The Heat walked into this game against the Hornets really needing one, and it appeared that they’d be getting it.
Except we saw a repeat of the last few games again: falling apart late.
A 13 point lead beginning the fourth went to a Hornets lead to Jimmy Butler dominance to eventual overtime.
They escaped late to come out with the win, so here are my takeaways from this one…
#1: Duncan Robinson with a strong offensive first half.
Duncan Robinson was the leading scorer for the Heat at half, and easily their most intriguing player from that initial 24 minute stint. He had 11 points, and 1 three. Yes I know, that makes you think. With Tyler Herro being ruled out in this game, Max Strus stepped back into the starting lineup meaning one thing: more intentional reps for Robinson in the second unit. Flying off hand-offs and pin-downs is all cool, but turning those into pick and roll reps is what led him to that scoring mark. Blending into 2-on-1’s with Bam Adebayo inside the lane has been a fun development, especially since his in-between game has looked good. He works heavily on that floater, and we’ve seen it come into fruition a bit recently. When he can not only be that offensive punch off the bench, but also the offensive hub, it’s a good sign for the offense.
#2: More inverted pick and rolls.
There are a couple actions that I feel like I discuss more often than others: one being the post splits they run and well, the second being inverted pick and rolls. For starters, it’s the simplest way to try and get Bam Adebayo downhill. Instead of asking for straight isolations, it builds up some momentum for him down either slot as an attacker. But the other element of this involves Jimmy Butler. It isn’t to get him moving downhill like mentioned with Bam. It’s about creating advantages through mismatches when the guard screens. As we saw in the second quarter tonight, Lowry came to screen for Butler, who bursted to the middle of the floor as the defender cut him off. The point to make: he cut him off under the free throw line. Win for Jimmy. He then put him in a footwork blender leading to an and-1 at the rim. With an offense that has felt bland at time early in the year, more of this continues to create advantages for their main guys.
#3: Yes I’m going to do it again: some more thoughts on the 2-3 zone.
Something I harp on a ton when discussing the Heat’s 2-3 zone as of late: shifting the shot profile from the opposing team. It’s one thing for the Damian Lillard’s of the world getting to adjust their shot diet in a game, but when facing a team like Charlotte who routinely has one offensive base, it can really create chaos. Getting back to the basics, the way to beat the 2-3 zone is getting to the middle of the floor one way or another. Off the bounce, entry to the free throw line, etc. But even though the Hornets were executing that early in the game, betting on push shots inside the free throw line to fall consistently is an uneven bet. That’s what makes the zone so effective. My only problem is that we’re seeing them rely on it so heavily this early in the year, meaning teams will be ready for it in no time. But for now, it’s cool to watch.
#4: Jimmy Butler reliance tonight.
Heading into this game without a lot of hype around it, with the Hornets being the third worst offense simultaneously being without LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward, and Cody Martin, it was still clear the Miami Heat needed to get this one. And well, Jimmy Butler seemed to want this one. He came out defensively in a way where you know he’s locked in, but as I stated earlier, he was just putting on a footwork display inside the arc. His attacking was evident as he got to the line 12 times through the first 3 quarters, while acquiring 8 boards and 7 assists in the same span. When talking about energy, I do believe Jimmy Butler being locked in means others will follow closely. You don’t necessarily want him hitting the deck time and time again to get to the line against a bad team in Charlotte, but well, Miami needed him doing just that in a close game in the 4th. Isolation, low post, spin moves, buckets. We saw it all in this one. Should we have seen it all in this one though? Probably not.
#5: The continuation of late slippage.
As the Heat walked into the fourth quarter with a 13 point lead, it was certain they couldn’t do it again…to this Hornets team. With Butler playing the entire third, they can close it out early to give some of these guys rest. But well, the inevitable happened again. A 13 point lead turned into a 3 point lead in two and a half minutes. When trying to be in that elite tier of NBA teams, there just can’t be this seesaw of play and leads. Both sides of the floor once again turned off, as the Hornets began to turn up. When Butler is asked to re-enter into the game with 8 minutes left in the fourth in a game like this, there’s a problem. A big problem. Luckily he began bailing them out late in this game as I mentioned previously, getting them across the regulation finish line and into overtime. Miami somehow survived overtime with things going their way. It’s good they got the win, but far from a good win. This wasn’t a positive thing to see.