The Miami Heat had an impressive sweep over the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Miami was in control every game and Indiana failed to come up with an answer to Miami’s hard-nosed, high energy, and high-level shooting team.
Their unselfishness and will to win was impressive. Especially since the trade with Memphis, adding Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala, the Heat’s depth has been a big strength which was on full display in the Indiana series. The Heat had at least four players scoring in double digits in every game and different players came up big in different games. This is a valuable asset for Miami. Most teams look to simply “survive” when their stars are on the bench. They hope that their bench players can hold it down on the court and withstand enough to keep the game close. However, Miami’s bench looks to extend leads, not just maintain them. Miami has a deep balanced roster of veteran and young talent. Their roster is constructed in a way where there isn’t a significant dropoff of capable playoff talent until after the 10th man. Erik Spoelstra now has many bodies to throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
With Bam Adebayo on the bench, Miami has at least 3 other players (Jae, Iggy, DJJ) to wall up and neutralize Giannis. In addition, Spoelstra’s starting lineup change has improved the Heat’s defense, without sacrificing the scoring of the second unit or compromising the Heat’s depth. Adding a former all star, Goran Dragic, and veteran wing Jae Crowder, to the starting five maximizes the Heat’s ability to switch on pick and rolls and spreads the court more for Miami’s slashing cuts and adept ball movement. Also, Spoelstra has created a rotation that allows the bench to operate with Butler on the court when Bam and Dragic are resting and vice versa. The productivity of the Heat bench should be a big strength in the Bucks series. Let’s take a look at the Heat’s bench and their impact thus far and what is to come.
The 20-year-old rookie continued to show his fearless motor in round 1 of the playoffs, using the spotlight to shine rather than fade away. Herro was impressive in each game and continued to show off his playmaking and scoring abilities. He averaged 16.5 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists against Indiana. He even earned some praise from Heat legend Dwyane Wade, “Sooo Tyler Herro Is a rookie still right!???” Herro improved on the defensive end too, using his court awareness to guide him into correct defensive rotations. He is still considered a vulnerable defender but to average about 32 minutes a game in a playoff series proves that Spolestra trusts him on the court. This is a series where you can expect to see Herro’s mid range and perimeter shooting on display due to the Bucks’ length. Also look for Tyler Herro and Kelly Olynyk pick and pops next series because Milwaukee’s bigs don’t like to leave the paint.
Iguodola is a seasoned veteran, finals MVP, and three time national champion with championship pedigree that is valuable to Miami’s young and inexperienced players. He is not needed to fill up the stat sheet but to simply make winning plays and be a leader on and off the court. Iguodola will need to be an extension of the coach when he is in with the second unit. Next series, Iggy will be responsible for making sure his teammates are poised in uncomfortable or pressure situations. He will provide quality leadership by communicating and holding others accountable. If he knocks down 1-2 three pointers a game and plays high level defense against Giannis and Middleton, Miami has a good chance of coming out of the 2nd round. ‘
Kelly has played very well within his role in the playoffs thus far. After Spolestra decided to remove center Meyers Leonard from the rotation, Olynyk comes off the bench as the “big man.” He spreads the court with his three point shooting and his creativity off of ball screens and handoffs leaves defenses guessing. He averaged around 14 minutes per game against Indiana, 6.5 rebounds, and shot 50% from the field. Look for him to be aggressive against the Bucks shooting thress as their centers are not as mobile and the Bucks rely on drop coverage against the pick and roll.
Derrick Jones Jr
Airplane mode. Known for his high flying dunks and crazy athleticism, Jones Jr. is a plus defender and a vertical spacer for Miami. He only averaged around 10 minutes per game this series against Indiana, but still made an impact. If DJJ does any offensive damage for the Heat it is a bonus since he is mostly in to play lockdown defense. Look for DJJ to get similar minutes next series guarding Giannis and Middleton to take some burden off the starters.
After an amazing regular season and rookie of the year campaign, Kendrick Nunn had disappeared from the rotation. Nunn tested positive for Covid-19 right before the Heat were scheduled to leave for the NBA bubble and it has seemed to impact his play. He was a DNP for the first three games of the Indiana series due to the coach’s decision. However, in game 4 against Indiana he reminded everyone what he can bring to the table when he is playing well. Nunn and DJJ should split minutes for the 10th spot depending on matchups.