When you’re without Jimmy Butler, you’re best players have to do Jimmy Butler things. Not just by picking up his usual points per game or defensive role, but sustaining the things that allow the offense to work on a nightly basis.
One of those things is applying rim pressure, since although guys like Kyle Lowry are highly capable of doing so, he just hasn’t been as regularly active in that department as he once was. That’s not a huge deal since it hasn’t been a major role of his, but it is necessary when Butler isn’t on the floor on a specific night.
(Enter Lowry’s fourth quarter vs the Clippers)
The switch flipped when Miami went down in the fourth, as Lowry was doing anything he wanted with the ball in his hands from deep heaves to easy blow-bys at the rim.
As much as Lowry showed out in the fourth, Bam Adebayo did so in the first quarter. He came out with an offensive purpose, which is something many of us want to see even when Butler is on the floor. He was showcasing mid-range jumpers, sliding into specific slots as the roll man, and much more.
But the common denominator between the first quarter from Adebayo and the fourth quarter from Lowry: mismatch hunting. That was when Miami’s offense was at its’ best, but the issue with that sentiment is that it never seems to be sustained throughout 48 minutes of basketball.
Lowry just didn’t have it going for about 3 and a half quarters against the Clippers. A lot of that had to do with the overarching reliance on the three-ball falling, which probably shouldn’t be the element that is harped on in these spots.
Instead, the part of his game that should be the fall-back plan is what he resorted to in the fourth quarter: picking on the bigs.
Against a team that heavily switches like the Clippers, that has Kyle Lowry written all over it. Tyler Herro had a decent game as well, but the ball would’ve most likely been in his hands more often if they were facing drop coverage all night.
Looking at the clips above, he does one thing so well in these spots, and it’s getting big guys on their heels once he gets the full commitment on the switch. Jimmy Butler, on the other hand, usually puts together a full back dive to the rim before utilizing close to 10 pump-fakes, but Lowry does quite the opposite.
After seeing it work to perfection in the fourth, it raises an interesting question: why did it take that long?
It felt like that would be the initial read in a close game like this without Butler, and ultimately, the length of time it took for Miami to get to it kind of hurt them.
Bam Adebayo, though, knew the plan coming in with that specifically. But sticking to it was the problem there.
A hot topic with Adebayo for quite some time is punishing smaller defenders in the post. It’s something Lowry has helped with a ton through his re-insertions whenever Bam would try to pass it back out to Lowry on the perimeter.
Last night, he was going to find guards on him down there frequently, and he didn’t waste any time.
An early back-down on Batum was a great sign to start out the game, turning around with zero hesitation to shoot right over the top of him. A little later, Adebayo did something a little similar by backing down Reggie Jackson, which although the whistles were flying all over the place, he ended up getting the bucket to further the theme.
But something to make note of is this was all the first quarter.
As I said before, he exploded in that quarter, but the most important thing about it was that he adjusted to what the defense was giving him and made the most of it. But when that second adjustment came in throughout the game to double Adebayo on the catch, they just resorted to simple kick-outs and spot-up threes.
Which frankly is not their game this season.
Looking into Miami’s mismatch hunting without Jimmy Butler
Bam Adebayo did it well for a quarter
Kyle Lowry did it well for a quarter
— Brady Hawk (@BradyHawk305) November 12, 2021
No Jimmy Butler means the minor things he provides are magnified. One of those things is the way he can slow down the game down the stretch once it gets choppy. And the second thing is finding mismatches and attacking them against teams like this.
Miami did it for two quarters with two different players, but finding the balance to slowly sustain it throughout 48 minutes is the key element. This doesn’t need to be put on blast with Butler on the floor, but without him, it jumps off the screen.
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