The Miami Heat faced the Washington Wizards on the front-end of a back to back Tuesday night, and it was another game where guys kept being added to the injury report.
Udonis Haslem entered the health and safety protocols early in the day, while Max Strus entered them as well with about 30 minutes til tip-off.
Last minute changes were made, and Miami adjusted well. So, here are some takeaways from this one…
#1: One of Tyler Herro’s most impressive all-around halves.
Tyler Herro has had plenty of moments where his all-around game really shines, but I haven’t seen it shine this bright in a 24 minute stint like it did in the first half tonight. 20 points, 3 for 3 from beyond the arc, 3 of 6 on twos, and 5 of 6 from the line. He had plenty of bounce to him when he’d draw certain mismatches, which isn’t always his biggest strength. An isolation is the outcome, so what’s the next move? The answer to that tonight was a quick 1-2 dribble, explode, and get to the basket for a layup or trip to the line. And that worked. Speaking of all-around play, it has been a heck of a week for Herro as a play-maker. Both hitting the roller and making the kick-out when defenses collapse has really stuck out with him. Is it just an evolving young player? Is it stepping up in the absence of Kyle Lowry? I’d say a combination of both.
#2: The mid-post void has been filled.
Something I drill a ton when discussing a functional Miami Heat offense is mid-post play. Jimmy Butler provides it. Bam Adebayo provides it. Markieff Morris provides it. PJ Tucker has tried to provide it. But well, that list of names has been the injury report as of late. Butler being back means heavy mid-post spamming is back, and very good things come out of it. It’s where most of his assists were coming from actually. His defender is on his back in an empty corner, while Miami can rely on their biggest offensive skill for some time now: off-ball movement. Omer Yurtseven rises to the top of the key, Duncan Robinson flies off the stagger screen, and boom. Butler hits the open Robinson on the wing three if lagging behind, or hit Yurtseven on the slip if they overplay. It’s simple, but it leads to very fluid offense for this team.
#3: Some more creative Erik Spoelstra ways.
When you essentially have one big on your nine man roster, and the second big is KZ Okpala, yeah, it calls for some creative juices. Some things were pretty similar to what we’re used to: heavy blitzing with Yurtseven, which got beat a ton early; full-out switching with Okpala at the 5; 2-2-1 press. The interesting thing about that press was many times it backed into man instead of a zone, and more importantly, there were times when the zone wasn’t even 2-2-1. They went into a man press at times very briefly, since they’d back off rather quickly, but it still does wonders when spearheaded by Gabe Vincent. He was giving Spencer Dinwiddie a headache all night with his baseline to baseline play, but it was leading to a lower and lower shot clock when the first action was ran for Washington. Miami had a great offensive start which stood out on the score-board, but it’s intriguing when you can mix things up like this defensively with this many guys out, and it still is effective.
#4: A Duncan Robinson night.
Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, and Duncan Robinson on the same night? Okay. Robinson had a bit of a rough start to this one to say the least, but the usage just kept growing more and more. For about half of the first quarter, every single action was run through Robinson, and I mean every single one. Even when he wasn’t hitting. But “not hitting” turned around pretty quickly as he got some to fall to begin the third, giving him a 7 for 12 stat-line from beyond the arc at that point. To relate back to a previous point, almost all of Robinson’s third quarter triples came off a Butler mid-post feed. Another small element to Robinson’s game that I picked up on as well is him wrestling between usual tight coverage and an over-play. It’s a hard thing to tell a part in the natural speed of the game, but it’s a major thing to obtain when you are a shooter of Robinson’s caliber. He seemed like he’s really improved in that area, which was never even bad to start.
#5: Some Butler rest ahead of a back-to-back. Key word “some,” since it didn’t last long.
Eight man rotations and rest don’t really mix together, but that was essentially the case for Jimmy Butler tonight. Well, maybe for a second. While sitting on the bench to begin the fourth, Gabe Vincent hits a deep three with the shot-clock expiring, and Butler points up to the sky. Why? Well, that shot seemed to say ‘your night is over now,’ as the lead expanded even greater. But as Washington edged closer, Butler had to re-enter with 6 minutes left in the fourth. And well, on a late drive with a minute to go, he tweaked his ankle a bit, hurting this team more and more. With another game tomorrow in San Antonio, a fully charged Butler is needed. Yes, he just missed significant time so rest has already been gotten, but heavy minute back-to-backs can get to anyone. And like I said, running an eight man rotation surely doesn’t help that point. With limited bigs available right now, guys like Butler are flying across the game-plan in different roles. But with PJ Tucker listed as questionable the last two games, it could be a good sign a return could be made as soon as tomorrow.
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