The Miami Heat are currently 1-1 in the NBA bubble after a blowout win against Denver and a close loss to Toronto. The Heat play the Boston Celtics tonight on the second night of a back to back.
As the stakes are getting higher, teams are beginning to deploy special defensive schemes against the Heat. We saw this specifically by the Toronto Raptors against Duncan Robinson by running two players at him consistently and forcing him to pass the ball, in the rare occasions he got it at all. If the Heat were going to win that game, Raptors coach Nick Nurse made sure it wasn’t because Robinson torched them from the three.
This is just the beginning of the special attention Robinson will face moving forward. Robinson struggled to impact the game in other ways and was seemingly unproductive in 22 minutes of play time scoring 3 points on 1-5 shooting and grabbing 2 rebounds with a +/- of -1. And he wasn’t in at the end.
When the playoffs begin, Robinson should expect even more attention from defenses to prevent him from getting good looks. Teams are scouting him and in a seven game series teams will adapt to Miami’s offense. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will undoubtedly unveil some new sets for Robinson to help him get better looks and to counter opposing defenses.
But when opposing defenses are able to neutralize Robinson, it emphasizes the Heat’s lack of a true point guard and someone who can consistently create off the dribble other than Jimmy Butler. Rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro along with veteran Goran Dragic are the primary candidates to fill that need. Herro already gets fourth quarter minutes due to his ability to score, as well as make plays for others and handle the ball. Herro lives to play in the spotlight, so closing the end of games is what Herro wants.
Nunn struggled against the Raptors too. He shot 0/7 from the field including 0/5 from the three, grabbed 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 points, a turnover in 16 minutes of action. Similarly to Robinson, Nunn often struggles to positively impact the game when he is not scoring. However, Nunn has more ball-handling skill and should be able to drive and create plays for others. His playmaking skills are still developing and he is not a true point guard, so it’s hard to expect solid playoff caliber point guard play from a rookie scorer.
If Nunn continues to disappoint on the offensive end, we might see a change in the starting lineup — to Herro or Dragic. Herro came to the bubble showing an improved handle and ability to score off the bounce, especially when his shots were not falling. He continues to develop into a three level scorer which will be important in the playoffs. A change to the starting guard position might be the spark the starting unit needs in playoff games. However, this switch might disrupt the overall chemistry of the rotation. Unless Nunn, Herro, or both can show playmaking (and defensive) potential this year we should expect Miami’s front office to chase a strong 2 way guard this off season.
Miami will have a good test tonight against Boston, who has beat them twice already this season.
The Boston Celtics are also 1-1 in the NBA restart and have played in two, down to the wire, high scoring games. Boston’s wings have been fantastic, but now with Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala, Spoelstra has more options to guard them. In their first matchup this season, wing Jaylen Brown went off for 31 points and in their second matchup Hayward and Brown combined for 54 points. And of course, the Celtics have Kemba Walker who, even on a minutes limit due to a sore knee, will be a serious test for Miami’s guards.