Tag Archive for: Bam Adebayo

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Spurs

Prior to the Spurs last win against Houston, they lost 11 games in a row.

Now walking into the Heat’s arena, a clutch game was almost too predictable.

Some takeaways from another bad loss…

#1: A different substitution pattern seen early in this one…

Substitution patterns have been all over the place this year, mostly since the roster has been all over the place. Now with a mostly healthy roster, the expectation is to mostly mirror Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo, then Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry. At least that was the usual focus. Yet tonight, we saw Herro and Caleb Martin exit early for Max Strus and Victor Oladipo, which pretty much meant there was a large portion of time shortly after where Lowry, Butler, and Bam were all on the bench simultaneously. Yeah, that’s a lot on Herro to try and make work, especially with the roller he has to work with. Just keeping track of this stuff along the way, but this is a trend that I don’t expect to stick by any means.

#2: Jimmy Butler channeling scorer Jimmy Butler early on, even when he doesn’t want to.

In games like this one against the Spurs, Butler usually loves to sit back and play play-maker. It’s what we saw in that Grizzlies game in Memphis, as he wasn’t aggressive at all and the Heat couldn’t keep up at all. Yet as the Heat began to tail off again in that second quarter, Butler began doing what he does best. Pick and roll, mid-range bucket. Pick and roll, hard drive. Pick and roll, foul. Rinse. Repeat. There’s no doubt at all that he can score with the best of them, but that’s just not his style (unless it’s playoff time). It’s always good to see Butler dominate in that inside the arc range just as a healthy reminder, but we seriously shouldn’t need to see that in a game like this against the Spurs.

#3: All eyes on the point of attack defense.

The Spurs led by 2 at the half, and there were a mixture of things that led to that result. But I’d say by far the biggest element was the way the Spurs were able to walk right into the paint, time and time again. They were up to 36 paint points at the half, while shooting 18 of 22 in that area. So, what’s leading to that? This takes me right to the point of attack, since this has been another one of those common trends that just can’t occur. It’s one of the reasons the Heat have sat in zone, since teams seem to burst right by that initial line of defense when in man. The Spurs were sending cross screens and curls at Miami the entire half, and the Heat just couldn’t keep up. It hurts even more when Bam is not on the floor covering it up down low, but that’s another issue in its own right. Needs to be patched.

#4: Tyler Herro gets hot from deep, but more important, he’s reactionary.

Herro had a great start to this game, since it seemed like his attacks were timely and on point, while providing a bit of the necessary pressure. Fast forward to the third quarter, he scored in a much different approach, which simply consisted of getting hot from three. The first two triples of the quarter came from Adebayo kicking out following a paint touch, as Herro capitalized. But shortly after, then it turned into stepping into the pull-up. But more importantly, it was a reactionary process. Defender goes under off a Butler screen, he pulls and knocks it down. Same thing a few possessions later, they go under and Herro knocks it down. Interesting choice when a guy gets hot like that, but a good sign to see Herro read that in real time.

#5: The back-up 5 convo.

We often hear about finding the perfect 4 or 5 next to Bam, but how about we direct our attention to the perfect 5 behind* Bam. We’ve talked before about how things plummet when Bam Adebayo exits, and the entire goal is to stay as close to neutral as possible. But well, the Dewayne Dedmon usage just continues to be more and more interesting. He was 1 for 8 in this game, while shooting up 3 triples, which just stalls out the offense for large pockets of the night. The Heat weren’t expecting this to be the front-court rotation entering the year, but the injury of Omer Yurtseven forced them into this. Just remember: when talking trades, an extra piece in the trade for back-up big will be a major addition.

Jimmy Butler-Bam Adebayo Two-Man Game: Finding a Base

After a much needed win at home against the Clippers, the Heat showed off the ultimate blueprint with Bam Adebayo leading the way as the offensive force, while Jimmy Butler closed it out late when most needed.

But more importantly, they did it together.

While these two top guys have showed they can make late playoff runs together as the primary threats, the two-man game just has never seemed to click.

Defenders go under on the Butler screen, playing a lot more 2-on-2, compared to the usual 2-on-1 seen within a pick and roll like Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo.

There also falls a lot of weight on the pull-up jumper of Jimmy Butler, which is never a regular season reliable factor.

But against the Clippers, it almost seemed like the Heat found a very minor trend that shifted the looks they would get out of that action. Yes, it helps that you were getting aggressive Adebayo. Yes, it helps that after Butler missed his first two shots of the game, he didn’t miss the rest of the night. But still, there was a moment of realization.

Take a look at this possession as an example. Marcus Morris fights over the screen and stays right at the hip of Butler in an empty corner PnR. As I stated before, they aren’t playing in space, since it’s a 2-on-2 match inside the arc at this point.

He hits Bam in the pocket for the contested floater, which bounces off the front of the rim.

What was the main problem? Well, go back and watch the speed that Bam slips out of that screen.

While it’s clear that the quick burst and speedy roll fits the style of a Herro or Lowry PnR, that is mst definitely not the case when Butler is head of the action. He’s more methodical, reactionary, and slow-paced.

Not holding that screen a second longer just throws off the entire two-man pairing on this possession. So, let me show what that actually looks like…

Same set-up. Bam gives the hand-off to Butler, who reverses back into an empty corner PnR. Paul George begins to fight over the screen in similar fashion, except Bam just holds positioning for that extra second.

That’s big time.

Butler loops around baseline, basically forcing Zubac to fly up at him which pulls him out of position. Gives a slight pump-fake, Bam dives down the right slot, and it’s an easy feed for the Bam dunk.

We can talk chemistry. We can talk skill-set. We can talk coverages. But I’m serious: it is all about the timing when it comes to this pairing.

While this is the blueprint against a deep drop, there are also new counters to switching. Going back to that recent game against the Celtics in Boston, both Adebayo and Butler found real comfort off those switches in different ways.

Butler spammed the Al Horford switch late in that game to close it out, but Adebayo was also sealing off the smaller wing player as seen in the clip above.

After the switch occurs, Butler immediately stops in his tracks to point at Bam to post-up for the entry pass. He catches it, faces up, and turns into a strong drive to draw the foul, which was a crucial play in that game under a minute to go in overtime.

But to further my point on the Butler-Bam connection rising, go back and watch that clip again. But don’t watch Bam this time on the catch, just keep your eyes on Butler.

As soon as Bam gets in position to burst down the lane, Butler sprints back out to clear-out Horford from providing weak-side help. These are the needed elements to make this Heat offense work so smoothly.

While we talk so often about how elite the Herro-Bam PnR has consistently been since the middle of the season last year, would you believe me if I told you the Butler-Bam PnR has been better statistically this year?

Of course the Herro-Bam pairing almost doubles the volume of Butler and Bam, but the point still stands: Herro-Bam PnR puts up 1.25 points per possession, while the Butler-Bam PnR is putting up 1.28 PPP.

This isn’t to overly analyze and compare these two, but it really showcases just how efficient these guys have been in that set. By far the best we’ve seen since Butler landed in Miami a few seasons ago.

Since we’re talking specifics, we’ve also seen a new set Miami has been getting to, trying to maximize Butler and Bam together when one of them is not in the action.

Let’s start with last night (looking at the clip above): Butler clears to the dunker spot as Herro and Bam ease into a normal PnR. Herro feeds it to Bam right in the pocket, which looks like his go-to jumper is making a return yet again, right?

Wrong.

Butler notices George overly-orchestrating on the weak-side, as he flips dunker spots and Bam hits him for the easy push shot at the rim.

You may be thinking: this isn’t a planned thing, that’s just a coincidental play with the defense falling asleep. So let’s back it up a game further:

Heat open the second half in Memphis with the need to create some positive offense. It was a night where Butler was no where near aggressive, so they run this immediately.

Ball in the hands of Bam, Butler sets a pin-down for Herro to fly off, as Lowry loops into a back-screen for Butler to drift baseline.

Bam is baiting the defense left already, as he hits Butler for the easy baseline fadeaway. Once again, this is all the intention to try and keep Bam in the action as much as possible, while forcing Butler into that dunker spot roaming mode.

But it doesn’t stop here, let’s go back even further:

Now we’re back to the Boston game. Under a minute to go in regulation, Lowry and Bam run a pick and roll. Butler yet again notices Grant Williams fall asleep as he stations in the dunker spot, before flipping his spot again for the easy floater at the rim.

The exact play from the Clippers game that I showed previously.

They’re finding ways to not only maximize Butler and Adebayo within the action, but also finding some actions that don’t simply leave one of the two stars in spot-up mode.

In terms of this Heat team as a whole right now, they need a lot more from their role players/bench to truly push forward into more wins in this regular season.

But the Heat’s top guys finding a way to balance each other in the half-court together: that’s a development that was not expected by any means.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Clippers

The Miami Heat get a much needed win against the LA Clippers, behind a top heavy night from the Heat roster.

Big offensive night from Bam Adebayo, timely shots from Jimmy Butler throughout, and big runs from Caleb Martin and Tyler Herro.

Some takeaways…

#1: Caleb Martin: the Heat’s early offensive savior.

The Heat’s first quarter was an absolute disaster in the half-court. If your name wasn’t Jimmy Butler, they shot 4 of 18 from the field through the first 12 minutes. So how did they end up shooting 64% (14 for 22) the next quarter? The answer is Caleb Martin. The early Heat game-plan was to acquire some paint points, but nothing was shifting the defense. Martin ended up getting some shot creation involved early in the second, giving an immediate spark. That turned into some rhythm from deep, knocking down 4 of 5 threes in the quarter, which one didn’t count since he stepped out of bounds. This season hasn’t had many ups, but Caleb Martin has been one.

#2: Bam Adebayo’s needed shot profile.

As I noted over a recent stretch, Bam Adebayo has found his go-to shot. A face-up into a pull-up jumper a few feet from the basket. But while that should be his go-to when nothing else is being generated, it shouldn’t be his consistent base. What should be that shot profile base, you may ask? Well, it’s most definitely the strong attacks to the basket. When he puts his head down and flies toward the rim, that just puts the defense in such a tough spot. Late rotations, in the mix for a simple foul, or just strict dominance. I still love that go-to jumper that he’s unlocked along the way, but the way to maximize that headliner is to prepare it by the attacking game.

#3: An intriguing lineup to monitor…

As this is “solution time,” as Bam Adebayo proclaimed it after the loss to the Detroit Pistons, let me present something that provided a solution in the first half. I already documented the rough start and Martin spark, but he wasn’t out there alone. The lineup of Herro-Oladipo-Strus-Martin-Adebayo did some very good things, as it has a wide variety of skill-sets, which they’re not tripping over each other in the half-court. A shooter (if he’s hitting or not), two primary shot creators, and two guys who can defend while providing the occasional offensive burst. When healthy, this also allows the Butler-Lowry minutes to paired more often, which is usually the goal. Keep an eye on this lineup, since they’re going to get back to this a lot…

#4: Wait, one more thing on Bam: defenses are doubling him on the catch……

While I discuss Bam’s altered approach to get to the basket more often, that’s more projecting in general. But what needs to be discussed is that he’s being doubled in that mid-post consistently off the catch. This has been for a few weeks, but it’s just creeping up more and more. Him finding counters to it are already developing, since somebody that skilled with that type of passing ability basically has built in counters. A play in the third quarter stood out though: they flew a double at him, he retreated out almost like he was going to run a hand-off, then reversed back into an attack for the lay-in. This is a major plus to the offense…for many different reasons.

#5: Another late-game walk-through…

Halfway through the 4th quarter, the Heat continue into a Butler-Bam two-man spam. A Bam floater is the outcome, putting him up to 31 points on the night. Heat send a double at Paul George on the other end to force him into a turnover, which Miami was getting comfortable doing late. On the other end, Jimmy Butler drives and dishes to Max Strus in the corner for three, really giving the Heat some life. Miami continued to put two on the ball in most circumstances the next few possessions, really coming as a surprise to the Clippers. Jimmy Butler took over really late in the quarter in that mid to low post, just choosing his switch. Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard each getting reps for Butler’s turnaround. Clippers matched some buckets shortly after to force a run of their own, but Butler countered again with a wild step back baseline jumper. The Heat close out a much needed win at home.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Pistons

And it gets worse.

The Heat fall to the Pistons at home, following up their worst loss of the season…with this.

I dive into game specifics here, good and bad, but this game means so much more than X’s and O’s.

But anyways, some takeaways:

#1: Tyler Herro’s perfect first half.

21 points, 7 for 7 from the field, 2 for 2 from three, 5 for 5 from the line. That was the stat-line for Tyler Herro at the half, on a night where he felt like the one and only engine in the half-court. He was getting into his bag a good bit, finding some baseline turnarounds, quick crossovers (that made Bogdanovic fall), and hitting the pull-up consistently. But more importantly, he was doing all of this at a very controlled pace. Slowly trotting through the lane into the floater may be a product of this Pistons’ defense, but it also showcases his growth. His scoring is finding that rhythm once again, after he eased back with early play-making over that specific stretch.

#2: Kyle Lowry words are necessary: about a very certain skill.

While we’ve been glued to watching the zone defense for a good bit, switching is still naturally their base. I know many of you guys scream at your screen when seeing a Heat guard on the back of an opposing big, since that was a trend for a while. But if that Heat guard is Kyle Lowry, hold your anger. I simply haven’t seen anything like Kyle Lowry’s post feel, no matter if he’s fronting or just guarding straight up. He knows the timing of when to spin into fronting position, but he’s also strong enough to hold off that offensive player before the help comes. He ended up with 5 steals at the half, and it was basically surrounded by this exact iteration. A serious skill.

#3: The bench still being routed in the scoring column.

If you looked at the box score at the half tonight, you would see a lot of minuses on the Heat’s bench and a bunch of pluses on the Pistons’ bench. To put into simpler terms, the Heat had 1 made field goal at the half from their reserves. Yes it may be a different look in the bench unit with Nikola Jovic filling for Dewayne Dedmon, Victor Oladipo coming back, and Duncan Robinson getting minutes, but the point remains the same. As much as I talk about Herro being the engine, they need to get back to that reliance on “depth,” especially with Butler and Lowry’s expected time off. When things go back to normal, that’ll be a lot on Gabe Vincent and Max Strus to truly grab a hold of. And well, Victor Oladipo now too…

#4: Victor Oladipo’s debut.

Victor Oladipo is back…again. It feels like we’ve had the “debut” quick a few times over his three season tenure, but that’s because we have. As he entered tonight, we quickly saw something Erik Spoelstra wanted to get an immediate eye on: the ball pressure. They vastly fell right into the 2-2-1 press, which backed into the 2-3 zone, per usual. To be honest, I would’ve liked to see more of a switching look when he was out there, just because I’m interested in how the one-on-one stuff looks exactly, but I guess we will save that for another time. He definitely wasn’t pressing too much offensively early, since it was a lot of direct drives and spot-up standing, but we saw an uptick in the 4th with those two exact elements. Pretty typical opening game, since some rust was expected.

#5: Rock bottom?

After proclaiming a horrible loss in Memphis by far the worst loss of the season for the Heat, they follow that up with this performance on the second night of a back to back against the Detroit Pistons. Zone, man, whatever. This transcends X’s and O’s at the moment. They just don’t have the energy on nights like this that is necessary. Last year when undermanned, this team played with max urgency when the team wasn’t even in a position to panic. Now the defense is leaking everywhere without containment, and the offense just doesn’t have anything to give if it’s not a Tyler Herro-Bam Adebayo led set. This team clearly has issues right now. And there’s not one singular thing to point your finger at.

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…