Tag Archive for: Bam Adebayo

Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro: Sharpening the Important Tools

We know what Bam Adebayo is as a defender. We know what Tyler Herro is as a scorer. Although one of those guys is a bit more consistent with his skill, we are still aware that both possess a pretty elite attribute more often than not.

But are those the most important areas of their game as the Heat push forward with the hope of these guys leading the way? Probably not.

Herro had 20 assists over the last 2 games. Adebayo had 70 points over the last 2 games.

If that doesn’t tell you what I am hinting at, I don’t know what to tell you.

The Herro-Bam pick and roll has been a Heat staple for some time. But late in the regular season last year, there was full realization that it was the team’s best action in the half-court.

It sliced up the Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs for games 1 and 2, and it’s been slicing up teams on this Butler-less roster since Herro returned from injury.

Looking at the clips above, this is pretty much the base PnR look for these two. Forcing a 2-on-1 in the middle of the floor, while eyeing the help from either side of the floor and reacting.

While the Herro pull-up/floater is the true threat to pull it all together, the Adebayo alley-oop or mid-range pull off the pocket pass are the two most likely outcomes.

This PnR combo is actually averaging 1.35 points per possession this season, which is on high volume since it’s the most used PnR combo on the team.

But we know all of this about their base action already. The reason I bring it up is because we’re seeing the subtle wrinkles they’re throwing in the mix.

To open up the Heat-Wizards game, Adebayo set a pin-down for Herro to operate off of, as Kyle Lowry hits Herro on a curl. This forces another version of a 2-on-1 for Herro and Bam, except they’re both running full speed downhill with a shrunken floor.

Win for the Heat offense since there is no help.

A lob to Bam gets things started.

Fast forward to this game against the Hawks, the Heat waited for the beginning of the third quarter to get into this bag of tricks. Herro flies into the curl 2 separate plays with the same exact result.

That dropping big’s job is to contain in middle ground, yet there’s no middle ground when it comes to a pull-up threat and a lob threat.

This is just one very simple adjustment for these two, and there are many more complex ones to come I assume, most likely closer to the playoffs.

But the reason I bring all of this up right now: Adebayo the scorer and Herro the play-maker can shift this Heat offense completely.

I’ll start on the more obvious Adebayo front by saying he needs to be a primary option on the offensive end for this team consistently. Actually, he needs to be *the* option.

How do the Heat figure out this starting lineup dilemma when fully healthy?

While that conversation has many different answers, the simplest one is Adebayo. When he is gone to early in games, he’s hard to stop past that point. He’s a rhythm player who needs sets run for him to create positive offense for the rest of the group.

Butler has interior gravity and can work the drive and kick game immensely, but he doesn’t shift an entire defense like Adebayo potentially could. The most teams will do to Butler is send the occasional double team, but the entire defense will pinch when it’s Adebayo attacking your drop big in the middle of the floor.

It’s a very obvious statement, but Adebayo the scorer is the most important development for this Heat team.

But do you want to hear a close second?

Tyler (Herro) the Creator. More specifically, the play-maker.

Since I brought up that 76ers series earlier in this piece, let’s go back to it. They found a way to make Herro uncomfortable by putting two on the ball, but what is the counter to that other than not calling for the screen in the first place?

Quick decisions and perfect passes.

If you look at the clips I provided previously, Herro’s way of hitting the roller in these last two games has been eye opening. And if he can hit that pocket pass enough, teams aren’t just going to be *okay* with letting Adebayo run 4-on-3’s on that backside.

These two young guys have this underlying skill within them, it’s just about channeling it and being willing to more often. Butler and Lowry would love for these two guys to take the reigns, and it’s in the team’s best interest to maximize those two guys for the post-season the best they could. (Obviously by getting to a comfortable spot in the standings first.)

We’ve been talking about them sharpening these tools for a while now, but we’ve approached the time period where these tools are ready to be used. Consistently.

Not just as fun offensive wrinkles, but to be the entire Miami Heat offensive base.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Hawks

The Miami Heat kicked off an important road trip in Atlanta, and put together some pretty good basketball without Jimmy Butler.

That was headlined by Bam Adebayo yet again, while Caleb Martin shined right behind him.

So here are some takeaways from this win…

#1: Bam Adebayo’s scoring growing, while the side quests remain the same.

After a 38 point night against the Washington Wizards for Bam Adebayo, he came out firing yet again. His consistent goal is to hunt for his spot in the middle of the floor, as he can rise over the top for the jumper. They were also running sets for him out of the mid-post, while embodying the grab and go system so he can operate in transition. The scoring game is growing. But as I said in the headline, the other stuff isn’t declining. The amount of stuff on his plate is insane to watch: covering up everything at the bottom of the zone when the point of attack gets blown by, finding a body to box-out to clean up the boards, and running down the floor to be the one and only action hub as his constant screening is necessary. Yet with all of that said, he didn’t seem to be slowed down in any area. The Bam Adebayo surge is a good thing to see.

#2: Max Strus back, Max Strus comes out as only source of perimeter punch.

While Adebayo was the main punch in an all-around sense, Max Strus was the initial provider on the perimeter. As the offense tries to find themselves without Jimmy Butler, the one thing that’s clear is they need to shoot the ball well from the outside, which just hasn’t been the case. The connecting factor, though, to outside shooting is paint touches, which Miami made a priority early. Strus hit two threes to begin the game off a Kyle Lowry drive and Caleb Martin attack. Aside from the pick and roll spam or occasional Adebayo hub in mid-post, this is the only other scoring supplier. After Strus missed some time, the Heat are very fortunate that he came back firing away in this sense, since if there’s one thing about Strus, it’s that he can get shots up no matter the coverage, time stamp, etc. When it comes to positives in that first half, we stop after these two guys.

#3: A lineup for Miami sums certain things up…

Dru Smith-Strus-Haywood Highsmith-Jamal Cain-Dewayne Dedmon. That was a lineup for an extended period early in this game, which pretty much gives us some perspective on where the Heat stand on bodies. I often write about the individual struggles or positives from these guys, but when watching them all out there together, there’s not much to overly analyze. There’s just not much expectation for good stuff to be taken from it. Dedmon actually gave some good minutes for a stretch and these guys got stops, but as you would expect, they have limitations. The Hawks expanded a lead before the starters came back in, but I just can’t sit here and put the focus on a bunch of undrafted guys who were playing in Sioux Falls anywhere from a few months ago to a few weeks ago. At the half, they needed more from their starting back-court to push them forward, so the bench mob’s job can be battling to stay neutral.

#4: Tyler Herro altering the focus in the 3rd.

With Adebayo’s hot start in the first half, they needed to find a way to 1) keep him involved in the second half and 2) have it come without him having to create it all himself. And well, the answer to that riddle is Tyler Herro. As I’ve talked into the ground for some time, the Herro-Bam PnR is the best action on this Heat team. The Heat used a variation of that in the 3rd quarter, and didn’t go away from it. Lowry creating at the top of the offense, Adebayo setting a pindown for Herro, which flows into a curl for Herro and Bam to operate in a 2-on-1. Dribble, lob, dunk. The next time down, we see the same exact set-up. The result: dribble, lob, dunk. Fast forward a few plays later, they run it for a third time, and the Hawks didn’t adjust. The only change was his lob ended up being a goal-tend instead of a converted alley-oop. The beginning of the 3rd quarter was the same action being spammed over and over and over, before the ball movement took the offensive steering wheel the rest of the way. Herro finished with the first triple double of his career.

#5: Caleb Martin’s 4th quarter counter.

The Hawks wanted Caleb Martin to settle for the catch and shoot three in the half-court all night, but no matter the possession, he just would not fall into the trap. Pause, look, attack. His paint touches were crucial, and off-ball cuts provided very nice boosts through the first three quarters. And then the start of the 4th quarter hit. He continues to be a dominant transition player for this team, since he’s patient enough to wait for his fast-break defender to settle on him. Once he can go 1-on-1, he makes that euro step and he’s basically got you right where he wants. He’s an athlete, just like Bam Adebayo, so they’re treating them like athletes. The other element of Martin’s play that has stood out is his creation, not only for himself but for others. The handle is tighter, the shiftiness is there, and don’t get me started on the way he attacks his defenders front foot. Martin’s ascension this season has been one of the true bright spots.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Washington

The Miami Heat faced the Washington Wizards once again on Friday night, and it was the Bam Adebayo night.

A dominant offensive performance from start to finish, as he led Miami into a much needed two game win streak.

So, some takeaways from this one…

#1: Bam Adebayo’s early offensive dominance.

Bam Adebayo’s first half was pretty eventful on the offensive end: 22 points on 9 of 10 shooting is a pretty insane stat-line. But it was more about the shot profile since it wasn’t repetitive at all. It started out with a heavy dosage of Herro-Bam PnR, which was expected in this match-up against drop. Some early buckets off the roll boosted energy and confidence for him, leading into some early shot-clock work on some face-up jumpers and attacks. One possession stood out though to kick off this game, since I love when they run sets for Bam: Herro handling, Jovic pin-down on the left box for Bam to operate off a curl, leading to a bucket in the mid-range. More. They continued to let him work on the move which is the key, but that type of efficiency is just so impressive. The most important thing for this team’s success is to prioritize getting Bam going early in games.

#2: The Wizards defensive game-plan in the bench minutes.

In these two-game sets, it’s kind of like a mini playoff series. Minor adjustments are utilized back and forth, meaning counter punches are being thrown on the fly. Once again, not playoff sized counters, but simply and minor ones. For instance, the Wizards had an approach that made a whole lot of sense against Miami’s lineups with a front-court of Highsmith-Cain-Dedmon. Or we can even simplify it down to the two-man combo of Highsmith and Cain. Since they’re being utilized as the spacers, the Wizards were shading over hard at Lowry and Herro as primary ball-handlers. Once they would draw a mismatch like Porzingis, Wes Unseld would wave his hands to send the double. Herro or Lowry have to swing, Highsmith or Cain ends up getting it in the corner, and the lack of a quick pull means they can rotate/recover quickly. That’s just the result of those type of lineups, but an intriguing wrinkle to note.

#3: More eyes on Caleb Martin playing the wing.

Watching Caleb Martin’s movement in this game again, it’s clear that he’s comfortable as an attacker at the moment. Part of that is the match-ups he’s seeing from Washington, as he voiced to me on Wednesday, but there’s also the element of playing a lot at the three, while Highsmith and Cain play the “Martin” role for now. I will say that this team needs his on-ball slashing a lot more right now than when the full starting lineup is out there, since a lot of guys are demanding the ball, but that’s exactly what puts this into some perspective. If he can slide over to the bench with more usage and better match-ups while not having to size up, that’s the goal in my opinion. The unwillingness to stick with Jovic tells me that change won’t be made until we see a trade, but the point still stands that *this* is the role for Martin.

#4: A counter punch by Miami in terms of adjustments.

As I went over these two-game sets being mini playoff series, Erik Spoelstra wasn’t going to let Unseld and crew have all the fun with adjustments. As the Heat needed some added juice in the third quarter, Spo mixed up the coverages a bit away from the 2-3 zone. As I talked about on Wednesday, the Martin-Highsmith-Cain-Bam minutes are a waste of zone time. That’s a team that can switch around a bit, which is exactly what Spo went to in that span. This created a bit of a run, as Highsmith did a good job switching, Bam shut the water off on the perimeter, and some stops led to transition buckets for Martin and company. I’m totally for the reliance on zone with the roster that’s being utilized at the moment, but I also feel like there are pockets of time where it can use a break, as seen in that span.

#5: Another look into the late-game approach.

As the Heat had an uphill climb while trailing throughout the 4th quarter, the Heat’s approach didn’t waver. Bam Adebayo was still the primary option, as he would receive it in that mid-post almost every possession to set up offense. A bucket mid-way through the quarter put him up to 32, while the following play a goal-tend at the rim increased it to 34. Heat trail 98-96. After a stop, Lowry bursts by the point of attack, draws help from both corners, kicks to Bam in the right corner, who immediately flows into a hand-off with Herro who hits a fading three in the deep corner. But the Wizards answer right back with a bucket and a trip to the free throw line, giving the lead back to Washington 102-99. Out of a timeout, Herro gets stuck off the dribble again, swinging the ball to Lowry on the left wing. Shot clock ticking, he sizes up, and fires over Kuzma, converting on the and-1 triple to give Miami another sign of life. Fast forward to under a minute, after taking a one point lead, the Heat just kept forcing stops on the other end. 30 seconds left, Lowry-Bam PnR in space is the action. He feeds it to Bam rolling to the basket, who hits an insane left handed scoop. 38 points on the night. Ball-game.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Wizards

The Miami Heat faced the Washington Wizards again on Wednesday night, except they were slightly healthier.

Tyler Herro returned, Kyle Lowry shined, and we witnessed another blown lead.

Either way, Miami’s going to take a win in any form.

So, here are some takeaways…

#1: Kyle Lowry’s offensive resurgence continues.

Off a rough road trip for this Heat team where they went 0-4, I’m pretty comfortable saying there was only one single bright spot: Kyle Lowry. Pushing his limits to play close to 48 minutes is one thing, but actually being productive is another. Fast forward to tonight with Miami piecing some guys back together, he shined even more. He began the game with a very solid approach of generating constant paint touches to get this team decent looks without their two main shooters, but then his own three ball began to fall. He opened up the game going 5 for 5 from three, just simply taking the pull-up above the break threes when they were sitting there. For a team that hasn’t had their legs as of late with the extended minutes, Lowry isn’t a part of that grouping at the moment, which is a good sign. Summary: he’s been great.

#2: My take on the man/zone balance for this current Heat squad.

I spend a lot of time on these pieces talking about the 2-3 zone or Miami’s defensive structure in general, but the timing of utilizing each base is more intriguing. For example, Spoelstra doesn’t *want* to be playing this much zone defense all game, but he’s forced to with the current state of the roster. Yet tonight, it felt like there were times where it wasn’t the only choice. A lineup of Lowry-Martin-Highsmith-Cain-Bam was put out there for a long stretch in the second quarter, as Miami sat back in the 2-3 zone. For clarity, it did its job by forcing those push shots in the middle of the floor, but that’s a 5 man pairing that can guard straight up. They didn’t have many issues defending tonight, but it’s just something to monitor. Lineups with two below average defenders should call for immediate zone, but a solid defensive grouping shouldn’t settle there for too long.

#3: Caleb Martin playing well…as a 3? Who knew?

If you are scrolling down social media and click on the profile of Caleb Martin, you would see his bio states Miami Heat guard. Yet as we see often in Miami, guys eventually size up their position. In Martin’s case, it’s been an abrupt adjustment since it occurred in the starting lineup with certain shoes to fill. He’s been very good this season, but the opinion on him sway since it’s clear he’s just in the wrong position. With Jovic and Bam making up the front-court tonight, he was able to slide to the three. And well, he was able to slide into a familiar play-style. Less worries about screen, less hand-off feeding, more half-court flowing and moving with and without the ball. He was a big part of the early offense with his slashing, and that just projects forward to where he should be placed in the near future.

#4: The Heat’s trend of giving up leads is literally not a joke.

Whenever the Heat gather a lead close to 20 points, we often are inclined to make jokes this season like ‘well, this is going to be a tie game in a few right?’ But the thing about that is it’s not a joke, it continues to occur night in and night out. Once again in this one, the Wizards climb back in the third as the offense gets stale and the transition defense continues to leak. But it makes us question: logistically, why is it happening? That’s a film dive for another time to get the full scoop, but off the top of my head, a twenty point lead means weaker rotations. A twenty point lead means settling for looks in the half-court. But with this group, they just can’t settle at all. It’s a trend that’s extremely problematic healthy or not.

#5: Tyler Herro returns.

Tyler Herro finally came back after being out for close to three weeks, and well we almost saw another set back. He rose up on Porzigis at the rim, and hit the floor hard on his back. He laid there for a bit which seemed like a stinger, then foul trouble sat him out a good portion of that first half. Onto the second half, it was clear he was just searching for some sort of rhythm. A couple pull-up triples seemed to be the one sign of that, but he still wasn’t looking like himself all the way. His overall movement on the floor and overall disposition, which I wonder if it had anything to do with that earlier fall, since I doubt it was the ankle. Never should expect too much in a return game anyway, but he did have a big bucket late which got him into that flow he was looking for. Three point game, he hit a tough step back three on the left wing to give Miami an offensive jolt. Kuzma answered with an and-1 to cut it back to three, but Herro’s reverse hand-off action with Bam led to back to back triples. His fourth quarter performance *was* Tyler Herro, which this offense needs extremely.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Timberwolves

The Miami Heat played the Minnesota Timberwolves on the second night of a back to back, and well, they fell yet again.

They came out firing with high energy, but like most nights, it all faded.

Some takeaways:

#1: Heat first half takeaway- intention in two places: boxing out and a shift in the 2-3 zone.

The Heat were coming off a night in Cleveland where they essentially couldn’t defend the Cavs in the 2-3 zone, while also not gobbling up any boards. Yet tonight, it was clear from the jump that they shifted their attention. While the Timberwolves do have a lengthy front-court in Karl Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, they have not been a good rebounding team. The Heat, who were much smaller, sent 3 to 4 bodies at the rim for box-outs and crowded boards, sensing some intention. On the 2-3 zone side of things, they were continuing to force the shots in the middle of the floor that I harp on. Towns was getting it to go, but the portion of kick-outs Miami was forcing fell in their favor. Minnesota shot 3 of 25 (12%) in the first half from beyond the arc, which the Heat’s rotations deserve most of that credit. Then the third quarter happened, where all of those numbers were thrown out the window. The timberwolves put up 37 in the third, where Miami shifted to a lot of man, and hit the three at a high clip.

#2: A standout moment from Nikola Jovic.

Nikola Jovic started at the 4 next to Bam Adebayo yet again, but there was less intention to solely feed him early in this game. They wanted to find their base with the Lowry-Bam PnR, then work him in. Yet he wasn’t finding that same rhythm as the outside jumper wasn’t falling, which usually leads into a dark path for young players like himself. But we saw a different response. After some poor offensive possessions, he was crashing the boards and embracing the grab and go system completely. He ran into transition with intention, as Max Strus trotted on his left to the wing. On back to back plays, we saw the same exact formula: transition, Jovic assist, Strus three. For him to be confident enough to run the floor and make decisions after being blitzed early on, that could be one of the most promising signs I’ve seen to date.

#3: Miami’s updated usage of role players…

It’s hard to have offensive diversity when dealing with a short-handed roster with heavy minutes for guys like Haywood Highsmith and Jamal Cain, but Erik Spoelstra found a way to change some minor things up in the first half. With the same roster as last night, minus Duncan Robinson, they needed a positional shift in the half-court for the role players. Banking on threes from Orlando Robinson, Highsmith, and Cain types won’t work when the opposing team is intentionally helping off that corner “spacer.” But the key is they aren’t spacers, so don’t use them as if they are. That was the shift from Miami in this one, as they just constantly sent those two young wings streaking down open lanes and cutting to create some chaos. Highsmith and Cain went on a 9-0 run by themselves in that first half, hammering that alone. Then that led into Highsmith knocking down the outside jumper, which absolutely opens up their half-court offense when dealing with that weak-side helper.

#4: The ball-handling reps for Miami are eye opening with short-handed roster.

As I talked about after last night’s game, one of the main issues with the offense was the lack of shot creation from the guards. Every two-man action is run through two different guys: Kyle Lowry, who we know as the primary set-up man generally, and Max Strus. They were running high PnR after high PnR for Strus in this one, not because there was a match-up they liked, but due to the fact that was their only option. Yes they have Bam Adebayo and Nikola Jovic, but they aren’t guard creators that are necessary to run a consistent high powered offense. Many of the creators should be back after this one, but it’s pretty clear that there’s a lot on the plate of Lowry at the moment as the sole option in the ball-handling room.

#5: Late-game execution watch…

With 5 minutes left in this game, the Heat trailed by 3. The Lowry-Bam PnR spam continued, and the Heat couldn’t hit open threes. Not only could they not make those shots, but free throws were bouncing out. The offense for Minnesota was consistently on the shoulders of Anthony Edwards, who had a big night, yet he kept walking away with empty possessions. Bam Adebayo walked into a pull-up mid range jumper under four minutes to go, tying this one up at 99. Back on the other end, a foul was called on Kyle Lowry who felt he got all ball with a block on McDaniels, which Miami challenged and won. Big swing for the time being. After a miss for Miami, Russell hit a baseline jumper to take the lead by 2. Shortly after, Lowry took a charge on the driving Towns to foul him out of the game, showing some more hope. But well, that faded quickly. The Heat’s offense didn’t show up for most of this one, and a late step back three from Strus summed it all up. They don’t have options at the moment.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Cleveland

The Miami Heat had another short-handed night, adding Bam Adebayo to the fold, but it still wasn’t enough against a healthy Cavs starting group.

They were blitzed on both ends from start to finish, not even in competition to put up a fight.

So they fall to 7-10 with another game tomorrow night. Anyway, here are some takeaways…

#1: The Cavs taking advantage of Miami’s zone defense for a couple reasons…

With the roster Miami had available tonight in Cleveland, it was clear we had a night of 2-3 zone ahead of us. And well, the Cavs found their way against it early on, which should happen when a team stays with it as long as Miami. The Heat are looking to force a certain push shot in the middle of the floor, mostly known for being inefficient, but Evan Mobley was the consistent hub in the middle of the floor. He chopped Miami’s zone up a bit, which leads into the next element. Now that Miami has to clamp down middle, who should they help off? Well the easy answer is Isaac Okoro, right? Okoro ended up going 4 of 5 for 13 points in the first half. Combine those schematics with a ton of ball movement and a bunch of high low action from Mobley and Allen on Miami’s lack of size, and yeah, it’ll lead you to giving up a 59 point first half.

#2: The two sides of Miami’s offensive shot process in the first half.

The Heat came out clicking offensively to begin the game, with Bam Adebayo and Nikola Jovic running the show. The process was clear: Adebayo had the green light. Every set was being ran through him: isolations, post splits, face-ups, post-ups. The key on night’s like this is movement, movement, and more movement. Why do I say that? Well, a good portion of that first half would give you that answer. The Heat fell right back into the trap of having Miami’s guards and wings create, which is a tough ask without Herro or Butler. None of their guards could burst by Cleveland’s point of attack, leading to a pretty ugly shot profile. I’ve compared this to a first drive in football, where a team has that initial drive that is scripted. The Heat are great as a scripted offense beginning halves, but when they stray, they stray away far.

#3: The Nikola Jovic timeline tracker…

As I began to dip into a second ago, we got the Jovic debut next to Adebayo, but it was much briefer than we all expected. While it was executed perfectly in that opening stretch, Haywood Highsmith entered into the game and it felt like Miami completely went away from Jovic again. At the half, on a night where Miami was very short-handed, Jovic was tied for the 6th most minutes on the roster. Yeah, it’s interesting. It feels like there are more positives than negatives with Jovic on the floor in games like this one, yet there doesn’t seem to be the same level of trust that we’re accustomed to with other guys. Same thing in the last game against Washington where they had 7 total players. We will see if it changes, but the Jovic minutes just aren’t equating with the fan-base’s perception of effectiveness right now.

#4: Injured or not at the moment, here’s the team headliner:

No need to further explain. They need more…

#5: Onto…tomorrow night?

These games have felt like Miami’s trying to get to that final buzzer by any means, as Miami’s without many of their primary guys on the roster. As the Cavs ran out a major lead in this game, I said to myself ‘well, it’s time for them to get the main guys out for tomorrow night.’ But they essentially couldn’t since they only had like three guys to sub in for them. Now Miami is less than 24 hours away from another game against Minnesota, where they will be without the same guys on the roster. And even worse, it’s another lengthy front-court with Karl Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, meaning the rebounding numbers will be wild yet again. Miami could possibly find themselves at 7-11 after tomorrow night if they can’t generate some lightning in a bottle, which seems near impossible with what we saw in this one in Cleveland. But well, onto tomorrow night…

Miami Heat X’s and O’s: The Defensive Shift

This hasn’t been the Miami Heat defense we’re accustomed to. Currently sitting 17th in defensive rating, they’re leaning heavily into the offensive side of things with this roster, which has essentially led them to a very strong 3 game win streak to get back to .500.

Yet while the box score would suggest it was all scoring, the film would tell you the opposite.

We often focus on the possessions where opposing teams draw a mismatch off a switch and get an easy bucket, making a total observation off a very small sample size. But in reality, they’re currently mixing up their scheme more than ever, and it’s giving me more hope that this team will be just fine for the time being.

We’ve seen them lean heavily into the 2-2-1 press and 2-3 zone, which off first glance makes you say: well they’re just doing that because they don’t have the personnel to guard straight up.

On some night’s that actually is the case, but the real reason for the heavy reliance is due to the Heat trying to find their defensive base in the meantime.

If you played basketball at any level from little league and up, there is always one primary principle taught when approaching a 2-3 zone: “flash middle.”

That essentially opens up and breaks the zone once the sides pinch in to the ball at the free throw line, leading to easy kick-outs for threes. But here’s the thing with the Heat defense: they don’t pinch in.

They stay home on shooters basically daring you to take that inefficient push shot in the middle of the floor time and time again. If you hit that enough to beat Miami, well then take the win.

I talked to Gabe Vincent for a bit after the Hornets game where we discussed the 2-3 zone, and I asked “is this your guys’ comfort zone now defensively?”

He responded, “Nah, everybody just struggles with it. I don’t think it’s our comfort zone, I think they just struggle with it.”

Bam Adebayo then joins in on my right: “If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.”

So I dug in a bit deeper. I asked him about that exact push shot that Miami keeps forcing within the 2-3 zone, and he said “that’s the stat guys upstairs.”

“For every organization, nobody likes that shot I guess,” he continued. “Percentage wise it’s a great shot for the defense, but for the offense it’s not as great of a shot.”

But the key point here to make is that this isn’t just a “2-3 zone” thing anymore. It’s becoming a man to man thing as well, as Miami has altered back into some of their drop coverage with Bam Adebayo. (Something I’ve been calling for a while now.)

Just take a look what Miami did to Cameron Payne in their win against the Suns:

They aren’t going to obtain this same coverage when a guy like Devin Booker is coming off a ball screen, but they will when it’s an inefficient shooter like Payne or Terry Rozier from the night’s prior.

This is a coverage that the Milwaukee Bucks have fully mastered. Since they have an elite rim protector in Brook Lopez, the ideal weak-side roamer in Giannis Antetokounmpo, and one of the best screen navigators in Jrue Holiday, they basically force one single shot as much as possible.

They shut the water off on threes and shots around the rim, forcing mid-range pull-ups all night.

And well, this is a variation of that.

Whoever is guarding the “Payne-like” handler will fight over the screen to force him downhill. Adebayo’s job is now to contain with a back-pedal, where he’s playing back to cut-off the pass or the full-out drive.

And as you saw when viewing that plethora of clips from last night, they just kept baiting them into the same shot.

You may be wondering, well what if they just begin attacking the rim relentless anyway? Well here’s what happens:

Now let me just reassure you that this isn’t a one game sample size thing. They did it in their two-game set against Charlotte as well, but we were just so focused on the fact that they almost blew the game on a night that flowed into OT.

That extra stuff disguised a major shift that we’re seeing at this moment in time. Just take a look at the shot profile in this two-game set as well:

Guys like Kelly Oubre and Terry Rozier were being forced to take shots they didn’t want to. But the bigger point here, Bam Adebayo in drop is just as elite as Bam Adebayo on switches.

Actually he may be more elite.

Yes it’s fun to watch clips of Adebayo clamping up your favorite guard or wing in isolation, but that’s not what makes him arguably the league’s best, and most versatile, defender.

The reason is because he can switch 1 through 5, back-pedal in drop, sit on the bottom box in a 2-3 zone, blitz and recover, or simply rotate at a very high level. Putting all of that stuff together is actually what gives him that label.

When I talked to Jimmy Butler post-game, he gave all of the credit to Bam “back there being an anchor on defense.” He’s the guy that they’re forming this all around, and as seen over the last three games, this shift could really be something that sticks long-term.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Suns

Simply this game was insane. If you like scoring, this was the game for you.

The 4th quarter consisted of the Suns and Heat just matching buckets, but the Heat stayed the course with Butler, Bam, and Lowry all coming up big.

Here are some takeaways…

#1: The Heat getting good bench production early on.

This has been a season for Miami where bench production as a whole isn’t the hottest topic. Although guys like Max Strus have shined when entering and Gabe Vincent has vastly improved, we’re talking about a team that is currently rolling out an 8 man rotation. But well, those three bench guys tonight were heavily responsible for the early offensive push. Vincent had 8 points, 3 assists, and 4 boards in the first half, but the bigger point was his half-court control and paint touches. He was generating great looks against a top tier Suns defense. Duncan Robinson was the recipient of that, knocking down an immediate two triples, while mixing in an in-between floater. Lastly, Dewayne Dedmon even provided some serviceable minutes. They’re not looking for anything special from him, just be neutral before Bam walks back to the scorers table, and did that early on.

#2: A substitution change from Miami.

When documenting certain trends that we see from the Heat, the substitution pattern was one of them tonight. The main thing we’re used to is Jimmy Butler playing the entire first quarter after Bam Adebayo exited first, which just basically means those two are being staggered. Yet tonight, we saw a minor shift. Max Strus and Jimmy Butler exited at the 5 minute mark, as Adebayo anchored that first quarter lineup. Then after 3 minutes, he walked back to the scorers table with Dewayne Dedmon. The only main change there is Butler played 3 stretches in the half instead of the usual two. Will find out more on that adjustment, but stood out for now.

#3: I still believe defensive creativity should be coming.

When talking about the Heat defensively, we’ve seen them withhold the switching structure for years on end. But more importantly, they’ve always had the personnel to actually do it. Now that they lack the size, we continually see smart offensive teams punish Miami down low, as the Suns did with Kyle Lowry on Deandre Ayton. But more big picture, this defense needs to lose the predictability from night to night. They may lack size, but they do obtain versatility. We’re seeing them embrace some of that with the 2-3 zone, but we still need to see more drop coverage from Bam Adebayo than a possession here or there. They will lean offense, but still need to tinker in other piles once in a while. We saw a bit of that with Dewayne Dedmon blitzing in the second half, but Booker and Ayton picked that right apart. (Which had to do with Miami’s rotations for the most part.)

#4: Heat fighting through the random scrub Heat killer trend.

The Heat have this bit where random role players seem to dominate them, but it’s been quite some time since we’ve seen it last. Yet this one came in a massive wave. Duane Washington Jr, who I put out there could’ve been an undrafted option for Miami a season ago, came out on fire. 16 points in about 5 minutes of game-time in that first half. A lot of that can relate back to my last section of defensive lapses, but it’s also just a certain player getting hot at the wrong time. Chris Paul being out meant more playing time for him, while the Heat’s defensive game-plan to start was essentially very Devin Booker driven. Giving him the Joel Embiid treatment with doubles was a sign of respect, but Washington made them pay.

#5: The Heat embraced a certain offensive style in the 4th quarter.

The Suns began to takeover to begin the 4th quarter, appearing to fully pull away. Miami couldn’t get rebounds, stops, and were looking different offensively. By different I mean not slowing things down into the half-court. For a minute there that didn’t look like a good thing. Caleb Martin was forcing on the break, and it looked like Miami ran out of gas. But after a string of stops on the defensive end, Miami was getting out and running. More importantly, with Bam Adebayo having his hands on the steering wheel. He was attacking with purpose, including a big time and-1 to cut the lead to 3 halfway through the 4th. It just kept happening over and over: finally, the Heat were letting Bam just do what he does best. Operating in the open floor with the game in the balance.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Hornets

The Miami Heat played the Charlotte Hornets again on Saturday night, but they had a new face in the fold: LaMelo Ball. Miami coming off an OT win, simultaneously including an unnecessary collapse.

Either way, they came away with a much needed win in this one as well, landing themselves only 1 game under .500. And the way the offense looked, it was a good momentum builder to say the least.

So here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Miami’s opening stint showed off some of their intentional trends.

Before I get to how some of the things transpired in the first 24 minutes of basketball, I want to discuss some of the Heat’s intentional trends walking into this game. The first one was the Bam Adebayo element. They wanted him going at Mason Plumlee in the face-up game in that high to mid post. He can’t move his feet enough to stay with him, and it just unlocks so many things when Miami begins to move and cut like they did. Plus speaking of moving, the real takeaway from the initial game-plan was their pace. They clearly wanted to push in transition a lot more against this team that likes to do the same. It definitely wasn’t sustainable, but some interesting tweaks to keep track of.

#2: Well the defense has some cleaning up to do.

Although the Heat looked pretty crisp offensively to begin this game, it didn’t seem to matter. It didn’t feel like it at the time, but the scoreboard kept portraying that buckets were just being matched. The Heat were dipping off weak-side shooters and the Hornets continued to knock down shots. To put in perspective, Charlotte shot 54% from the field in the first half. That’s just tough to deal with mentally. To stray away for a second, that’s the reason I’ve said if a starting lineup shift was to be made, the move is to swap Caleb Martin for Max Strus. If the defense generally hasn’t been up to standards anyways, why not lean all the way into offense with Butler at the 4? It splits the reps of Strus and Robinson, pairs up Martin with his defensive pressure point buddy Gabe Vincent, and gives Miami a different dynamic. But hey, I guess that discussion is for another time.

#3: Aside from specifics, consistency and sustainability are the Heat’s main needs for fixing.

Big picture when looking at the Heat’s first few games of the season, we can discuss a couple different issues that need to change. The starting 4 spot, defensive liability, three-point shooting, etc. But the overarching point is that even when those things do make an appearance, it just can’t be sustained. As I stated in my first takeaway, pace was being pushed. Then it faded. Three-point shooting was there. Then it faded. Assisted field goals were at an incredibly high rate. Then it faded. That doesn’t mean things don’t need to be fixed up from the outside to propel this, but they just need to find a way to stop getting away from the intentional game-plans. If they can find that balance of consistent effort, they would be in a much different spot. Take the third quarter for another example. Getting back to the play-book, they scored 25 points in 5 minutes. That reflects the potential of a high powered offense. Yet once again, you can’t stray from that.

#4: Max Strus continues to do things.

While storylines have been flying surrounding this Heat team to begin the year, we haven’t had the time to truly discuss an internal roster one which is Max Strus. Who has improved the most from season to season? I would give that award to Strus this season, who has been one of their more trusted and consistent players. From hitting big shot after big shot upon entering off the bench to begin the year to the all-around polishing across the board, he’s playing at an exceptional level. We can talk about that “all-around game,” but the bigger point to make is he’s taking his role and exceeding expectations. And that role is three-point shooting. One thing you can bet on: Max Strus is going to get his shot off no matter what, and that’s the type of thing this offense needs.

#5: Some minor mental notes I took from this game: X’s and O’s.

We haven’t had a game in a while where I wasn’t spamming late-game execution in the final takeaway spot, but here we are. Instead, I want to just throw out some mental notes I took from this game on the X’s and O’s side. The first one includes the incredible movement we saw from the offense tonight, but more specifically Jimmy Butler. He’s never really a high usage cutter or mover in this Heat offense, but well, he was tonight. And that is the exact key to making the Tyler Herro starting lineup thing work. The second thing I noticed was more Bam Adebayo in drop. A trend that should not be a momentary thing. It works at a high level with his versatility, without shooting yourself in the foot with a smaller roster. The last thing I fed into a bit already, but this team is better scripted. Like a quarter back on that initial drive, this team operates better with structure. Tyler Herro sometimes makes those problems look smaller when he’s cooking, but staying with the game-plan will be a staple for me all year.

Five Takeaways from the Heat Escaping Charlotte

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.