Tag Archive for: Bam Adebayo

The Miami Heat’s Roster Season Review + What’s Next

Looking back over this season for the Miami Heat, they finished as the first seed in the Eastern Conference, yet capped out in the Eastern Conference Finals in game 7, one win, or one shot, away from another NBA Finals appearance.

So, now that it’s officially off-season time, it’s time to project forward. But you can’t fully look ahead until you evaluate the past, so let’s take a brief look throughout the roster to establish both what happened and what’s next…

Jimmy Butler:

What happened?

When talking about the Miami Heat, you must start out with the headliner, which is clearly Jimmy Butler. Sometimes a season is remembered by how you start, and other times by how you finish. And in Butler’s case, he capitalized in both of those fields.

From MVP ladder rankings to begin the year to a 47 point masterpiece in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals facing elimination, it’s no doubt that it was a terrific season. We all know about his defensive excellence when surrounded by strong defenders, but carrying the offensive load yet again to this degree was eye opening.

Y’all can have fun with NBA player rankings, but Butler cemented himself as a clear top 10 player in today’s league.

What’s next?

When talking about the next steps for individual players, I’m going to do a lot of talking about simple on-court improvements or the next stage of a contract/trade possibility. Yet for Jimmy Butler, it’s about just the opposite.

It’s just building a roster to get him that ring that he so very deserves, which was one of the primary reasons he landed in Miami in the first place. Watching him put it all out there in this post-season showed one thing that we probably already knew: build fully around Butler to get this group over the hump. Basically the playoff motto for the Heat in this recent run: get Jimmy Butler some help.

Bam Adebayo:

What happened?

Offensively he may have his ups and downs on picking when to go and be aggressive, but his impact was felt from game 1 to game 100. One of the league’s best defenders, even if the voters couldn’t recognize that. Games 3 and 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals showed flashes again on the other end, mostly about the hope of what he would look like as a full-time third option on the offensive end.

In the mix of things throughout the season, Adebayo receives a lot of blame from the public. When they lose, it’s easy to look over at his stat-line and make that the reason it occurred, but it truly isn’t the full story. There’s no doubt the aggression will have to pick up in a more consistent manner, but Adebayo did his job this season, and that game 7 proved the focal points of this Heat group.

What’s Next?

Clearly Adebayo is locked into contract and isn’t going anywhere, so what’s next for him is much more game-based. His defensive traits are here to stay, meaning the offense will always be the primary focus in an off-season.

When players talk about that specific focus, it’s usually prefaced by “perfecting my all-around game.” But when it comes to Adebayo, I don’t believe that to be the case.

The next step for him: a go-to offensive move that we’ve discussed for quite some time. Is it a post-up move? Face-ups? Jumper? It’s tough to say, but it comes down to his comfort level in certain spots.

Something to watch for though: Bam Adebayo loves that baseline. No matter if he’s in position for a post-up or a face-up, the end result is most likely going to be a baseline dash or a post spin down that line for position under the rim. So I’m thinking they’re going to find a way to maximize his skill down there.

Tyler Herro:

What happened?

As I stated earlier, the way you finish a season is usually remembered much more than the main chunk of your production in a certain time frame. And for Tyler Herro, he wasn’t even lucky enough to actually “finish” his season correctly after dealing with that groin injury in the Eastern Conference Finals.

But to zoom out a bit, he grew a ton this past season as an offensive player. Aside from winning the sixth man of the year award, he was right up there at the top of the scoring list with Butler in the regular season.

But it isn’t about the numbers, he grew as a creator in terms of finding healthy step-backs and fade-aways to get his shot off against good defenses. He even grew to the degree that teams through the entire playoffs threw different defensive coverages at him since they were so worried about him. Those obstacles slowed him down a good amount, but there’s no doubt he made strides this year as a scorer in this league.

What’s next?

When hearing what is next for Tyler Herro at this time of year, I know what you all are thinking. Donovan Mitchell. Zach LaVine. Damian Lillard. Probably even LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo. The point is that he’s going to be thrown into any conversation for those stars to improve the team, and I mean rightfully so. Everybody is pulling that trigger to land a star in this league next to Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

But the realistic element: it’s not that likely. Yes top players always move around every off-season, but this is totally out of the Heat’s control. It’s 1) on the specific player to ask out and demand Miami and 2) the opposing team has to actually like the trade package you’re offering.

Aside from all of those fantasies, there are clear areas for him to improve on the basketball court. The first step is his driving game, which did make strides throughout the regular season, but the physicality of the playoffs blocked the rim off for him to attack.

He must find ways to draw contact on those stop signs standing in the lane, which may develop with his focus on adding some extra upper body strength.

The last thing is a combination of a live dribble and his play-making skills. That’s another thing that was peaking late in the regular season, but the constant blitzing and doubles he faced found ways to stall out both him and the team’s offense. Working on those quicker passing triggers will be key for his off-season development.

Oh, and the last thing to note, the next step for him personally is becoming a full-time Heat starter.

Kyle Lowry:

What happened?

I feel like the Kyle Lowry section is one of the hardest to sum up into words. He had a strong regular season in terms of carrying the team when guys went down, which was pretty much what the Heat needed when they acquired him.

But the other thing they needed was the two words he used pretty often in the regular season: “real season.” His ramp up process was hitting new levels late in the regular season, which Erik Spoelstra joked recently that they wished the playoffs could’ve started then. But well, they didn’t.

Lowry started off the “real season” pretty well with some strong performances at the beginning of the Hawks series, but the fall-off came a little after as injuries struck. In and out was his story-line the rest of the way, as that hamstring never truly allowed him to look right. He had a big game 6 in the ECF next to Jimmy Butler, but it capped off there.

I feel like he exceeded some of the regular season expectations with the hot pockets throughout the year when guys went down, but the playoffs plummeted quite a bit. Was it simply derailed by injuries? Was that usual burst to the rim and pull-up shooting gone? I’m not sure, but I do know that hamstring situation didn’t help.

What’s next?

Kyle Lowry is locked into a decent sized contract with this Heat team moving forward, meaning “what’s next” seems to be characterized by a potential trade for some. But let me just say this in simple terms: Kyle Lowry came to the Heat because of Jimmy Butler. Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler are close friends. Jimmy Butler isn’t allowing Kyle Lowry to be traded.

Maybe that last sentence has an exception if it’s grabbing a top tier star and he needs to be packaged, but even then it gets a bit cloudy. The point is that Lowry is a part of this current build, so the focus on what is next is how to maximize him.

And this isn’t young player development like improving on a specific skill, this is honing in on his body and physical build. Something Spoelstra danced around in his exit interview presser was the idea of Lowry getting into Heat shape, finishing the convo off with “I think Kyle will come back next training camp in the best shape of his career.”

That fixes a lot of what we’re discussing. He needs to be in great shape, preserve himself in the regular season, and be fresh by the time the playoffs roll around. That’s what Butler did this past year, and that’s what Lowry will need to do.

PJ Tucker:

What happened?

PJ Tucker simply exceeded all expectations in everybody’s eyes from the front office to teammates to fans. We knew he was a defensive dawg, but increasing the offensive display of a 37 year old isn’t easy. Speolstra talked about how he was surprised of this ascension, as he even carried the load of the front-court when Bam went down with injury for a month and a half.

Tucker told Spo that he used to play some point guard, and he didn’t believe him. When he reassured, Spo tweaked the December game-plan of giving Tucker some more play-making reps, which included a hot stretch of running some post-spits and different sets for him for a good chunk of time.

We also can’t just say he was great defensively while not punching that point home. He made Trae Young’s life horrible in the first round, handled both James Harden and Joel Embiid off switches all series long, and didn’t allow Jayson Tatum maximum comfort all 7 games. He was the rock of everything they did, and every Heat player has made sure to point that out all year.

What’s next?

Contract wise for Tucker, he’s one of those flexible off-season pieces to watch as he has that $7.4 million player option at the moment. I’m not the guy to fully project forward on what he will do with that, but it’s clear no matter if he opts in or out, the Heat will be very focused on bringing him back.

Yet as he isn’t getting any younger, the enticing part about his return would be making his life a bit easier with some type of front-court addition. More than anything though, he just wants to be out there and play, and it’s clear he fits Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra, Jimmy Butler, and this organization to an absolute T.

Duncan Robinson:

What happened?

As Tucker may have exceed many expectations, it’s pretty clear that nobody saw the Robinson season coming at all. After receiving his healthy bag, he endured some shooting struggles to begin the year.

Spoelstra and the Heat stuck with him all the way through, yet he could never really find his usual comfort and consistency from deep, while it felt like the offense was being restricted at times to get him going.

One Jimmy Butler and Erik Spoelstra fight and a 4 game losing streak later, a change was made. The Heat shifted the starting lineup and rotation to have Max Strus start at the 2, trying to find a spark in anyway possible. And that was exactly found.

Robinson then began to trickle down the Heat’s rotation little by little, eventually finding himself on the outside looking in by playoff time.

What’s next?

The next stage for Robinson is unclear, but the next stage for the Heat with Robinson is a bit clearer. As I pointed out earlier, yes, he’d be included in the big time deals for the star-powered players in Heat jersey swaps on social media. But the Heat’s off-season isn’t going to consist of waiting around for something that probably won’t even happen.

So, could a Robinson deal be done on its own to patch up some holes in the roster? Very much so. Talking about Tucker possibly needing some front-court help on the surface, the question becomes: who could Robinson get you as a potential stretch big?

We have a full off-season to talk about that now, but the point is that’s the next outlet for Robinson and the Heat. There are clearly teams that can use the shooting gift that Robinson possesses, and the Heat may need to shift in another direction.

Gabe Vincent:

What happened?

Entering this season, there was one hole on the Heat’s roster according to many Heat observers: back-up point guard. Gabe Vincent was going to be a fine third string point guard, but they needed a trusted back-up.

Not only did Vincent emerge into that, he progressed into a solid starting point guard for many slots of the regular season and the playoffs.

Not enough is said about the strides he made in his all-around game. Many were eyeing his shooting from deep since that’s what landed him on the roster in the first place, and that began to click as well. But more importantly, he became a big time defender, his play-making skills grew more than expected, and they transitioned him from a small 2 into a solid 1. In terms of production and progression, Vincent was one of the true success stories from this year.

What’s next?

Some may call Vincent or Max Strus sweeteners for a potential star-powered trade, but I don’t think it gets much sweeter than two highly productive rotation players on minimum contracts next season. That is just incredible value from a contractual perspective.

On the other side of things, I truly believe Vincent’s off-season development approach will be the cliche “improving in all areas.” It’s working on the consistency of the outside shot, the effectiveness of the pull-up, a tighter handle, and most importantly, quick play-making attributes.

Max Strus:

What happened?

As illustrated in other areas of this piece, Max Strus emerged this season from out of nowhere. Sometimes it’s not about fully jumping onto the scene, but just arriving at the right time. As much as we group Vincent, Strus, and Caleb Martin together in that young undrafted branch, many Heat observers compared them often.

Why is that? Well, there were only so many rotation spots, so the question continued to be ‘who was going to be the odd man out?’ For a good stretch of time with Vincent and Martin’s offensive game surging, that guy seemed to be Strus. But well, you know how that story ended up going.

Robinson struggled, changes were made, and Strus found himself in the starting lineup on the biggest stages. In the same breath as Vincent, he was a major success story for this Heat developmental staff who just continues to do it again and again.

What’s next?

Not to be too repetitive, but as described previously with Vincent, his contract is just an insane amount of value heading into this next season. But as much as that’s a thing, they’re going to be playing for even bigger pay-days next season heading into free agency.

For Strus individually, the shooting is clearly his staple. He had some flashes of strong attacks and defensive stops, but those will need to improve heading into this next season.

But since he’s going to be a part of this Heat offense yet again, he’s going to need something out of Duncan Robinson’s book from previous years: effectiveness off dribble hand-offs.

Strus is a tough shot maker and a clear movement shooter, but a lot of his shooting stretches came off slip screens or ghost screens into a spot-up jumper on the wing. Or just the usual catch and shoot from anywhere on the floor. But the smoothness of a Robinson hand-off would be crucial for Strus as the “best shooter on the team,” as he proclaimed with semi-air quotes.

I can say that he works on it a ton in practice after watching a ton of his post-practice shooting drills this season, but that’ll be a primary focus in the Summer.

Victor Oladipo:

What happened?

Victor Oladipo’s season consisted of an incredible comeback story and extremely small sample sizes. He made his return late in the season showcasing some high level defensive moments, yet the offensive insertion slowed down the Heat’s strides late in the year.

They shelved him for some time for that very reason, but when Lowry went down in the playoffs, his number was called again, and he answered the call. He did a very good job as a shot creator when they needed him to be, and a second half against Jaylen Brown and the Celtics in game 1 will be on his career highlight tape.

We know he’s a high-level talent, but the question was how he’d round into shape. He did a good job responding to that, but now the attention turns to what the title of his next chapter will be…

What’s next?

Oladipo is currently a free agent at the moment after he took a chance with the Heat earning the minimum, but now it’s about what his market looks like. The Heat do hold his Bird Rights, so they will have some level of control, but it’s much more on the rest of the league.

Personally, it feels like there’s a good chance he finds his way back onto this Heat roster, which quickly transitions into what is next in his production.

As much as I’ve highlighted individual improvements for much of the Heat’s roster, it’s more about role for Oladipo. Trying to blend him into their game-plan on the fly this season wasn’t the easiest thing to do, since a lot of his play was either standing in the corner as an off-ball threat or going isolation mode.

Once the Heat find out his plans in free agency, they’re going to jump on that pretty quickly. Dissecting what his job on the offensive end will be for this team, so the outline is totally understood by opening night.

Caleb Martin:

What happened?

I feel like I could just copy and paste the story-line of many of these undrafted players who climb up the ladder, since Caleb Martin falls right under that category as well.

Betting on himself by signing a two-way contract with the Heat after being cut by the Charlotte Hornets, then turned into a key rotation player who finished the season on a regular contract with Miami.

A big time game early in the year against the Milwaukee Bucks showed his abilities under the bright lights with so many guys out, but one major defensive run around January capitalized on his effectiveness. A point guard clamping tour from Steph Curry to Chris Paul to De’Aaron Fox to Fred VanVleet. The way he was able to size down proved to be very helpful, and he just fit the build of this team.

What’s next?

Martin is also a free agent, but they will throw him the qualifying offer as Miami can match outside offers if necessary. But after Martin spoke in the exit interviews on Tuesday, he voiced over and over again that he wants to come back to Miami.

So, to continue on what’s next for him personally, I’d like to retreat back to a point I made about Oladipo. When I asked Martin about his focus in improvements and role next season, he kept bringing up one guy’s name: PJ Tucker. The focus won’t be on an individual attribute, even though he noted his shooting consistency will be big, but instead his role is going to be laid out on the table from day one.

Screening, rolling, play-making off the slip. Martin wants to be that dirty work guy that can be relied on regularly much like Tucker has been this past season. This team had a lot of depth this past year, but now they need assigned roles to that depth. And Martin accepting that type of stuff can do just that.

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Dewayne Dedmon/Omer Yurtseven

What happened?

Yes, I’m going to merge two very different players who only share the same position, since both of them are in two totally different spots.

Dewayne Dedmon is coming off a year as the team’s trusted back-up big, while Omer Yurtseven was in an evaluating state as the third string big, who popped into the lineup when needed during Adebayo’s absence.

Dedmon had a strong showing early on, but the minutes declined rapidly in the playoffs as his production slowed down. Spoelstra began going smaller, which is always his most comfortable area, leaving Dedmon on the outside looking in.

Yurtseven, on the other hand, was a garbage time killer. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but his biggest moments came when he’d enter with 3 minutes left and come away with like 6 rebounds out of nowhere. That’s definitely a skill, and he has a good amount of skill while being very young,

What’s next?

The reason I grouped them together was much more about this section. Dewayne Dedmon will be a free agent with the Heat holding Bird Rights, but it pretty much feels like Miami got everything out of him that they needed. The next stage for him in terms of contract could be the end with his Heat tenure.

Omer Yurtseven on the other hand could have a bit more responsibilities. I still believe that the Heat grab some extra front-court pieces either in a possible Robinson trade, or low level free agency options, but Yurtseven will have a fighting chance.

He will have another run in Heat Summer league, now as more of the focal point after Strus dominated the last time around. He’s been working majorly behind the scenes with the coaching staff, so I’m interested to see the way he’s grown by the time Summer league actually starts.

Either way, the back-up big slot feels to be the one area of speculation to kick off this off-season.

Markieff Morris/Udonis Haslem/Haywood Highsmith/Javonte Smart/Mychal Mulder

What happened?

Lastly, we can’t leave anybody off. Markieff Morris had some moments to begin the year, but one Nikola Jokic shove in the back basically ended his role on this Heat team, since his time of recovery kept being extended.

Guys like Haywood Highsmith, Javonte Smart, and Mychal Mulder didn’t really have any major impact on this Heat group, but they’re always important to keep an eye on in this Heat organization.

One moment they’re just some guys in Summer League, and the next thing you know they’re starting 12 games in the regular season. More than anything, the developmental group deserves all of the credit.

What’s next?

Morris will be a free agent as well after earning the minimum, so it feels like it could be the end of the road there, unless no other reserve 4’s come available in free agency. (I’m eyeing Thaddeus Young possibly.)

Haslem just never seems to be done, as his exit interview every year seems to go the same way. He said he will think it over in the off-season, which will probably mean he will be back breaking up bench altercations again next year.

And as I said before, Highsmith, Smart, and Mulder will have some chances in Summer League to show what they’ve got.

(Yes, that’s everybody on the current roster. No, I won’t be addressing the Kyle Guy’s and Mario Chalmer’s from earlier 10-days.)

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Celtics in Game 6

The Miami Heat force a game 7.

While the Tv shows were previewing a Celtics-Warriors Finals, the Heat were preparing a gameplan to go into TD Garden.

Jimmy Butler went LeBron James game 6 mode and absolutely dominated.

Here are some takeaways…

#1: Jimmy Butler entering that mode.

Coming into game 6, I had a consistent blueprint for the Heat. And well, that was Jimmy Butler. To put up a fight, they were going to need a LeBron like game 6 in Boston, and a 21/9/6 half-time stat-line was a decent start you’d say. He was attacking the basket to create perimeter shots, knocking down the outside jumper, and saving Miami late in the shot-clock. He was it for their half-court sets. Right before tip-off he walked from the bench to the scorer’s table for his usual hand-shake routine. The only change: no smile, no reactions. That’s the LeBron comp in that sense. He needed to be superman early on for Miami to give that opening punch, and he was just that.

#2: Boston’s defense forcing Miami’s passive players to make plays early.

Looking on the other end, there were times in that half where we were once again discussing the need for Butler help. But before talking about that, it’s important to mention what Boston was doing. It was clear in that first half Max Strus and Duncan Robinson weren’t the fits in this game. The Celtics were forcing him to catch the ball high to turn into a ball-handler, which is when they would pounce. That is the reason I said during the game they’d have to transition into all defensive lineups with the Vincent-Lowry back-court making a comeback, which is exactly what happened. The other guy Boston was forcing aggressiveness on was Bam Adebayo. He was searching for hand-offs, he was loose with the ball, and the attacks weren’t there. It was measured from the Celtics side, as he got his first couple baskets under a minute to go in the second quarter, 23 minutes into the game. But this topic just speaks to what Butler was doing even more.

#3: The free throw battle.

Looking at the free throw comparisons over the last 3 games, they’re pretty absurd. The Celtics continues to get to the line, while the Heat continue to struggle in that department. But I won’t go immediately to one-sided calls. Yes there are times when the whistle may sway, but this is an example of schematics. The Celtics current offensive structure is for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to make drives in the slots for force back-line rotations. The usual outcome is a take to the rim for potential contact. While that was the Heat’s gameplan for Butler for some time, the injury shifted things. He was a methodical transition and jumper threat in that first half, which led into some sprays for outside shots. That’s the key though: Butler and 3 point shooting goes hand in hand. The counter to a charity stripe disparity is balancing that middle ground, which was clicking in that first half.

#4: Third quarter: Butler getting the help he deserves.

The theme entering the second quarter: who would give Butler the necessary help? Or would it ever come? To kick off the third quarter, he came out clicking just like the first half. But the biggest difference: so did the supporting cast. A stretch that as crucial included a Victor Oladipo insertion after PJ Tucker’s 4th foul, leading to a big floater followed up by a massive step back jumper with Robert Williams hovering. Right after that, Strus flowed into the half-court as Lowry pushed pace, and Strus took a deep pull-up that extended the lead to 12. But then, Boston responded. The Heat began to ease up and the Celtics continued getting to the rim and the line, cutting it immediately to 6. Timeout. Yet, they responded again. Butler continued getting to his spots, but the crowd was on Boston’s side. Arena roaring, Butler driving, Oladipo swinging, Strus shooting. Silence. He loves quieting that crowd, and that shot was as big as any.

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#5: Forcing a game 7.

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Celtics in Game 5

The Miami Heat are now down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Continued struggles offensively, Jimmy Butler hitting a wall potentially due to injury, and others not playing up to their abilities.

So, here are some takeaways from this game…

#1: No Tyler Herro means troublesome bench. Or just the opposite…

The Heat’s bench in the first half of game 5 scored a total of 18 points, the same amount the Heat starters put up in all of game 4 in Boston. The offense wasn’t clicking to start this one either, but it was the same thing for Boston. All of a sudden, Victor Oladipo and Gabe Vincent trot into the game for Max Strus and Kyle Lowry, and well, things flipped quickly. Oladipo provided the shot creation they were missing, and Vincent provided the missing point guard element of somebody willing to shoot and bend the defense. Caleb Martin stepped into the mix as well, and he was vital. Corner threes, put-backs in the lane, smothering defense on Jayson Tatum. He might’ve been the most impressive of them all, while Duncan Robinson rounded out the 4 man bench unit. And we shouldn’t look past his gravity that was harped on so often. He created a ton of space for Miami’s weak half-court looks, and he deserved some credit early too. But much like all of this, the word “early” was a crucial element.

#2: The rotational adjustment many were waiting for.

Dewayne Dedmon has struggled as of late. Now that Miami found themselves tied 2-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals, there’s less room for error. Yes, he may get a 6 to 8 minute stint, but that could flip a game. Consequently, many have been clamoring for some Markieff Morris minutes at the back-up 5, for both spacing and a bigger body on the front-line. Yet while I had many present that option to me, I had the same answer to it all: PJ Tucker should be the back-up 5. With so much on the line right now, minutes need to increase. And if Bam Adebayo sits at 42 minutes, give Tucker the other 6 to play next to Jimmy Butler and Caleb Martin to spark a space-ful run. Tucker was fantastic in that role early on, as his rebounding comfort was obvious from the jump on both sides. They may have fell short, but this was the correct rotation shift.

#3: Bam Adebayo has found the mismatches since game 1, but there’s inconsistency in capitalizing.

How did Miami counter the rough start yet again to kick this game off? Well, it was simply Bam Adebayo’s aggressive mind-set off big time put-backs at the rim, one over teammate Jimmy Butler. But other than that, it wasn’t looking good for Bam’s offensive impact for the first few minutes. Every set was being run through Butler and Tucker, while Bam was down low watching. That blended into Miami doing nothing about the mismatch of Brown on his back, til it clicked. The Heat began growing much more intentional in that space to get him the ball, and Bam responded well. Strong attacks in the post, activity on the offensive boards, and energy when the ball wasn’t in his hands for screening. With Butler struggling and Herro out, they needed him to begin this game, and he answered the call. But then the phone hung up. The Heat began to stall out beginning with Butler’s struggles, and Bam couldn’t create something out of nothing. Those advantages are there, but the lack of a go-to restricts the consistency of his attack.

#4: Third quarter trouble strikes back.

4 for 23. That was the Heat’s shooting numbers in the third quarter, and if you were watching the game, that wouldn’t be shocking. As much as I gave the bench unit props, that was equally highlighting the starting lineup issues. Jimmy Butler just didn’t look right. They’re throwing length on him any chance they get, which neutralizes him without the usual burst and attack to the rim. The third quarter sum-up for the Heat’s offense: it appeared they hit the wall. The Celtics did a good job of utilizing Robert Williams again, and Miami didn’t have the answer to him that I was expecting. He was everywhere as a shot blocker, just wrecking havoc on every perimeter shooter for the Heat. And once he rattled those guys, everything trickles from there.

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#5: So, what now?

When I said Heat in 7, I’ve been pretty much aligned with what has been happening in the series. A 1-1 split followed by a 1-1 split, while it eventually bleeds into a game 7 in the Heat’s house. But when I pictured game 5, I didn’t picture this. To be completely honest, it felt like each team would get one at home, but as Miami lost Tyler Herro, and Jimmy Butler in many cases, the Heat’s offense stalled even more-so. But what now? The Celtics now lead 3-2 in the series heading back to Boston. We often hear about culture and mental toughness with this Heat team, and that’ll be tested to the ultimate degree Friday night. I can sit here and discuss film adjustments or rotation changes, but this is mental now. Can the Heat overcome the shrugged shoulders and short jumpers? I don’t have the answer to that right now, but it’ll be tested completely in game 6.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Celtics in Game 3

So, that was some game…

The Miami Heat steal one in Boston in game 3, simply led by that excellence of Bam Adebayo throughout on both ends. No Jimmy Butler in the second half, Kyle Lowry coming off injury, and pure role player dominance.

So much happened, but here were some things that stood out…

#1: Bam Adebayo responds to the noise with an early masterclass.

Heading into this game, all eyes were on Bam Adebayo. The basketball public were looking at him to step up if this Heat team wanted to progress forward in this series, and well, he responded big. Erik Spoelstra and Bam Adebayo had to come in with an early approach to get him going, since he simply is a rhythm player. We began seeing Miami run sets for him above the break, allowing him to blend his two offensive threats together: turning a face-up into a post-up. That led him into low post play with some nice hook shots, comfort around them rim, and speedy pull up fades. But that last point is the key element: speedy. When he’s decisive and instinctive as a scoring threat, things look much different. That quick pull changes the game for his offensive slate, and forces defensive adjustments.

#2: Erik Spoelstra’s substitution adjustments carrying some weight.

Erik Spoelstra threw some haymakers early in this game from a coaching perspective, and it deserves some love. Aside from some schematic adjustments that were noticed throughout, the substitution changes were major. Usually the pattern is for Herro and Dedmon to enter at the 6 minute mark, consequently meaning that Bam exits. But today, only Dedmon found himself at the scorer’s table at that 6 minute mark. Why was that? Well, as I’ve been saying since the end of game 2, Bam and Herro need to play together much more than they have. So, Herro entered at the 3 minute mark instead, while Bam re-entered for Dedmon. He did just commit a quick 2 fouls, but something was found there. A couple high PnR reps later, Adebayo continues to dominate as a roller in space. Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin also got spot minutes while Victor Oladipo was squeezed. Well, for a half. After Butler wouldn’t return coming back from half, Dipo was inserted into his spot as a starter. That’s the name of the game for this team though.

#3: Kyle Lowry’s insertion was felt early.

When Kyle Lowry was announced early in the day “intending to play,” it felt like there were some mixed emotions there. Yes the team’s starting lineup is returning, but is he fully healthy? We saw what happened when he tried to return in game 3 against Philly, so how different will this look? And well, his presence was felt immediately. For one, the difference in pace was staggering. A Jimmy Butler and-1 early in the game took place 2 and a half seconds into the shot clock due to a Lowry touchdown pass. And plus, this ties back to the Bam discussion. He was setting him up in his spots to trigger those offensive sets, and that’s the difference a true point guard makes for a team. Yet if you’ve been watching sports talk on TV, the game 2 loss of Derrick White was much more crucial. As the game unfolded, you could see that hamstring having more and more of a pull. The jumper was shorter, the passes were lazier, but they still needed his calming hand late. And a final steal down the stretch iced it fully.

#4: Third quarter: Butler goes down, Boston makes a run, role players turn up the clamps.

As I mentioned before, Jimmy Butler went down to start the second half, meaning Victor Oladipo had his number called all of a sudden. Offense got stagnant for a bit and the Celtics began building their run, which was pretty much expected. Yet, one thing, that might be overlooked, saved in that span. Role player defensive dominance. I must start with Oladipo, who wasn’t heavily involved in the offensive flow, yet was overpowering perimeter options for the Celtics on defense. Not just on the ball, but he was all over the place on rotations. PJ Tucker owned that quarter as well, pretty much aligned with those same descriptions, except his dominance came through physicality. Fighting through screens, overplaying Tatum, and making his life difficult. Even Caleb Martin entered late and got a much needed steal to finish the quarter. This was a gritty one, and that started with the guys mentioned who put it all out there.

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#5: What a finish.

Jaylen Brown hits a 3 to cut it to one, looking like Miami has finally hit that wall. They kept that lead for so long, but the car has finally stalled. But then, the next possession pretty much saved them. Flare screen for Max Strus, he squares up, and fires away. Bucket. The lead back up to 4 all of a sudden, from a guy who clearly isn’t afraid of the moment. A bit later after a timeout, Lowry brings the ball down. Strus forces something in the corner, and Bam finds himself with the ball with 5 seconds on the shot clock. Pump-fake, jumps into Horford, and still hits the deep jumper. The Heat have finally taken some control back, but now they need a stop. Heat swarm, the ball floats to the weak-side corner, and Lowry dives on the floor to retain it. This game was one of a ton of heart, on both sides, but the will Miami showed late was outstanding. And it was led by their franchise player: Bam Adebayo.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Boston in Game 2

Well, the Miami Heat lost to the Boston Celtics in game 2.

From poor defense to awkward shot selection to wild Celtic runs, I cover it all here…

So here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Oh, so a run happened.

60 to 21. When hearing those numbers, you may be thinking, what do those numbers mean? But if you watched the first half of Heat-Celtics, you already know what that is: the Celtics went on a run. A big run. The offense from Boston was pretty simple, which I’ll talk about next, but the disposition of the Heat was very poor. Late on close-outs, everywhere on rotations, and just short on jumpers on the offensive end. Jayson Tatum got going, Jaylen Brown contributed when Tatum went to the bench after his second foul, and the role players wouldn’t miss. 60 to 21. That’s a hard number to look past when evaluating a game, which is why that’s where we had to start.

#2: The Celtics three point shooting early, coming from the Heat’s game 1 nightmares.

Now peeling back some layers on what was happening, how were the Celtics shooting at this insane level in the first half including 12 triples? Well, other than my points about lazy rotations and close-outs, they were a bit scarred from the first half of game 1 it seemed. By that I mean, the Celtics almost set a postseason record in game 1 with 42 paint points, due to Miami overplaying the perimeter so an easy slip was there for Boston. Now in this game, the Heat weren’t allowing that to happen. Off-ball switches would occur, a mismatch on the block is found, and the Heat have already sent that weak side guy down. Eliminate those paint points and you’re in good shape, right? Wrong. Swing, swing, three was the Celtics’ consistent process due to that over-helping, sparking that run that I discussed previously. Plus, there’s the element of a team just not missing from deep.

#3: The death of the primary action for the Heat’s offense.

Sometimes life is simple for the Miami Heat on the offensive side of the ball. Tyler Herro-Bam Adebayo as shown against Philly: bucket. Jimmy Butler straight line drive ball as shown in game 1 against Boston: bucket. But how about when those initial options or sets are taken away? That’s what turned on the scoring end for the Heat upon that early run. Something was run, the help was there, and the 3 others on the floor for Miami stood and watched. And well, if there’s any team to not do that, it’s the Heat. They generate all of their looks off constant movement, backside screening and actions, and tons of added layers. It can be slightly labeled as not making shots that they regularly would, but there’s no doubt that the process was off. Adjustment time.

#4: The Heat need Bam Adebayo in this final four.

Aside from this game tonight, the Heat’s blueprint is clear. Jimmy Butler will be Jimmy Butler most nights. Tyler Herro can give that boost against drop when the time is right. Role players can shoot above their heads enough in these playoffs. Yet, more than anything, this team needs Bam Adebayo in this series: the offensive version. Coming from somebody that values Adebayo’s defense as much as you can, there just comes a point where the second best player must be just that. With the ball in his hands, utilizing a face-up attack or letting the jumper fly. At this stage, the post game isn’t an option in my opinion. Watching the Celtics switch Jaylen Brown onto him and the unwillingness to get a deal seal is obvious. He has a home base, but he doesn’t go to it enough in these moments. It should also be noted that Bam is always the first person that is looked toward in games like this, which isn’t ideal since he isn’t the reason they lost. But it’s clear to win this series, they’re going to need a serviceable offensive version of himself.

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#5: Big picture time: chill.

I’ve talked enough about the negatives in this game 2, so now it’s time for some perspective. In all honesty, I wouldn’t say there’s a ton to be over worried about with this series as a whole. It’s 1-1 in the series, and there are clear adjustments that must be made, but this was kinda the expectation on this series. This didn’t have a 2-0, 2-2 feel to it where both teams protect home court. Both of these teams are inconsistent on the offensive end with coaches who are throwing counter punches in both directions. Anything can happen, home crowd or not. Now it’s time for the Heat to head up to Boston to get one of these themselves. So I’ll end this piece with the word I previously mentioned: chill.

 

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Bam Adebayo: The True Definition of Defensive Versatility

The Miami Heat officially finished off their series against the Philadelphia 76ers in 6 games, but there were pretty much 3 mini series within this match-up.

The first two game slate was its own adventure. No Joel Embiid meant the total focus was on the perimeter guys in James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, which fell right into the Heat’s hands at the time.

Or should I say, it fell right into Bam Adebayo’s hands.

There simply wasn’t much worry about DeAndre Jordan or Paul Reed on that backside, meaning they felt comfortable switching everything. And well, I mean everything.

Adebayo found himself out on the perimeter against Harden very often, which usually led to weak-side swing for another guy to go to work. That led to the Tobias Harris scoring trend, but the Heat were very comfortable allowing that to be the release valve.

Plus when Adebayo guarded Maxey in this series, he shot 4 of 13 from the field. Off first glance, holding a player of that caliber, and with that speed, to 31% shooting is a win in itself, but the true win is that he was only willing to take 13 shots through 6 games while he defended.

Now onto the second part of this mini series, the two game slate back in Philadelphia was a completely other challenge. Aside from the shooting taking a total dip, Embiid now returned to the floor, meaning it was no longer about controlling and blitzing the perimeter. The pressure was all about Embiid in the middle of the floor.

Even though the 14 of 65 shooting from three was the story for many, Erik Spoelstra came out after those games and said it was more about the defense. For the public, that’s just one of those cliche sayings that coaches like to harp on, right?

Wrong.

Adebayo did his job even in those games, while the Heat bothered Embiid enough, but the back-side help had become problematic. With all of the switching, Jimmy Butler or PJ Tucker would find themselves fronting Embiid as Adebayo blanketed the perimeter.

Why is that important? Well, although Butler and Tucker did a good job of that, if Harden dropped that pass over the top, guys like Max Strus, Kyle Lowry, or Gabe Vincent were the back-side help to stop Embiid off the catch. Clearly, less than ideal.

So an adjustment has to be made. The series is even at 2-2, and Philly has all of the momentum. You can say it’s just about making shots heading back home, but what is the schematic counter to this comfortable Philly offense?

Well, Erik Spoelstra found just that in game 5.

Adebayo was no longer making highlight mixtapes out on the perimeter, locking up a guy like Trae Young 5 steps beyond the three-point line. The switching was eliminated. It was all about guarding your yard, fighting through screens, and simply, going drop.

(And yes, now that the series is over, I can talk about it exclusively without this happening)

Going away from the switching is basically a way to say, ‘I want Bam Adebayo near the opposing team’s best player at any cost.’ And yet, Adebayo didn’t really leave Embiid’s side in games 5 and 6.

 

Front, deny, contain, repeat. It was a simple “process” for Adebayo and the Heat, all due to the fact they trust Adebayo so much even when facing an MVP caliber player. And yes they sent plenty of doubles, but this base allowed them to operate much looser.

Whenever you hear about things that don’t show up on a stat-sheet with Bam, just watch the clips above for reassurance. That’s essentially three different turnovers that he forces due to his battles down low with Embiid, yet no credit for that is shown anywhere on paper.

His entry pass denial is something I’ve talked about nonstop all season, since I believe it’s probably the most underrated part of his defensive toolbox.

Not only can they not get it over his physical build, but just seeing him in fronting position leads to constant weak-side swings to get the ball away from that action.

He’s an action wrecker. But more importantly, he’s Erik Spoelstra’s mobile key-card on the defensive side of the basketball.

Now, this is still Joel Embiid. You can’t deny him every play, so what happens when that entry pass is made?

For Adebayo, it’s a spin in containing position, waiting for his face-up attack, and just reacting to it all. He keeps his hands active, his feet moving, and makes jump shooters uncomfortable even when measuring 7 feet tall.

Please, just take 1 minute out of your day to watch the clips in the video above to see his contests.

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Not only was he forcing misses, the shots from a guy that finished second in MVP voting weren’t even close. (His injuries were also a major factor, but Bam deserves most of the credit here.)

In the two games that Miami shifted to drop, which included games 5 and 6, Bam held offensive players to 34% shooting, while also limiting Embiid to 11 of 29 shooting throughout the entire series.

Those numbers aren’t normal, but we accept them as such whenever discussing the game of Bam Adebayo. This Heat defense as a whole deserves an enormous amount of credit, but the Heat exploding in the final two games of the series to clinch their way into an Eastern Conference Finals appearance was spearheaded by two people: Bam Adebayo and Erik Spoelstra.

I would like to mention as well that it wasn’t all about drop coverage and fighting through screens. In the limited minutes that Adebayo played when Embiid was off the floor, Miami went right back to the soft switching.

Bam’s guarding Paul Reed, yet quickly switches onto Maxey. But Maxey does what every offensive player does when that switch is made: swing it right back to that weak-side away from Bam.

Harden begins to take Oladipo off the dribble, but Bam is there at the nail. He’s able to do that freely since his recovery speed on close-outs is a personal advantage of his. Now Harden fumbles the ball, picks it up, and starts over again doing the same exact thing as Bam recovers to Maxey.

But well, Bam is coming right back again. Harden crosses inside, Bam swipes perfectly to strip the ball, and it heads in the opposite direction for a Herro lob and a Bam (semi) dunk.

It’s clear that he dominates the defensive side of the ball with his complete physical gifts to be able to swiftly cover every inch of the floor, and every player on the floor.

But as much as this is the focus, don’t overlook his defensive IQ and overall reads on that side of the floor.

The 76ers set up a flare screen for Niang to fly off, as Strus elects to blitz Harden and recover. But Bam is sitting there lurking like a corner-back in the flats, and picks it off for a dunk due to the lazy Harden pass.

Should I say it again? This type of stuff is special. Jimmy Butler has carried them to the finish line in this series. Tyler Herro has been the focal point of the offense in terms of grabbing a hold of the defense’s attention. Role players like Max Strus, PJ Tucker, and Gabe Vincent keep coming up big whenever they’re needed.

Yet, in my opinion, Bam Adebayo was the story of this series. He was 5 of 5 last night from the field, yet that doesn’t seem to matter. All of the talk was about this overwhelming offensive big man looking to dominate the interior, and Bam showed up big.

And now, he’s going from dominant force in Embiid, to potentially a dominant force in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Yet, nobody on this Heat team feels some type of way about that match-up. Bam can handle it, and Spo will put him in those spots to be successful.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Closeout Win in Game 6 vs Philly

The Miami Heat are in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Behind Max Strus and Jimmy Butler in game 6, the Heat ran away with the game to come away with the win.

But the true factor: the defensive masterclass from Bam Adebayo and Erik Spoelstra exclusively.

Anyway, here are some takeaways from this closeout win…

#1: Max Strus entering the conversation: the illustrated definition of a rhythm player.

Walking away from game five’s domination from the Miami Heat, there was one thing that heavily stuck in my mind heading into game 6: Max Strus’ performance wasn’t just a needed night in front of the home crowd. It was a rhythm builder moving forward. The role players have been a predictable trend in this series, where the home crowd basically boosts them to another level, while the road role guys struggle majorly. And well, Strus was the headliner to breaking that trend. We can talk about sets being run for him such as the normal pin-downs, but he was the key to the opening unit clicking. Out of the PnR against drop, they need to work that drive and kick with that release valve shooter, and Strus was just that. He also had some nice drives off the move to bend the defense, which is very promising for both this team and him individually.

#2: The Heat’s notable adjustments early on.

Aside from Erik Spoelstra finger pointing, the defensive approach from game 5 carried into game 6. They weren’t switching everything, meaning there was a good mix of drop coverage to keep Bam Adebayo as the fronting man on Joel Embiid. This doesn’t just go for Bam/Embiid though. The Heat are doing the same exact thing off the ball, leading to Miami planting Butler on Maxey and fighting through screens. Now, the adjustment we’ve seen is that they found a counter to the mismatch hunting. With Thybulle in for the injured Green, Herro found himself planted on Thybulle in the weak-side corner a bunch. But like they usually do, they immediately send him up as a screener to pick on Herro. The Heat’s adjustment: blitzing those sets. Herro immediately got his hands on a Harden pass for a bucket since it surprised, but even if the pass was made, Thybulle wasn’t a threat. While the talk is all about Embiid, they had a good defensive set-up in that first half.

#3: The Tyler Herro shift.

Tyler Herro has been through blitzing as a PnR ball handler. He’s been doubled as an off-ball threat. He’s been blanketed in corners as a spacer. So well, what was the next card to play? They could’ve just continued letting the other 4 attack in space, but it seemed like Spoelstra found something early after a Max Strus dish on the wing. They were going to get Herro off the move a lot more, specifically off curls to give him a runway off the catch. He rubs shoulders with Adebayo as he gets to the top of the key, and Strus leads the pass. Herro doesn’t slow down, and gets to the basket while finishing with the left hand. There were a lot of factors to the Heat’s offense clicking on the road in this game, but I’d like to state that Herro finding his way while not being the flashy offensive threat is important. He wasn’t usual scoring Herro, but he was the focus that got others going.

#4: Bam Adebayo doesn’t care about your box score opinions.

Aggression. Shot attempts. Scoring. It’s something that’s always linked to Bam Adebayo, and sometimes for good reason as I point that stuff out plenty of times along the ride. But right now, he can transcend a 0 point number in the scoring column. That’s how absolutely elite he has been defensively. It’s been a series of constant turns for Miami’s defensive approach. No Embiid in games 1 and 2 meant they went to a bunch of switching all over the place, bothering James Harden. Games 3 and 4 ended in losses, but nothing came easy for Embiid, as Adebayo was looming as a helper after switching out yet again. Then game 5 hit. No more Bam switching, just drop, contains, and rotations. Looking at tonight specifically with that scheme carrying over, he carried over dominance. His clamps on the perimeter make highlights, but his fronting and contests on bigs like Embiid don’t get enough credit. Butler is the series’ story-line, but Adebayo deserves his flowers.

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#5: The Miami Heat find themselves in another Eastern Conference Finals.

The Miami Heat are sitting in the Eastern Conference Finals, essentially meeting the expectations that the regular season provided. Not that this is the ceiling, but the floor has been reached. Anything less than this would’ve been a disappointment, but now it’s time to make that final push. Kyle Lowry’s battled injuries. Jimmy Butler has been a top 2 player in this post-season and I’m not sure he’s 2. Bam Adebayo has taken over defensively to make any offense scared to face. Tyler Herro’s skill-set has scared opponents so much that they’re placing all of the focus onto him. The role players have shown up: Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, PJ Tucker, and many others that have contributed. And lastly, Erik Spoelstra has put together a masterclass of a game-plan: first stifling Trae Young in unthinkable manners and now bothering Joel Embiid and crew to this degree. But now they’re here, waiting to see if it is indeed the Milwaukee Bucks that they face yet again. It’s 1-1 over the last two season. This will be the true test.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Philly in Game 4

The Miami Heat played a pretty similar ball game in game 4 that they played in game 3, in terms of the outside shooting from the supporting cast.

Jimmy Butler was outstanding in all departments, but simply he was it for Miami through most of this game.

Now, it’s all tied up 2-2 heading back to Miami for game 5. Yeah, definitely a series now.

Here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: The lop-sided three-point shooting display early on.

56% three point shooting compared to 22% shooting? Yeah, that’s a pretty big tell on how a game is going. Yet for Miami, other components kept them in it even with what those numbers would seem to portray. The Heat crunched the rotation down to 8 to begin the night, which went down to 7 as Vincent only played 3 first half minutes due to foul trouble. But among those 7 guys, they couldn’t find that hot hand from the outside. Herro’s getting different treatment, Strus couldn’t find himself beyond the arc, and Lowry was 0 for 4 at that point. While on the other side, 56% shooting is pretty absurd. That’s kind of what happens when you have to focus 2 to 3 defenders on an MVP caliber player at all times. This is a 3 point shooting team that needs that label back, which had all people calling for #55 at the half.

#2: So, what are the 76ers doing different defensively to Miami?

I’ve talked a lot about schemes from Miami over the last 3 games played, but I wanted to take a second to discuss what the 76ers are doing to the Heat, in particular on the perimeter. For one, it should be noted that this is a team that has revolved heavily around overplaying so far this series, which is surprising that we haven’t seen them working more back-cuts. Aside from that, Doc Rivers has noted the one focus on Miami has been Tyler Herro. They wanted to be more physical, while also limiting space for him as much as possible. So, they’re blitzing out on him extremely hard, while rotating middle on that specific shooter. What does that mean? That weak-side corner is the release valve, which means two things: can Herro make that pass and can that shooter take advantage as I noted them shooting 22% from deep in the first half.

#3: Miami’s first half offense kept afloat by Butler’s run, Oladipo’s attack, Bam’s second unit aggression.

While I focused on some of the negative elements early, it’s also important to note that the Heat still stayed above water offensively while struggling that much from deep. The first reason was that Victor Oladipo’s aggression was glaring. He was making it a priority to make his presence felt around the rim, getting to the line at an incredible rate, due to going right at the body of Embiid in that deep drop. Bam Adebayo followed that up with a very strong stretch once Embiid went to the bench. We saw games 1 and 2 flashbacks against Paul Reed, being utilized both on the roll and the post. And finally, as the game was really getting away from Miami late in the second, Butler gave a counter punch. Hitting tough jumpers, getting to the rim, playing physical. That one takeover mode saved Miami in that span. All 3 of these aspects have something in common: inside play. All that was missing, to tie my previous points together, was that one hot shooter.

#4: I’ve touched on Lowry not taking the open pull-up, but this hamstring seems to be very restricting.

When watching Kyle Lowry in this game specifically, he just doesn’t look right. He had 2 breakaway layups where he had to sprint down the floor, and both had him limping back down the floor on defense with his left hand planted on that left hamstring. Clearly, it’s a bothering injury. He continues to struggle to shoot the basketball at the second and third level, but I don’t think this formula is too complicated. This isn’t one of those excuse statements, it’s just the truth. That hamstring is limiting his lift and jumper overall. He continued to play through it, but just something to keep track of moving forward. He can keep it moving in this one, but that thing will most likely tighten up over the next 24 hours. And one thing to note about on-court play: he’s getting to the rim, but not shooting at the rim. Once again, that stuff can be costly.

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#5: You know what, I’m talking about shooting again.

As the 76ers made their 4th quarter run to kick off the quarter, finishing off with a James Harden transition three to take a 12 point lead, you probably did the same thing as I did. Went over to look at the shooting numbers t that point in the game, and they weren’t surprising, but equally as mind blowing. One team was shooting 48% from deep, while the other was shooting 17% from three. Yeah, that’s pretty much the game, right? To go one step further into that 5 of 30 three-point shooting at that point, taking away Butler’s deep ball, they were shooting a whopping 12%. When the percentage drops that much when taking off* Butler’s three-point numbers, that’s usually a tell. It really doesn’t get much deeper than those numbers, but I do believe the looks on both sides were apparently different. Robinson was sitting there for use, but not utilized, which felt like a bit of a head-scratcher for stretches.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over 76ers in Game Two

The Miami Heat came into game 2 with a similar mindset, and closed it out in a similar fashion.

Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo copy and pasted dominance. Jimmy Butler playing master facilitator. And the Heat defense swarming at all times.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Bam Adebayo in early attack mode is always a welcoming sign.

As much as we sit around and discuss the fact that Bam Adebayo has a favorable matchup against the 76ers, Bam himself is very aware of that internally. Entering these games, he knows that he will have advantages, especially after the PnR dominance with Tyler Herro, and he came out attacking yet again. Herro kept feeding him in that high pocket to give him a runway, and not only did that lead to positive offensive, but it put him in a position to consistently get to the line. Once he gets some early foul calls, you always see that mental shift where he begins to drive more. Plus it should be noted that his defensive willingness was felt. No matter who he switched on, the immediate reaction was to clear. He creates a 4-on-4 match at times, which is a special trait.

#2: Heat going more zone, Philly going less zone.

Heading into this series, one of the main things I highlighted in my preview was the “battle of the zones.” Both had very valuable reasons to utilize it, and the 76ers obviously got the first real crack at it. In the second quarter of game one, it gave Miami real trouble. Nobody was flashing middle, they weren’t able to get into the primary actions, and it allowed certain matchups to not be exploited. But now, the Heat were waiting to adjust. They consequently went to it less to begin this game, but Miami increased the frequency on their end. Pressuring with Oladipo and Martin in the 2-2-1 which blends into the 2-3. Usually the release valve was that Tobias Harris gets into a post up on the low box, which was okay with them as he shot 3 of 11 in the first half. Never should it be gone to for too long, but it’s something to monitor in this series.

#3: Tyler Herro continues to love the matchup and coverages.

Looking at Tyler Herro in the first half of this game, I could pretty much copy and paste most of the stuff I said in game 1. High PnR dominance, making the right reads and passes, and scoring whenever he chooses as he eyes the back line defender. The only difference though tonight, he was eyeing the initial defender a bit more often. Instead of focusing on the next read, he keyed in on the current one. That usually meant a quick pull up off the screen, a snake dribble inside once Jordan began playing higher, etc etc. The point is that we’re aware he can score the basketball at a high level and can exploit this defense, but mixing up reads isn’t easy at his age. But yet, he’s a natural in that space.

#4: Jimmy Butler controlling the game through every lens.

After as dominant of a first round series as humanly possible for Jimmy Butler, he seemed to fully hand the keys to Bam and Herro in game 1 against Philly, for obvious reasons. But in this game, his scoring around the rim was coming much more naturally than it did in game 1. Yet, I’m not focused on the scoring. We know he can get to his spots and dominate most matchup advantages on the floor. But without Kyle Lowry, he stepped up big time in terms of total control. Halfway through the third, he had 10 assists logged and it was all on the natural flow of the offense. And looking away from schematics and into natural fandom, as a Philly fan behind us at the game chanted at the team all game, it flowed into “We still love you Jimmy,” late in the third. He can have that hold on you I guess.

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#5: Victor Oladipo combinations steadily improving.

Looking at game 1 under a microscope, the Victor Oladipo combinations were a bit different than we’ve seen. Instead of running his own lineups when Butler was out, he found himself running next to both Butler and Herro pretty often. They were a bit shaky to start since he was being used primarily as an off-ball threat in the corner, but they blended him on the ball a bit more in this game tonight. This offensive flow won’t just click over night, but the thing about it: it doesn’t have to. We can hone in on that all we want, but the truth is that his defense on top players makes any combination work. When you can do to James Harden what he did in this game, it’s clear something is going right.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over 76ers in Game One

The Miami Heat kicked off round 2 against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night, and although there were minor bumps in the road, they really took care of business.

After struggling in round 1, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo really took control of this game. Together.

But as much as they’re the focus, PJ Tucker put them in this position under the radar.

Anyway, here are my takeaways from this one…

#1: The early, early offensive approach for Miami: Herro-Bam high PnR.

Before I discuss the offense in the first half big picture, I must first address what was working. After Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo had rough first round series, it was clear coming into this one that this match-up could favor them greatly. The drop is there for Herro to attack, and Adebayo has the size advantage over anybody not named DeAndre Jordan. So, Miami quickly evolved into high PnR madness with those two when Jordan or Paul Millsap were sitting in that drop. Herro’s able to create attention through his drop instinct once passing the three-point line, which transitioned into open lanes for Bam as a roller since nobody could stick him. That was when offense was peaking. But then, it declined. Rapidly.

#2: The offensive drought that followed…

Now, to enter the problematic parts of this Heat offense, it went from executed offensive sets that were clearly intentional heading in, into a whole lot of randomness in that second quarter. Miami began blending into forced drives and more forced drives until an open man was found. Yes, that’s the complete recap. They were no longer looking at Adebayo roaming baseline who would find a perfect deep seal. Combine that with shooting 25% from three in the first 24 minutes and you have yourself an issue. Butler had the jumper fall early with back to back mid-ranges when they went under the screen and a standstill three, but that turned into tough fade-away jumpers with wings guarding him. That’s fine against Maxey, but forced against others. It was clear at that point, adjustments were needed coming out of the half.

#3: Should we take a second for extra PJ Tucker appreciation.

In the first round against the Atlanta Hawks, after Butler, PJ Tucker was the most important player in the series. And well, he wasted no time in this one. Immediately picking James Harden up full court, switching and helping down low, while dominating as that weak-side help guy at the nail. When looking for the answers to Philly’s early scoring trouble, it was all PJ Tucker. But the reason I bring up the word appreciation is that while his defense was evident, he played a big role offensively. Yes he was 2 of 6 from the field with 5 points at half, but most of the Heat’s first half runs included him providing second chances and playing the “Bam role” at the 5. Then to start the third, it was even more Tucker. Forcing turnovers, creating for Bam off the slip and dime, hitting tough shots, and most importantly, getting them second chance opportunities. He’s been outstanding.

#4: Bam Adebayo showing up big time.

As I hinted at before when I mentioned the Herro-Bam dynamic, this could potentially be a Bam series before the Embiid return. There are mismatches all over the floor, for both face-ups against slower guys like Jordan or post-ups against smaller guys like Millsap. After being utilized a ton early than disappearing in that second quarter since they weren’t finding him, he began to be found to start the third when they went on their run. The point is not to harp of Bam’s shocking scoring punch in this one. It’s to showcase that he needs to be used like a top player on this team on the offensive side of the ball. I can understand aggression conversations, but there’s a point where he should be consistently have sets run for him. Whether it’s on the ball with guards screening, or backdoor stuff to feed him with mismatches down low, it’s the key to Miami taking that next step on this playoff run.

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#5: The real reason the Heat are true contending threats.

When looking at this Heat team in the first round, there were glaring holes. Herro wasn’t himself, Adebayo wasn’t being used, Lowry going down changed things. Moving onto game 1 tonight, Butler wasn’t great, shooters were inconsistent, Oladipo lineups were in the mud frequently while finding themselves. Yet through all of that, the Heat keep finding ways to win. How? Well, I’m glad you ask: this Heat defense is stifling. They can go through a second quarter span where they forget how to run offense, yet still come out even. They have enough bodies to throw at any position 1 through 5, created a helping scheme due to the team being elite with rotations, and found a way to stop top talents. So, back to why this team is a true contender. Combining a defense that is elite of the elite with an offense that can go on wild runs is a good enough to be in that top tier.

 

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