healthy roster, which shouldn’t ever be an expectation in this unique time, Strus would most likely be shelved with all of the other talent on this roster. The thing about that is there’s absolutely no way humanly possible that could occur if Strus is playing the way he is at this exact moment. Who is the guy on the team that you expect his shot to drop every time he shoots? Well, that guy is Max Strus every time I watch these games, and it fits with the current clip he’s shooting at. And more importantly, he’s proven to be a clutch time shooter.
#2: Miami’s intriguing offensive sets in life without Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
I constantly touch on mid-post touches when one of Bam Adebayo or Jimmy Butler are on the floor, but what does offense look like without the both of them? Well, it’s much simpler. Aside from the base perimeter sets like pick and rolls, hand-offs, and drive and kicks, Miami’s found a unique formula with more shooting on the floor. One guy will set up on the wing with the ball in his hands in play-making mode, as the other 4 guys line up on the weak-side. Now, the next step is usually two flares and two off-ball screens, as one shades up to the top of the key and the other crosses to the strong-side, then layers are added from there. That base is so interesting with the many options within it, but it wouldn’t be possible without PJ Tucker. Who would’ve thought Tucker would be that on-ball wing play-maker at times? But well, he has been at times, and it has worked extremely well.
#3: Kyle Lowry ejected?
Kyle Lowry was going to be a takeaway of mine either way tonight, since it was originally expected that I’d be discussing his on-court play with 9 assists in 16 early minutes. Since for one, that is quite impressive. But the reason we’re bringing up Lowry now is due to his unexpected ejection in the second quarter. The first one was deserving after his extended chirping at the officials following a foul, which we’re used to. But the second technical came when he tossed the ball lightly at the referee. Literally. With the official not expecting it, he immediately reacted as if he threw a fastball down the middle, and ejected him from the game. Like I said, we’ve seen tech after tech on guys like Lowry and Tucker all season for obvious reasons, but this one wasn’t even close to being warranted. Yet on the bright side, some much needed extra rest came Lowry’s way, as his other top level teammates have gotten much more of that sideline observing.
#4: The flipping offensive nature that is PJ Tucker.
Seeing PJ Tucker in play-making mode as he is without Butler and Adebayo is one thing, but mid-post behind the back passes for layups is another thing. That leads us back a few years, where his name coming up always led to the label of “offensive limitations,” which would make you scratch your head a bit if your first time watching him was in a Miami Heat uniform. Not only as he surpassed that label, but he’s doing something that literally nobody could’ve predicted. No matter who exits the lineup, he fills the role. Only one guy can semi-emulate the game of Adebayo, Tucker can save them. Mid-post play-making in a Butler way, Tucker is there. You need him to play center for most of the game down so many bigs, he’s your guy. Versatility, comfort, and the trust factor: the story of Tucker’s season.
#5: 10-days are dwindling, but is this the end for all?
Many 10-days have already been shut down as guys exit the health and safety protocols, such as Aric Holman, Nik Stauskas, and Heat fan favorite, Mario Chalmers. But there are a few others that are still getting chances and showcasing their skills. One of them is Chris Silva, who actually gave Miami a decent hustle boost in this one tonight, but doesn’t seem to be a fit for the future with his current skill-set. Kyle Guy is the hot topic among that group, who continues to showcase an offensive skill-set that stands out with his efficient scoring, flashy passing, and a surprising downhill threat and attacker. Lastly, Haywood Highsmith continues to get run even with Tucker back with the team, and I must say, I’m not surprised at all. When he was signed, that was the name I said to watch for. Not for a second 10-day potentially, but to see him back in the future. Miami always circles back, and this feels like another example.
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