Tag Archive for: Bam Adebayo

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Suns

The Miami Heat faced the Phoenix Suns in a potential Finals preview on Wednesday night, and it didn’t go as planned.

Suns without Chris Paul, Heat without Jimmy Butler. There were some key advantages in Phoenix’s favor through this matchup tonight, and that starts and ends with size.

Plus Miami couldn’t counter that with offensive firepower, since missing Butler meant a total absence of attacks and rim pressure.

Anyway, let’s get into that a bit more…

#1: The Duncan Robinson-PJ Tucker offensive combination.

Watching Duncan Robinson explode for an immediate 3 triples to start this game, and 5 in the first half, definitely leaves you with some positive opinions on the shooting of Robinson. But how was he getting those looks? Some of Kyle Lowry as he glided to 5 assists in about 5 minutes of play, but the answer is PJ Tucker. Last season, it felt like Robinson had to be glued to Bam Adebayo to be effective with that DHO. A pretty great development has been that Adebayo doesn’t have to worry about it as often, since Tucker has it covered. If Robinson has an open corner look, it’s because Tucker is setting a hard hammer screen. If Robinson is dominating against drop, Tucker is laying out that single perimeter defender. Robinson was shooting that thing with confidence and deserves a ton of credit, but Tucker is so crucial for his offensive success.

#2: The Suns interior force in the first half.

To simplify this down to 24 minutes of basketball, as great of a start that the Heat had, how did the Suns just immediately storm back from that? Well, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges came out aggressive offensively for different reasons. Ayton found the openings on Miami’s planned defensive agenda in Booker-Ayton PnR’s, leading to quick slips for interior dominance. Bridges on the other hand had some favorable match-ups with Miami going small for long spurts. Bridges may not be a post-up guy, but that mid-range jumper over a smaller defender was becoming a staple. And of course, the Heat were losing the rebounding battle 27 to 15. Some of that was the product of Adebayo switching out to the perimeter, but a lot of it was back-up board dominance from JaVale McGee over Dewayne Dedmon. These two teams have similarities, but there are also major differences. That is one of them.

#3: Some minor evaluations on both sides of the ball.

Once again, there always has to be a segment to discuss some small elements that I noticed from the Heat. The first part of that included Miami’s 2-3 zone, and that relates back to Monday against Houston as well. When that zone has been utilized, the top of it doesn’t look so familiar. What used to be headlined by Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin, who exited tonight’s game with a left knee injury, quickly shifted to Tyler Herro and Martin at the top as Victor Oladipo slotted into the lower box. Back to the offensive side of the ball, we saw the advantages in certain Heat sets. This team can trail you on the ball at a high level, meaning off-ball movement is the only way to score at a high level. For example, the Robinson shooting, that one Oladipo cut and lay-in, etc. But as soon as Miami got in some post split reps, we saw higher effective offense. Obviously you don’t throw everything out there at once, but in a potential Heat-Suns finals (?) that’ll be seen frequently.

#4: The back-up four question marks put on blast.

Caleb Martin came out in this game exactly like he has in every big game this year. Absolutely everywhere on both ends, as I tweeted in the second quarter. But as he came down on the left knee, ending his night early, that same question came right back up about this roster. Their depth may be a major part of this team’s identity, but as Martin exited, that was a blaring hole on this team. Markieff Morris has been that looming piece all year, and who knows what his role would even be when he did return, but that’s the task. Martin has locked up that job, but they’re one injury away from being very thin in the front-court, specifically with size. So a Morris return would actually be quite helpful in the long run.

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#5: The importance of Jimmy Butler’s rim pressure.

This isn’t one of those things where you focus on the guy that’s missing in a team’s loss, even though it may seem that way. In actuality, it’s focusing on a player that receives some unfair criticism when broadening things to a big picture sense. Watching this Heat offense tonight without Butler, and more specifically that starting unit, one thing was more clear than anything else: Jimmy Butler *is* this team’s rim pressure. It’s one thing to bring up free throw attempts and pace dictating, but it’s another thing when they don’t have those initial paint touches to trigger all of the other actions. I brought up earlier that off-ball movement is the exploitable area here, but the only way to get a Suns defense in a frenzy is to pull them away from shooters on the initial attack. It may be as simple as they missed Butler in this one,  but the interior forces and rebounding numbers were probably happening either way.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Rockets

The Miami Heat played the Houston Rockets on Monday night, but that wasn’t the important headline.

It was Dipo Day.

In Victor Oladipo’s return, it started out a bit rocky for the team, but nothing was rocky about Dipo’s composure on both ends in this debut.

Anyway, here are some takeaways from Heat’s win over Houston…

#1: There are rhythm players. And then there’s Tyler Herro.

On Dipo day, Tyler Herro quickly seemed to turn the second quarter into Tyler time. 8 of 9 from the field. 5 of 6 from three. 21 points. Those were just the stats from the second quarter if you are wondering. We saw a continuation of Herro’s recent PnR on-ball surge, where he kept getting by that initial defender and began to make plays. Not many players were making plays around him, so he took it upon himself. Began attacking the drop defender, drawing two defenders regularly, yet continuing to prance into pull-up jumpers or simple swings and relocations. But the key there is “relocation.” As the increased number of bodies begin to rotate over to him on the ball, it opens up his off-ball game. He can move without the ball and make defenses pay. Plus, aside from the X’s and O’s, he’s just the rhythm player of all rhythm players.

#2: Houston’s shot making providing early problems.

Looking across the Rockets’ roster tonight, guys like Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr popped due to their high level shot making ability and freedom to get plenty of shots up. Green opened up that dialogue by knocking down an early 4 threes, which should be said weren’t easy shots. The Heat were doing the thing where PJ Tucker would switch onto the big as Bam Adebayo switched onto Green or Porter, leaving them with a tough shot each possession. The issue was that when that switch wasn’t made, and he was pulled away from the possession, Miami’s rotations weren’t there. That was kind of expected, as this team is the anti-Bulls. They play their game against high level competition, but play down to teams like the Rockets. That’s what happens after a tough gauntlet of a week, but should be noted in terms of game flow.

#3: Jimmy Butler doing Jimmy Butler things early.

If it wasn’t for Tyler Herro going absolutely nuclear in that second quarter, Jimmy Butler’s name would be thrown around much more often in that first half. Herro settled them and gave Miami that much needed boost, but Butler was consistently himself, which is all they need. He was finishing well around the rim, but more importantly, he was getting to the line per usual. To tie these two guys together a bit, as they combined for 39 in the first half, we saw some empty corner PnR’s between the two. The reason that’s important is they were adjusting to what was happening. Herro was placing major pressure on the Rockets defense, meaning an empty corner eliminates strong side help. And with Butler looking strong on the interior, using him as a roller in space is useful. When Butler’s post efficient and getting to the line, that’s all you need.

#4: The Miami Heat’s interesting rotation questions.

As Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo return on the same night, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus get caught watching on the sideline as Erik Spoelstra rolls out a nine man rotation. I feel like that was an expected element to all of this, partly in preparation for the post-season. The way I’ve come down on the whole process is Caleb Martin is the true lock to the bottom half of the rotation, due to his big moments late in games and overall length he provides defensively. With that said, Vincent and Strus, but Vincent more specifically, are the sparks on either end when needed. If the point of attack has some holes that needs to be patched, Vincent enters. If the team needs some type of scoring guard play in light of a rough night for Herro or Dipo, Vincent enters. If it’s a rough go for Duncan Robinson, enter Max Strus potentially. As great as Vincent has been, situational sparks may be their late playoff role. But in terms of the regular season, guys will be in and out, meaning he will still have plenty of minutes, and even a few starts.

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#5: Oh yeah, Victor Oladipo is back.

So the highly anticipated return of Victor Oladipo is upon us, and well, I’d say it went well. Before dissecting what was seen, it should be said that I’ve been saying for some time that the defensive end should be the area to watch instead of the potential rust offensively. With that said, that was my initial observation. Aside from the two charges drawn, he really looked sound on that end from the jump. He doesn’t give up any ground 1-on-1, and more importantly, he’s not a guy that derives strictly off speed. He’s a guy that uses his body to his advantage, and knows how to keep that ball in front of him. On the other side of the ball, there were clearly moments. He had an early corner triple, a nice 1-on-1 drive off the attack a bit later for a right handed scoop, and a fourth quarter hesitation and burst in the PnR for an explosive dunk. It’s only game one, and things will evolve, but that entry level defensive showing is a very important element.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over 76ers

The Miami Heat faced the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night, and a relatively healthy group without Kyle Lowry took care of business.

Zone defenses were a highlight element of this one, but as Philly edged back late, Caleb Martin came up big time on both ends, completely shifting the feel of the game.

Anyway, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Once again, Miami simply loves inside the arc offenses, and it relies on two specific things.

When evaluating this Heat defense against this Philadelphia 76ers offense, we didn’t get the true full look. The reason is that although I’ve been saying Miami can excel against this offense for this very reason, James Harden changes things clearly. But well, it was shown tonight why it falls in Miami’s favor. For one, the one-on-one match-ups are clear, which is that PJ Tucker will guard Harden, as he did against Tyrese Maxey tonight, as Bam Adebayo sticks Joel Embiid. They do that to predict the switch, which is winnable on both ends. If they attack Tucker with Embiid on the block, that second defender is coming. Then a third. When watching this plan that we all expected play out, the obvious thing that sticks out is the swarming group in Embiid’s face. But what makes that all possible is the back-side rotations, due to the fact they can afford to fully double and leave their individual assignment. That’s the difference with this group.

#2: The three-point element, but more importantly, the Duncan Robinson element.

The Heat started out pretty hot from beyond the arc, while the 76ers began in just the opposite fashion. Six different Heat players knocked down at least one three in that first half, but it’s more about how they’re generated. Hence, the Duncan Robinson element. With Joel Embiid planted in that deep drop, it’s single coverage for a hand-off guy/screener and the movement shooter. So when that pairing is Adebayo and Robinson, it just comes down to the elimination of the defender on that individual shooter. That means it all comes down to Robinson hitting the shots that he has hit so consistently across his Heat career. We don’t know how seeding will shape out, but Robinson would be absolutely essential to set them apart in this Philly match-up. If he causes the 76ers to shift their defensive base, point Miami.

#3: Jimmy Butler returns in attack mode.

Jimmy Butler’s 14 point first half tonight was a bit surprising since it came in the natural flow of the offense. That number might’ve shocked some when reading it at the half, and that’s when Butler is most impactful. He combined the two elements that shifts his offensive outlook: efficient scoring at the rim and free throw shooting. He got to the line 6 times in the first 24 minutes, and that is another key aspect in this potential series with the pace setting Embiid and Harden with getting to the line. But if this Heat team is going to try and capitalize on elite defense on the other end, while neutralizing Embiid and the 76ers strong attack on the boards, efficient nights at the rim are important. The bunnies were dropping, he was getting to his spots, and like I said, these weren’t isolations. It was coming naturally within the offense.

#4: The Heat’s need to dissect what they’ve mastered: 2-3 zone edition.

We’ve spent a lot of time of talking about the Miami Heat and the 2-3 zone, but not in this specific manner. They’ve mastered it themselves, but tonight, the Philadelphia 76ers threw it right at Miami to see how they’d react, which wasn’t well. Miami likes to edge up the guys on the box in their zone, as Philly elects to rise up their man in the middle. It mucks up that middle of the floor entry pass, and forces you to make quick decisions. For the first 6 minutes of the third, it was clear they had no willing zone buster on the floor. Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler splitting reps in that spot of the floor, but neither would take that willing mid-range jumper. And if you don’t take that, every other option on the floor is restricted. Which speaking of restricted, that essentially ties PJ Tucker’s hands behind his back offensively. The only willing zone buster was Tyler Herro, as he continued to attack and split the front two, as he flowed into that coveted floater. But to force Philly, or any teams, out of it, you have to capitalize on that middle of the floor option.

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#5: A Heat lineup to keep in mind.

There’s a lineup that has stuck out for quite some time, and it’s probably not one you’d expect. A bench lineup of Gabe Vincent-Tyler Herro-Max Strus-Caleb Martin-Dewayne Dedmon has provided a clear spark when healthy, but one shift within that lineup has been even more flexible. With Bam Adebayo exiting earlier, he then enters for Dedmon for a pretty versatile and young group. It’s a perfect combination of shooting and defense, and gives the veteran group a healthy breather. Tonight, we saw both of those variation for a decent amount of the fourth quarter, and they cracked the code on Philly’s defense for stretches. That has a lot to do with Herro doing Herro things, but even Vincent bailed them out possession after possession. Victor Oladipo could potentially plug into that spark lineup, but it’s something to keep in mind for now.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Nets

The Miami Heat were in a similar position tonight as they were last, as they were sitting with a 12 point lead with 4 minutes left, yet the Nets stormed back.

Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro stood strong to hold them off on a terrific night for each of them.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: The process to try and stop the unstoppable Kevin Durant.

When heading into return night for Kevin Durant without Jimmy Butler and PJ Tucker, it’s clear that it is going to be a challenge. The early idea was to place Bam Adebayo on him immediately, while starting Omer Yurtseven at the 5 next to him. But as we know, it really doesn’t matter who you throw at him because he will get into his shot no matter the contest. Then we saw him hunting some switches, which just puts so much pressure on a Heat defense. When guys like Tyler Herro find themselves in space, Miami was forced to send that double across, which most of the time was Caleb Martin. The issue with that is you have the rely heavily on rotations on a night where you aren’t able to play your best defensive 5, leading to hot streaks from Patty Mills and others.

#2: The Heat’s free throw line antics keeping them alive.

After the Heat only got to the line 12 times a night ago in Milwaukee, they tied a season high with 21 first half attempts tonight in Brooklyn. When looking at this team on paper in this game, then watching them play in real time, the big key was that they did not have enough attackers out there to provide that rim pressure. That also limits space that shooters are getting on the perimeter. That’s where Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro entered. They were the only ball-handlers who could truly provide that, and they added 13 of the 21 first half trips to the line. I truly believe Jimmy Butler would be huge in a potential Nets series, and that has a lot to do with the ability to switch smaller guys onto him and getting to the line without true rim protection on that back-line. But tonight, drawing fouls kept them above water.

#3: Caleb Martin: a lock in a potential Nets playoff series.

Speaking of a potential playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets, one specific player jumped off the screen today as the perfect rotation piece for that match-up: Caleb Martin. That was even before he provided big time offensive energy in that first half for increased scoring and pace. The reasoning has a lot to do with the guard firepower off that Nets bench. When looking at Patty Mills and Cam Thomas, Martin is the perfect bench piece to enter with Herro to hound those talented scoring guards. Obviously there’s a lot that could change with possible Heat rotations by that time, but for now, that’s a pretty obvious baseline to lay down. And if he can provide the stuff he showcased offensively tonight, it’ll definitely be tough to look away from him.

#4: This is the match-up for Bam Adebayo…clearly.

We’ve seen Bam Adebayo put points up in this building before, as he glided to a 41 point night in there last year. But he picked right back up where he left off tonight. It was clear from the jump that this match-up really favors him schematically. With the spacing around him due to constant shooting, combined with this Nets defense having a perimeter base, pocket passes are there all game. Meaning: Bam Adebayo is there all game. Aside from that schematic element, the fact that Andre Drummond is his 1-on-1 match-up on most face-ups speaks volume, and tells him that it’s go time. When Adebayo is flying to the rim like he was in this one, you can see why he’s so special. But it just comes down to the consistent trust to run offense through him completely, more specifically on isolations.

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#5: The Duncan Robinson-Max Strus dynamic tonight.

When looking at this game big picture, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro are definitely the story-lines. But a major element of this game was the Duncan Robinson and Max Strus dynamic, and they weren’t for the same reasons. Strus simply caught fire in that third quarter, providing a huge boost for this group who struggled hitting from deep tonight. Robinson, on the other hand, was one of those “struggling from deep” in this one. Yet, he still impacted the game in quite some fashion, and that was through his passing. As I said before, this is a Nets defense that focuses heavily on perimeter related stuff, meaning Robinson continued to see two in his face. Pocket passes were made for Adebayo runways, but that wasn’t all. He was getting into the lane a bit, which led to a big play in the third where he threw a two handed kick-out to the opposite corner for a Strus 3. That combo was huge, but clearly for different reasons.

 

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Bam’s Leap: A Statistical Look into Bam Adebayo’s Impressive Month of February

Before the month of February, Bam Adebayo was objectively having his worst season as a starter in the NBA. All numbers were down and efficiency was easily the lowest it’s ever been. While some pointed to simple regression, the reasoning behind this drop-off was largely related to a massive and necessary role change for Adebayo. The addition of Kyle Lowry meant Adebayo needed to change from “play initiator” to “play-finisher”, a crucial piece of development for the Miami Heat’s championship title aspirations.

 

Since the calendar hit February, Adebayo has learned to thrive in the role of a play-finisher, while simultaneously being the best defender on the planet. Looking back on Adebayo’s last month of basketball being played, it’s completely fair for Heat fans to wonder “are we seeing a real leap from Bam Adebayo?” Let’s dive into some of the numbers from the best month of Adebayo’s career: 

 

Bam’s offense going downhill….  is a good thing? 

To this juncture in his career, Adebayo’s Achilles heel as a face-up scorer had been his inability to get downhill consistently off the dribble. The Heat could mismatch hunt to find a favorable matchup for Adebayo but the aggression necessary to get all the way to the rim was not there. After being hardwired to create easy looks for others, Adebayo seems to have made it through the natural adjustment period to understand that it is OK to create easy looks for himself. 

 

The change in disposition (S/o Ariel Attias) when driving to the basket should not be something that’s quantifiable as Adebayo has never been a high-volume rim pressure guy with the ball in his own hands, however; the numbers show a staggering difference when Adebayo would attempt to go to the rim on his own in the month of February: 

 

 

In the chart shown above you will see Bam Adebayo’s February stats in blue and his Pre-February stats in orange. In his 11 games played in the month of February Adebayo showed an increase in these driving stats relative to his performance before the injury: Drives (+.7), Field Goals Made (+.5), Field Goals Attempted (+.6), Free Throws made (+.8), Free throws Attempted (+1) , Points (+1,8), Points Per Drive (+.33) and saw a decrease in Passes (-.4) and turnover % (-4.6%). While the volume of those numbers doesn’t pop off the screen, it is important to understand the picture that the numbers paint: Bam Adebayo is now going to the rim with the exclusive intention of scoring the basketball. A massive development for Adebayo to be able to anchor non-Jimmy Butler lineups on both ends of the floor. 

 

Where is all the efficiency coming from? 

 

Over the first 26 games leading up to the month of February, Bam Adebayo had been shooting 12.8 shots per game on 51.2% efficiency. Over the 11 games of February, Adebayo averaged 15 shots per game on 57.6% efficiency. An increase in volume typically tends to lead to a decrease in efficiency, for Adebayo it has done the opposite, why? 

 

The simple answer, Adebayo isn’t just adding more shots, he’s adding the right kind of shots. Adebayo’s increase in field goal attempt volume is coming exclusively from within 5 feet of the basket. 1.9 of his 2.2 “new” shots each game are either layups or dunks, with the other .3 coming on hook shots. The most exciting part about this increase is Adebayo is creating more of these looks on his own. Before February, Adebayo was unassisted on 21% of his dunks and 48% of his layups. During February, Adebayo was unassisted on 31% of his dunks and 50% of his layups. 

 

Adding the right kind of shots is important. Being able to create the right shots at will and doing it consistently shows a concerted effort to eliminate all variables except the most important person in the equation: Bam Adebayo. It doesn’t matter who he shares the floor with, this newly adopted “flat-out scorer” mindset is exactly what this Heat team needs. 

 

A leap on defense? 

 

Anyone who has watched the Miami Heat play basketball over the last 3 seasons would be able to tell you Bam Adebayo has been a great defender. Is it possible that the All-NBA defender could be even better? There aren’t many statistics to quantify the impact that Adebayo has on the defensive end, however; seeing Adebayo have the 4th most Stocks (Steals + Blocks) in the month of February will help bolster his DPOY candidacy in a major way. The Heat’s ability to force teams into contested jump shots as opposed to rim attempts has been detrimental to Adebayo’s individual statistics, but his improvement as a weak-side help defender has helped him overcome this obstacle and still take the “statistical” leap from a second team All-Defense defender to one the media can’t deny for the DPOY award. 

 

FAQ’s on Bam’s month of February

While Adebayo played a near perfect month of basketball, the inevitable questions will be asked: Is this sustainable? How does this affect the Heat’s playoff outlook? Where else can Bam improve? 

 

Let’s answer those questions: 

 

Is this sustainable? 

Yes. There will be fluctuation from a scoring perspective on a nightly basis but what Adebayo has done isn’t relying on some sort of irreplicable jump shooting efficiency (He’s actually struggling as a jump shooter), he’s simply putting his head down and using his athletic gifts more consistently. It’s completely possible, and in my opinion quite likely, that Bam Adebayo averages 20 points per game over the remaining portion of the season.

 

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How does this affect the Heat’s playoff outlook?

The recipe for slowing down the Heat over the last few years has been to put an athletic big on Jimmy Butler in hopes of making anyone else beat you from the Heat’s roster. Previously teams could get away with stuffing a smaller, quicker defender on Bam Adebayo but that *might* be a thing of the past. If Adebayo can sustain some self-created offense against mismatches, this will force teams to choose which of the Heat’s stars they wish to slow down, and there may never be a right answer. Until the jump shooting normalizes for Adebayo, beating drop coverage remains a question mark but Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro and crew have shown the ability to beat it when necessary. 

 

Where else can Bam improve? 

The toughest dynamic to figure out is the Heat’s late game offense with a healthy Miami Heat team. There is an overreliance on Jimmy Butler and a shocking lack of Bam Adebayo. Whether it is by design or not, there needs to be a shift in the team’s process when the game slows down. Adebayo’s continued struggles from mid-range (29.2 during February) and his overall lack of volume as a pick-and-pop big (10 attempts over last 11 games) have paved the way for the smaller role in clutch moments, but can also be the reason for the Heat having a big turnaround in late game offense. 

 

These two facets of offense were Adebayo’s strength in the 2020 playoffs as he shot 46% from mid-range and 51.5% on catch-and-shoot opportunities over a 19-game span. While improvement as a jump shooter isn’t the only path to success for this Heat team, having Adebayo function as an efficient two-level scorer will put defenses into an unsolvable bind and make life easier on everyone who plays for the Heat. 

 

*All stats provided from https://www.nba.com/stats/

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Chicago

The Miami Heat played an anticipated one on Monday night against the Chicago Bulls, and well, they came out to play.

Gabe Vincent came out firing, the team’s defense was absolutely elite, and they had production 1 through 10.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: The nightly takeaway of Bam Adebayo defensive dominance.

Another half-time evaluation of Bam Adebayo, another mesmerizing exercise. We know how good he is on the defensive end, specifically when watching a highlight reel of him locking up your favorite player on the perimeter, but it transcends that stuff. We see plenty of great perimeter defenders, and plenty of in-action defenders. Bam Adebayo, ladies and gentleman, is both. When looking at the latter, a play from the second quarter sums it up well. Coby White and Nikola Vucevic running a pick and roll, means Adebayo ends up on White. After blanketing him on the attack, White makes the correct read to lob it up to Vucevic. What happens next? Adebayo turns around fully, goes up in the air, and gets the block. It sounds simple when explaining it in these terms, but in real speed, it’s just simply not normal. But it’s just another night for Adebayo on that end of the floor.

#2: Gabe Vincent-Caleb Martin stepping up in their own ways.

Gabe Vincent had to step right up into the starting role with Kyle Lowry out due to personal reasons, and man did he come out firing. 14 points at the half, but it’s more about how he’s getting those points. We know about strong attacks or off the catch threes, but the mid-range play from him has been something to keep an eye on. Running down the lane, stopping on a dime, and flowing into a tough turnaround J. The reason I bring up Caleb Martin as well is because they come as a package deal. Literally. Defensively, these guys essentially *are* the 2-3 zone, since it’s always gone to with them headlining it at the top. Guys like DeMar DeRozan can shoot over the top of that, but do you know what he can’t shoot over the top of? Physicality. Both Vincent and Martin have a real gift to guard up due to both of their imcreased strength. That’s how good defensive players make up for their biggest weakness.

#3: Does Chicago fit the build of team’s Miami wouldn’t mind seeing?

As we inch closer to the post-season, more conversations are had about specific match-ups, or the type of team that possibly fits your scheme best. And as I’ve been saying for quite some time, inside the arc teams fit Miami’s defensive build pretty perfectly. Yet, while the Bulls only hit 1 three in the first half tonight, they’re clearly an inside the arc based unit. If they go to the DeRozan-Vucevic PnR, Miami made it known PJ Tucker will handle Vuc and Bam will take DeRozan. That leaves Jimmy Butler in free safety mode on the weak-side, waiting to make that baseline double on the entry pass. That’s the reason they fit teams in that area. This current team is one that is as crisp as it gets in terms of defensive rotations, and that’s when you can fully commit to doubling, blitzing, etc.

#4: A personal favorite offensive set from Miami.

Once again, I always have to throw in my one minor evaluation point in these pieces, and this one is something I’ve been watching all year. In terms of offensive actions, utilizing Butler-Bam-Robinson on the strong side is always a good start. With this specific set, though, Bam is running things at the top of the key, while Gabe Vincent and PJ Tucker space out on the weak-side. Robinson sets a back screen on the loop for Butler, which starts the domino effect. The lob option is there for Butler, which Bam threw up to Jimmy in the third. If that isn’t there, Robinson flows into a DHO as both flash down to Butler. And if that DHO is blitzed, it’s Bam go time. The way to defensively counter is send one of those weak-side guys across as the other splits the difference. The issue: it happens so quickly that decision can’t be made.

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#5: Tyler Herro passing down the igniter, becoming steady hand.

I’ve sat here on many occasions discussing a Tyler Herro scoring outpour, just through a pure igniter stand-point. But looking at tonight specifically, we saw that guy was Gabe Vincent. Past games it’s been Caleb Martin, Max Strus, etc. Watching Herro pass down the torch of that one dimensional spark piece, into a guy who is simply the steady hand on good efficiency, could be the most important development for this team. Early in this one, there were moments where he was thrown off his game a bit, which was a clear focus from the Bulls’ game-planning. But an ability to not only bounce back, but takeover the offense in the absence of Kyle Lowry is absolutely major. His downhill presence was felt, and I could eliminate the word downhill for the statement to still be correct.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Spurs

The Miami Heat faced the San Antonio Spurs, and man did it fade far away from expectations.

A close game was not expected whatsoever, but some big performances came out of it as Miami closed it out late.

Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro were big, but Bam Adebayo was the storyline as he completely took over this game on both ends.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Rough beginnings for starting group yet again.

There’s been a trend at the start of games recently for this Heat team, and it’s something to keep track of. A 10-0 start for the Knicks occurred on Friday night, and a 10-2 run for the Spurs on Saturday night followed that right up. Except this time around, the opposing team just kept piling it on, putting Miami in an awkward position. They were switching absolutely everything on and off the ball, which led to plenty of miscues for a copy and pasted free lane for San Antonio’s offense. Now, looking forward, it definitely is something to take note of. It almost feels like they’re looking around for that Tyler Herro spark to save them, which he kind of did again in this one as soon as he entered. They may have put up 40 in the first, but the starting group’s defense isn’t the worry. Instead, it’s the stagnant and lost looking offense that appears way too often than it should.

#2: Jimmy Butler’s first half offensive takeover.

There were some ugly things offensively for Miami early on, as I mentioned, but Jimmy Butler mitigated pretty much all of it. For starters, he kicked off his scoring display with quite the route on the low block. And it wasn’t like he was getting a smaller match-up so he went to it, because that really wasn’t the case. He brought a plethora of moves down there, and had some great touch around the rim whenever he got the chance. Secondly, it was another display of clock work in terms of getting to the free throw line. Strong attacks one-on-one, side pick and rolls to perfection, etc. He simply took-over on that end for Miami to race their way back in it, and that quickly leads into other things. After that hot start, we see them go into a Duncan Robinson back screen for Butler, as Duncan raises up for a potential DHO with Bam Adebayo. The thing is that wasn’t the first option. The only reason Robinson got that three off was the entire Spurs defense collapsed at the thought of a wide open Butler cut. We often discuss Robinson’s gravity, but Butler’s gravity is right there with him in an opposite fashion.

#3: Another Bam Adebayo DPOY case?

Watching Bam Adebayo in that second quarter specifically, some takeaways were clear. For one, the things Adebayo was doing to finish off that second quarter not only spearheaded Miami’s first half come-back, but a portrayed the pure dominance he can provide on that end. We saw the individual stuff at times, but nothing stands out to me more than when Adebayo is lined up on that weak-side dunker spot, as the ball-handler simultaneously comes steamrolling down the lane on the attack. For about three possessions in a row, it either ended in a Bam block, or him just mucking things up enough to lead to an awful shot attempt. As much as I discuss Butler’s ability to take over offensively, it’s equally impressive to see what Bam did on the defensive end. While it must be stated, his offensive turnaround after the rough start was crucial in the Heat’s comeback, as we saw him continuing to both attack and run the floor with great pace.

#4: One minor evaluation: Tyler Herro disguising his floater/lob pass.

In many of my post-game takeaway pieces, I like to take one section to highlight a minor piece of the game that may hold high importance moving forward. And well, that one tonight involves a very active Tyler Herro inside the lane. Something he has gotten to a ton over the last two nights is his floater out of the normal pick and roll, but there’s an interesting twist to that. One of the major elements to a player’s floater game is how similar it may look to a lob pass when your big is running right alongside you on a 2-on-1. With that said, Herro seems to have really improved recently in that category. And for a player who goes to it as frequently as him, that is quite the addition moving forward if he can master it even further. His lob passes have been a focus in general to clean up a bit, and that definitely will do the job.

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#5: Bam Adebayo again? Yes, Bam Adebayo again.

I felt it was necessary to devote an entire section to the greatness of Bam Adebayo defensively, and more specifically the impact he had in that second quarter, but I need to address some more, because this wasn’t a one-sided affair. Actually, it was quite the opposite. To think that he started this game out a bit non-aggressive and inefficient is just wild. He started taking that face-up on the Spurs rotating bigs time and time again, realizing they couldn’t stay in front of him. That spiraled into an increase in pace, which led to easy basket after easy basket with about 19 seconds left on that shot clock. And of course, he still dominated as a roller. Kyle Lowry’s double digit assists deserve major credit, but he was getting the ball in the gaps and just going. When he’s attacking the rim like that and making defenders pay for that deep drop with big time slams, it’s something to discuss. Bam Adebayo was absolutely elite in this one.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Knicks

The Miami Heat faced off against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Friday night, and fought through some adversity to exit with the win.

Tyler Herro offensive domination, Bam Adebayo defensive control, and trying to balance the RJ Barrett showcase.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Tyler Herro is back? Oh yeah, Tyler Herro is definitely back.

It feels like we haven’t seen Tyler Herro play in quite some time as he was healing from that knee bruise before the All Star Break. But he returned tonight, and man did he provide something offensively as he entered early into Miami’s awful offensive start. I’m going to talk about the team’s pick and roll attack in a second, but Herro was making plays in the lane in a way that was needed majorly. High pick and roll, pauses as he awaits his screened defender to recover, and loops in front of him to hold him off. He then bursts forward into his floater with absolutely no-one in sight to contest. That summed up his hot start early with 15 first half points, but he was also 3 of 4 from deep, taking advantage of what came his way off the catch, while mixing in his pull-up comfort zone against drop coverage.

#2: The need for the screen, and the PnR effective spam from Miami.

Speaking of Herro’s control inside the lane, that was the Heat’s game-plan early as nothing was being generated from the deep mid-range or three-point line. The Knicks did a good job of blocking off the paint, as the Heat continued to plummet inside into contact, while consequently not receiving a friendly whistle. But one change in the set shifts the entire outcome: the need for the screen. Eliminating that initial defender and running 2-on-1’s against drop bigs is always the outlet that should be looked at first. Kyle Lowry began to get to it, which led to Bam Adebayo and Omer Yurtseven finding themselves on the positive end as rollers. We’ve seen nights where three-point shooting keeps them in a game, but pure pick and roll spam is what got them back into this one in that first half.

#3: Miami’s view of their defensive structure tonight.

When reflecting at halftime about Miami’s defensive game-plan, it was slightly different from what we’re used to against this team. For one, it should be said that this Knicks offense falls right into the Heat’s biggest defensive strengths. Swarming guys like Julius Randle in that high post is what they basically live for, leaving him with a 1 for 9 first half. But the issue was that in the meantime, RJ Barrett was gliding into a 30 point half himself. And well, it almost felt like Miami was okay with that. Essentially the opposite of their game-plan against Dallas. My issue with them on that end tonight wasn’t the way they were defending Barrett, but the reason he got hot. Poor transition defense kept feeding New York good looks on the break on kick-outs, sparking that run. That’ll need to be cleaned up.

#4: Jimmy Butler’s inside play the third quarter go-to as Barrett and the Knicks chip away.

It was an up and down matter for Jimmy Butler’s scoring throughout this one, and the reason I say that is he was a bit inefficient to start. But once the third quarter arrived and Miami’s starting group still wasn’t generating enough offense, Butler began to turn it up. It felt like the isolation possessions were seen a little too frequently, but they began finding outlets to free him up, and attack certain match-ups right back. One major element that was found was using Butler as the product of screening back-door, as guys like Adebayo scan from the top of the offense. Then he continued taking it into the body of the scorching Barrett, getting him his fourth foul late in the third quarter. Butler ended up scoring 8 straight for Miami in that span, just through his physical attack, which once again aligns with their offensive game-plan I discussed prior.

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#5: Pure Bam Adebayo dominance on the defensive end.

Julius Randle gets into the deep mid-range late in the shot clock mid-way through the second quarter. Only Bam Adebayo stands in his way, as he throws him up a pump-fake to get him up in the air. The issue: once you picked up your dribble with Adebayo defending, it doesn’t matter what comes next. Bam lands, turns, and still finds a way to absolutely blanket the Randle shot attempt. That’s why he’s the best defender in this league. While some may question his urge to create shots for himself in those one, it was pure defensive dominance all the way through. Aside from the one-on-one match-up with Randle, he was everywhere in the passing lanes, recovered on pick and rolls at such a high level for big time blocks, and most importantly, shined as the weak-side threat all night to both deter and send shots back. Offense is obviously the primary side of the ball in this sport for most, but man will you value the defensive end much more when watching these masterclasses.

 

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Film Dive into the Heat Finding a Way Against Charlotte

I took a dive into the film of the Miami Heat’s win over the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night, mainly focusing on the 4th quarter, overtime, and double overtime.

Between a Duncan Robinson boost, Kyle Lowry takeover mode, suffocating Heat defense, and unique play designing from Erik Spoelstra, it’s clear this was a pretty interesting one.

So, let’s take a look…

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Hornets

The Miami Heat beat the Charlotte Hornets tonight.

Yeah, didn’t think I’d be saying that.

Before I discuss the Heat’s poor, poor offensive night, the craziness must be mentioned first.

Kyle Lowry comes up big late in the game, but Erik Spoelstra closes it out with his infamous inbound play to seal it.

Anyway, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Miami’s immediate stagnant offensive switch in second quarter.

The Heat came out firing early on offensively, leading to a 37 point first quarter. But they decided to follow that up with a 10 point second quarter, in which I walked away questioning how they even reached 10. The reasoning: their offensive disposition just went right out the window, as they weren’t able to trigger any of their base actions smoothly. Part of this can be attributed to the fact they’re staggering bench lineups that are missing 3 of their primary bench pieces, with one of them being Tyler Herro’s scoring punch, but falling off a cliff to this degree for an extended amount of time just can’t happen. Jimmy Butler definitely wasn’t too engaged in that stretch to will them out of it, as his passiveness stuck out, which quickly blends into forced shots with the supporting cast.

#2: A Gabe Vincent-Omer Yurtseven combo?

I’d just like to take a second to dip out of game evaluations, and dive into player evaluations. I’ve discussed many different two-man combos that work effortlessly, such as Butler-Lowry inverted PnR’s or Robinson-Adebayo DHO and slip, but another one has jumped off the screen: Gabe Vincent and Omer Yurtseven. As Miami struggled against Dallas on Tuesday night, their only positive offensive stretches came from Vincent-Yurt pick and rolls with plenty of lob passes that followed. But there’s other reasons this works that I may not have enough time to fully address. Vincent has a skill to retract big defenders out of the play then create space, which falls into Yurtseven’s wheelhouse. Easy post hooks can come out of it with no help, which is why this goes further than just a pick and roll. It may be minor, but it’s an interesting thing to keep track of.

#3: Will 3 point shooting return after the break?

If you’re watching the Heat’s broadcast, you’d often hear about sharpshooter Duncan Robinson being replaced by fellow sharpshooter Max Strus when one exits. But lately, it’s not really a barrage of outside shooting in every lineup, or any lineup at that. Once again, yes Herro takes a lot of pressure off some of that, but this goes beyond that. This is a team who’s two best players aren’t outside shooters, so that pull must be happening for them to succeed. And with the forceful purpose to pry Robinson open and Strus continuing to struggle, it just heavily ties into the stagnant offense over the last two nights. Heat shot 7% in the second half against Dallas, yet late-game offense is the focus. But if that percentage bumps up just a bit, you aren’t even in late-game offense. We focus on a lot with this team as we evaluate things with a microscope, but that one part of this team has been an obvious eye sore as of late.

#4: A tough night for Jimmy Butler.

The last few weeks have been a lot of Jimmy Butler takeaways after games in a positive fashion, but tonight was as tough as it gets for him. As I spoke about earlier with this Heat offense, things just weren’t flowing in their normal fashion. But when that usually occurs this season, Butler is their offensive outlet. He can attack mismatches, get to the line, and do his usual Butler-like things. But there were absolutely no mismatches to attack even though he tried, the whistle wasn’t as friendly as it normally can be, and that spiraled into complete nonsense to say the least. It’s one thing to miss shots if your Butler, but it’s a completely other thing to force passes and attack mismatches that aren’t really there for 3 straight quarters. Simply, Butler looked like he was already on his flight to Cleveland. But then, OT happened. Then double OT. Then Butler happened. After a historically poor shooting night, he hit two big ones late as he told the bench ‘I told you I’d make one.’

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#5: The All-Star break is here.

It’s now officially the All-Star break for the Miami Heat. Aside from anymore offensive game-plan bashing from this match-up or Kyle Lowry takeover mode late, it’s clear that the Heat need this time as much as anybody. For one, it allows their primary bench mob to get back healthy, as Caleb Martin rests that achilles, Dewayne Dedmon gets some much needed rest, and Tyler Herro gets that knee back in perfect shape. Plus, the top guys on this team deserve it as well, but nobody seems to need it more than PJ Tucker. He was their only offensive punch in this one, but other than that, he’s just been available all season long. Take the next week off, then come back with a new mindset as they enter a home heavy part of their schedule.

 

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