Tag Archive for: Duncan Robinson

Caleb Martin, Duncan Robinson on some Heat-Knicks schematics, Playoff Jimmy, and more

From any Heat fan’s perspective following the Heat’s game 4 and 5 wins to close out the Bucks, you would usually get the same answer when thinking about the all time performances from Jimmy Butler.

When asking his teammates that same question 60 hours after it’s past by, you get the same exact response.

Simply, amazement.

When I rehashed his play to Caleb Martin, he looks at me and laughs, saying: “That was very new to me bro.”

“Obviously one of the best performances I’ve seen in the league in the four years I’ve been here,” he continued. “It was pretty dope to see.”

Duncan Robinson’s take was very similar, as he starts off saying: “That was crazy. That was 1 of 1. That was a special performance.”

Everybody’s minds are on New York, but everybody’s hearts are still in that Milwaukee series just a tad. It’s human nature, following a series of events that just simply are tough to just “wear off.”

To continue on the Butler subject, after his 56 point night in game 4, I asked him a rather simple question: “Is Playoff Jimmy a thing?”

It’s something he has denied in the past, and he flowed right back into the sentiment telling me, “It’s not a thing. It’s not. I just be hoopin.” The latter portion is definitely true as he was giving every Bucks defender buckets in that series, but it’s hard to eye down this production from him in April and May every year and say there isn’t a trend.

So, I talked to multiple teammates and brought up the “Playoff Butler” label that he’s gotten.

Robinson quickly cuts in with “If he says it’s not a thing, it’s not a thing. He’s a great player regardless of the time of year. When the competition is at its highest, I think that’s when he’s probably his best.”

That last part is the answer I’ve gotten from anybody I’ve brought it up to. Martin told me, “That’s just Jimmy. I don’t think it’s Playoff Jimmy, I think that’s just Jimmy, it’s who he is.”

“He’s a competitor and it just comes around that time of year with the highest level of competition, so it just comes out,” he adds.

All of this Butler propaganda leads us into the true story 24 hours before game 1 of the second round between the Heat and Knicks: we know Butler is playing at an incredible level right now, and so do the Knicks who are being directed by somebody Butler knows well, Tom Thibodeau.

To that point, Butler is not going to see anywhere close to the same amount of single coverage that he saw in the Milwaukee Bucks series. The Knicks are going to send doubles his way, so a major way to open things up is by the guy being helped off of makes them pay.

Many times this season, that guy is Caleb Martin.

“I get to come in knowing how I’ll get those open looks,” Martin said about reacting to his defender being a helper. “I just gotta be ready to knock them down.”

As for Robinson, he won’t be as lucky to be dipped off of on the perimeter. “He’ll (Jimmy) probably see different coverages throughout the course of it. They’ll mix up a few different things. For us, it’s just about being ready to make a play and be aggressive. Not just reactive, but proactive and try to make something happen.”

The other main element about this series for Martin is going to be the baseline roaming aspect. Why in this series compared to the first round? Well, while both series involve a heavy amount of drop coverage, it’s a total different scheme.

Robinson even detailed some of the obvious differences, “They guard it very differently. With the way Milwaukee was guarding, really not giving away a lot of air space, especially on like kick-outs and stuff like that. It’s different schemes, but you just gotta find a way to attack it.”

The Bucks use their dropping big to completely protect the rim with helpers on the side, while the Knicks run Mitchell Robinson much higher up to the level. When bringing up the schematics favoring Martin in that realm, he felt the same way by operating corner to corner.

“Definitely get on the baseline and those slides will be very important for spacing. Obviously for our rollers, for Bam to get open against those taller, longer guys. Mitchell Robinson is a guy we have to try and get him out of position a lot, and that’s going to do a lot with our drives and our slides.”

Out of all the conversations I had today on the schematic side of things, that was by far my biggest takeaway. The Heat are heavily focused on moving Mitchell Robinson into different spots to find offensive openings. The Knicks can do some intriguing things defensively, but Miami can bend certain things in a way that they just couldn’t against the Bucks.

With Milwaukee staying in that base and not adjusting, Miami walked in knowing what shots they were getting every night.

On that same Mitchell Robinson topic, they’re trying to move him in ways to force easier looks for Bam Adebayo. As I mentioned here, it’s about getting him behind the second line defense more often to get to the rim.

Now that Tyler Herro won’t be involved in this series again, it puts more pressure on some of the other guards to shine as pocket passers in that PnR or other Heat sets. And in my opinion, Duncan Robinson could be the best pocket passer on the squad.

I brought up the focus to get Bam to the rim in this series with that higher drop, which he responded, “It’s an important aspect for sure, just getting the ball back to Bam really regardless of what the coverage is. Just try to get it back to him so he can play-make and be aggressive, so definitely a component for sure.”

Just as the Heat are going to try to move Mitchell Robinson around defensively for openings, Jalen Brunson is going to try and shift things for the Heat defensively. I personally believe Butler starts on Brunson, but Martin is going to see a good amount of time on him as well when there’s not a switch.

What makes guarding Brunson different than some of the guards in the Bucks series?

“He’s very patient, very crafty,” Martin starts to note. “He knows what he wants to do, very poised, not very sped up at all. So that’s going to be the biggest thing: staying down on shot fakes and being disciplined.”

It’s going to be a series of on-court counters, and the Heat seem prepared. Let Jimmy Butler off his leash, see the reaction to him, then react to the reaction.

Should be a good one.

(Extra content)

One last thing away from the court, that Caleb Martin shot in the corner on Giannis Antetokounmpo right before an amazing celebration just keeps gaining attention for obvious reasons.

Is it going to make an appearance in the garden?

“It might come out again.”

Where did it come from?

“It just came to me in the moment.”

The Miami Heat’s Real Reason for the Rotation Changes

As the Heat walked away from a Saturday night stomping by the Brooklyn Nets, where they essentially trailed by 30 for a portion of the night, it was the final smack before wake up time.

They dropped their fourth game in a row, which included a week of a flamed up bench altercation between Jimmy Butler and Erik Spoelstra.

It was clear that change was needed. Not just individually, but on the surface.

As the starting lineup tweet was released on Monday afternoon ahead of Heat-Kings, one face was a bit of a surprise: Max Strus slotted into the spot of Duncan Robinson.

Since that change, Strus is averaging a little under 4 threes a night on 50% shooting, and all of the best two man combos seem to include him. In terms of the starting lineup, it looks like it just works, as Miami has blended into a 5-0 stretch since the changes.

But if all they did was replace shooter with shooter, how did that improve the spacing or overall production in that starting unit? Well, that’s because it’s not about Robinson or Strus themselves, but who they’re playing next to.

One of the most lethal offensive combos over the years has been Robinson and Bam Adebayo, since they mastered the dribble hand-off that constantly had defenses in a scramble from night to night. One single action and two individual players reshaped the way the Miami Heat ran offense.

Well, until teams adjusted.

While opposing teams began to adjust, it felt like Miami was a bit delayed on the adjustment on their part. Grabbing a true point guard, in Kyle Lowry, allowed them to reshape in a different manner, but it was clear that Bam Adebayo needed to be unleashed from hand-off searching sideline to sideline.

Before the all star break this season, Adebayo and Robinson were playing 22.3 minutes a game together, which sounds about right since Miami wanted to mirror them as much as possible.

But the new shift to bring Robinson off the bench, has another game-plan in mind.

Since the Heat shifted the rotation, Robinson and Adebayo are averaging 8.1 minutes a game together, which is not only intentional, but one of the main reasons they switched the places of Strus and Robinson.

The new substitution pattern is to insert Tyler Herro off the bench for Jimmy Butler, so that Adebayo and him can get some run in space. Yet after a few minutes, Butler enters back in next to Herro with some of the bench group. And in the category of “bench group” lies Duncan Robinson.

Yes, the DHO’s of Adebayo may have propelled Robinson’s shooting in a positive direction, but it’s pretty clear that slotting him next to Butler and Herro is the better call right now. Those are the two guys on the team that can consistently draw two defenders on an attack, which consequently leads to uneven rotations and an eventual open shooter.

Robinson hit 7 threes last night in the win over the Charlotte Hornets, and 5 of them were assisted by Butler. Coincidence? Maybe a little, since that Hornets defense basically gives up open threes all by themselves, but we can’t overlook the power of this trio.

That three man grouping of Herro-Robinson-Butler played 9.1 minutes a game together prior to the all star break, which has now skyrocketed to 19.1 minutes a game since the changes. Yeah, it’s pretty safe to say that this stuff is intentional.


The rotation or starting lineup shifts aren’t the focal point of things clicking. It’s more about the substitution patterns and overall lineup combinations.

Yet while Butler moving over a position to the 4 feels to be the change discussed most, the starting lineup change is much more calculated than you may think.

At first it felt like it was as simple as letting Strus get a shot throughout Robinson’s shooting struggles, but it’s actually about maximizing both of them in their primary areas. Strus as a guy who can get shots up in any lineup and can provide a tad more athleticism. And Robinson as a guy who can find himself open more often next to his key sidekicks: Butler and Herro.

This isn’t to say that Robinson won’t still struggle from time to time in his role, but it’s more about setting these guys up in the best possible ways. Herro has sacrificed for the team by being a 6th man even though he’s valued much more than that. Guys like Oladipo, Vincent, or Martin have all sacrificed their rotation spot at one point or another.

Now, it’s Robinson’s turn.

Just looking at the Martin brothers who faced off a night ago, sometimes it’s clear that branching off is the best thing for a player’s success. After playing with each other since birth, this is the first time they aren’t on the same team, and each are playing the best basketball of their life.

Same goes for Robinson and Adebayo.

Not in terms of changing teams, but just eliminating the constant reliance on one another. Both of them finding their place without each other not only elevates the play of them individually, but for this team.

It isn’t a coincidence that these numbers have shifted this dramatically. It was purposeful, and it’s clear that it’s for the best.


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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Hornets

The Miami Heat faced the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night, and really took care of business through and through.

Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson come up big as Miami’s offense flows pretty perfectly throughout.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Heat’s 3 point shooting continues to surge.

11 of 17 was Miami’s three point shooting line at the half, and man it didn’t look like it was heading that way at the start. The first 4 minutes of play in the first quarter looked like it was trending in a negative direction from a shooting perspective, but Max Strus kicked off a shooting display by dropping LaMelo Ball with a single jab step. But in all seriousness, the reason this shooting is important to note is that it isn’t just a hot stretch. This team’s shooting has made major strides ever since the rotation changes, and that isn’t a coincidence. They’ve found a constant blend of shooting and defense in all 5 man groups, going smaller opens up spacing, and the shooters going from focal points to beneficiaries has molded this offense greatly. Which blends into my next takeaway…

#2: Duncan Robinson?

In a season where there isn’t much to complain about, Duncan Robinson has felt like the consistent piece that gets brought up night in and night out to pick on. Some of it is viable since he hasn’t played to a level that some may have expected, but this bench shift seems to be the best thing for his production. As I noted before, this is no longer Duncan Robinson DHO”s being the primary action in the offense. It now revolves around a bunch of factors, leading to a swing, swing, Robinson triple. Even though his numbers haven’t spiked since this game, it’s been obvious that his looks are much more open than when he was starting. A big factor of that: ever since the change, he lines up next to Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro more than ever, which used to be more Bam Adebayo and PJ Tucker. Why is that important? Well, both Butler and Herro draw more bodies than anyone on this team, giving him open looks.

#3: Bam Adebayo’s rebounding needs a quick discussion.

I’m not going to dissect the X’s and O’s of Bam Adebayo’s rebounding right now, but to the naked eye, it has stood out to me that his crashing has been a lot more impactful. People love to point out the possessions where he switches out to the perimeter and an offensive rebound is the outcome, but it seems his strong collapses are pushed to the side. As the lineups continue to get smaller and smaller with guys like Martin at the 4 or Tucker at the 5, this is a crucial component to everything staying in tact. The surrounding pieces deserve some credit as well since they’ve been crashing hard ever since that Kings game, but Bam is still the focal point. His rebounds are much more noticeable right now with how he’s attacking the glass, and it must be noted.

#4: Miami’s lapses protecting the paint.

Toward the beginning of the third quarter, the Hornets just erased Miami’s 10 point halftime lead in the blink of an eye. How did they do that? Well, defense was pretty nonexistent in this game it felt, as the score was 102-97 at the end of the third quarter. Either way, the issue was that the Heat were allowing the Hornets into the paint way too often, leading to a line of 15 of 17 at the rim. Simply, not ideal. It’s one thing to allow a team to be that efficient, but it’s even worse that they were able to prance right by Miami’s front line every possession. Now, they’re getting two feet in the lane, Miami’s collapsing, and the shooters take advantage, which is far from great when the Hornets were shooting 61% from the field heading into the 4th. This is one of those coasting defensive performances at game 80, so it shouldn’t be too worrisome, but still not great from an individual perspective with some.


#5: All about keeping an eye on seeding.

As the Heat inch closer and closer to officially locking up that 1 seed, all eyes are now on the 8 seed. As so many seem to be fearing Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets, it’s looked more likely that could end up being their first round opponent. Or will it? Well, it seems clear that the Heat could end up deciding that since they play the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night. Beating Charlotte tonight helps Brooklyn out, and handing the Hawks a loss would help them even more. Why would Miami want to help the Nets, you may be wondering? Getting them to the 7-8 by the end of the regular season means they’re one win away from locking up that 7 seed in the play-in tournament, which puts them on the other side of the bracket. Now it’s all about monitoring others.


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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Bucks

Heat fall short to Bucks as they storm back.

Here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Hometown Tyler Herro, pull-up killer Tyler Herro.

Some may begin Tyler Herro evaluation tonight by pointing out his hometown return, but you guys already know how I roll with throwing narrative right out the window. The more important aspect is the way he was generating his looks, as he pranced into a 17 point first half. Pointing out that he was facing drop coverage is a great starting point, but it’s a bit different look than he’s used to. This is a crowded drop, which means the attack element of a pick and roll could be taken away. His floater has been surging as of late, but as he started off this game a bit rocky, I pointed one thing out on Twitter: abort that floater. The mid-range pull-up is sitting there for you to take, so it must be utilized. But instead, Herro spaced out into more high PnR sets, flowing right into that pull-up three. Stretching out the floor in that way is the exact read, and I’m not sure if the credit goes to him or the coaching staff yet.

#2: Duncan Robinson finding his set, and finding his rhythm.

Speaking of strong first half performances, Duncan Robinson was soaring from deep to begin this one. 5 for 6 from deep at the half I’d say is a pretty decent stat line for him in a potential Eastern Conference Finals preview. But this wasn’t the same as Herro shifting his shot profile against this specific defense. Instead, it was the exact opposite. Duncan Robinson thrives against a crowded drop coverage, since it basically translates to DHO fun. Only one defender is needed to eliminate with a screen, which means the next step is turning the corner, squaring up, and firing away. Robinson has seen these looks recently, but the simple analysis is that he was able to knock them down in this match-up. Shooting the lights out against this team is always going to be the game-plan, but this version of Robinson changes things dramatically for the offense.

#3: The transition narrative.

I’d like to take a second to address transition offense in a few different lights, which is odd due to the fact Kyle Lowry wasn’t associated with this game. It started when Bam Adebayo couldn’t put the ball in the basket, then all of a sudden, a quick steal, fast-break run, and mid-air switch of the hands for the and-1 finish shed some light on this topic: Bam Adebayo is a different player on the break. It means that he can be instinctive, he can be physical, and it allows him to find a scoring rhythm. Now, some may counter that by saying that avenue can’t be explored as often in a playoff series. And to that I’d say that’s partially true. There seems to be this overarching narrative that playoff basketball is a half-court game, which is true, but it should be noted that transition play and a faster pace can still be explored in that setting. It almost feels like some imagine that to be fully eliminated when that time comes, and it should be said with this specific team especially, it’ll be explored frequently with the young bench unit.

#4: Third quarter analysis: Gabe Vincent’s spark, Jimmy Butler’s struggles.

To hone in on player specifics a bit more, Gabe Vincent had as good of a start as humanly possible in this third quarter. Three straight offensive possessions, three straight Vincent triples. The interesting part about that is it wasn’t because he was being left open off the catch. It was just pure strong side dominance, due to defenders going under screens or PJ Tucker utilizing his hammer screen specialty. On the other side of things for Miami in the third, Jimmy Butler restricted some things. 2 for 13 from the field was where he stood entering the fourth quarter, but it transcends a stat sheet, since it’s actually about the half-court shift for Miami. With his top of the key ball dominance, especially without Lowry, he relies heavily on that help at the nail. That allows him to manipulate the strong side to his advantage as that defender drops. And well, that defender wasn’t dropping tonight. It limits thing, which leads to them looking in the direction of guys like Herro even more often.


#5: Heat fall late due to poor execution.

We’ve seen Erik Spoelstra’s ATO excellence work in the past, but that needs to be addressed in the larger scheme of things. It’s one thing to bring up Miami’s 3 man offense late in games, while Tucker and Vincent land immobile in the corners, but it’s another thing to fall short on an inbound up 1. They tried to go to the usual ATO with two guys in the back-court, but a timeout was forced. The next trial run was to only leave one guy in the back-court, and have three in the front flash. Nothing was there, and he lobbed it up to Butler which led to a jump ball. Late-game execution lost them this game, and well, a poor Jimmy Butler performance.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Clippers

The Miami Heat faced the LA Clippers on the front end of a back to back, and the Heat closed it out late as the Clippers fought hard to make a comeback.

Another big shot from PJ Tucker in the corner was truly the dagger, as some Jimmy Butler late free throws put them over the top.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Jimmy Butler’s best individual skill on display.

After seeing Jimmy Butler’s hot start on Friday night, it was clear that has left big toe was far from irritated. Flowing into offense nicely, hitting guys on back-cuts constantly, and well, being the defensive anchor in a very favorable defensive scheme. It may sound odd, but he’s better defensively against spread out talent. Big time names are individual fun for Bam Adebayo and PJ Tucker, but Butler’s home is off the ball. Ivica Zubac catches it at the elbow extended early in the first to get the Clippers into offense. Butler edges up slowly on the weak-side, then bursts. Butler always likes to call it timely gambles, but I call it a pure skill and knack that he possesses. Much like he can make unbelievable reads on the offensive end as a passer, his defensive reads bypass it by far.

#2: Duncan Robinson happened again, but mixing in other things.

When you see drop coverage, you see Duncan Robinson. As I’ve said in the past, it’s much easier for him to flow into looks with the task of just eliminating his one on-ball defender on the perimeter. But it puts a defense in an odd spot any time he touches the floor. It only takes one possession where a miscommunication occurs, and there Robinson is in space firing away a triple. Aside from those obvious elements, his reads were incredible early on. And when I say reads, I mean his off-ball ones. Moving with the ball on the attack, watching his defender sink into tagging mode, then flying right down the baseline for an easy layup inside. His cutting was great in this one, and like I said, it just puts that much more stress on a defense on a nightly basis. Crazy what making shots can shift.

#3: Oh, PJ Tucker was active early offensively? What a surprise.

When watching a Heat game this season, it’s impossible not to notice PJ Tucker on both sides of the floor, each and every possession. He’s just so active in that space, that it’s hard to miss his hard lay-out screens, crafty positioning within the perimeter, and volume shot making. The outside shots were there once again early on, but the inside flip shots closely followed. His presence down there was a necessity with the way the Clippers would collapse, and it actually led to a few trips to the line for him, on a night where there was a very friendly whistle on both ends. We can evaluate his impact as a role player under a microscope night in and night out, but the truth is he isn’t playing like a role player. He’s performing like a core piece, and it doesn’t look like it’s stopping anytime soon.

#4: Gabe Vincent decided to join in from one spot on the floor tonight. Just one.

Whenever Gabe Vincent is discussed on these post-game pieces, it’s usually me highlighting his defensive expertise with elite ball pressure and half court hounding. But tonight…tonight was different. Vincent absolutely exploded in the third quarter, three after three after three after three. Most of them seemed to come from that right wing without moving, but all jokes aside, this is a guy that has made two total transformation in the span of two years. Straight shooter converted to defensive stopper with point guard duties, while the shot now loops back around for another cycle. There’s great developmental stories in the Miami Heat’s franchise history, but then there’s Vincent. Simple in a class of his own in terms of immediate turn around stories. But as he told me before the season, he altered his jumper for the better.


#5: Predicting the Miami Heat’s late season rotation is a pointless exercise.

Whenever I address the Heat’s potential rotation late in the season after certain guys play well, something is noticed: it’s constantly fluctuating on opinion. But at this moment in time, it feels like one thing is apparent. As good as Max Strus has been, and can continue to grow the more games he plays, it just seems like he’s not in a simplified rotation if Duncan Robinson is playing this way. We were saying the same thing when Robinson went through his slump, but now that Robinson is moving, it doesn’t look like he’s going back. The way is to clearly lean toward defensive guards, in Vincent and Caleb Martin, who are shooting at an incredible rate at the moment. Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo will be back eventually, but for now, these two guys are filling in just fine.


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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Knicks

The Miami Heat took down the New York Knicks at home in comfortable fashion. Pure offensive and defensive control from the tip-off to the final buzzer.

Tyler Herro returned, Jimmy Butler stayed steady, and PJ Tucker and Duncan Robinson provided the needed boost.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Duncan Robinson killing the Knicks early in ways we’ve seen, PJ Tucker in ways we haven’t.

The Miami Heat came out absolutely firing to start this game, and it was generated by two people in that span. Duncan Robinson had a very favorable match-up with this Knicks defense, since you ultimately feel much more comfortable with him against that deep drop. The screener just needs to take out one defender, leading to wide open looks immediately, before they begin to blitz out a bit later. PJ Tucker, on the other hand, goes on offensive runs in an unexpected manner, since well, “offensive runs” and PJ Tucker never used to mix. Jimmy Butler did a great job of drawing bodies on drives and finding the corner shooter on the kick-out, which Tucker was the result back-to-back early in the first. Then once unexpected corner gravity occurs, that floater and oddly amazing finishing enters.

#2: Tyler Herro is back…like he never left.

Tyler Herro entered the health and safety protocols about a week ago, but he made his return in this one. But while Robinson exploited things that made sense on paper, Herro went in a different direction. All indicators were that Herro would totally exploit the mid-range pull-up against that drop, but he utilized the other two elements of his game instead early. The three was falling, but more important, his downhill presence was something to note. Initiating contact on pick and roll drives while finishing in traffic is quite the consistent addition for his offensive game at this point. But just overall seeing him control the game in full bench lineups, while handling and creating for himself at an extremely high level, are the most essential parts about this one. When his creation looks like this to score, it changes the offensive trajectory of this team.

#3: Miami’s defensive excellence early on was expected on paper.

Much like I said Robinson had a visible advantage on paper, the Miami Heat’s entire defense had a favorable match-up. After seeing the Knicks immediate reaction when things go down, they completely spam strong side Julius Randle reps for him to try and score or create. But the Heat love that type of play-style since they can speed you up right out the gate. When switching the way they have, the plan was to fully double Randle in that high post upon any insertion, much like they did against LeBron James a few nights ago. And when he begins to make the quick reads, it’s all about rotating on the back-side at a high level, which they did for some time. But minor tweaks had to be made, such as leaving less of a gap between the weak-side corner defender and the corner shooter. And well, those adjustments are what make this defense so scary.

#4: Another night of pure Jimmy Butler all around control.

Jimmy Butler followed up a game where he finished with a triple double in a pure passing clinic, by coming right back around the next game for another display of pure all around control. For one, to touch on a few points from before, he’s the beneficiary for the hard doubles on the high post guy, since frankly, that’s his defensive home. He also had some moments of very nice reads, specifically on drive and kicks, but the story was his scoring. A high scoring night from Butler is great, but a high scoring efficient night from Butler is what takes him up a notch. He was finishing at a high level around the rim, which could go either way at times, and just really utilized a ton of angles to his advantage throughout. Butler may be evaluated under a microscope at times, but man can he control a game like this with plain ease, making the Kyle Lowry return even more intriguing.


#5: This Heat team’s depth isn’t just when guys go down. It’s a nightly event.

Whenever you watch this Heat team. Whenever you hear people talk about this Heat team. Whenever you look at the roster of this Heat team. There’s a similar theme that always pops out first when looking for adjectives: depth. Guys go down, others step up, and it’s just nothing new since it’s a “next man up” mentality. But that description isn’t as simple as just having back-up plans when guys are out or aren’t performing to their standards. More importantly, this is a team that can hurt you with so many different groups on a night to night basis. What I mean by that is, as we saw tonight, it was Butler-Herro-Robinson-Tucker who led the way offensively. But over this past week, Vincent-Strus-Martin-Adebayo have all had “game-high” moments as well. That’s what makes this group so scary, and as we continue to say, they still aren’t full. Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo are still looming in different manners.


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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Hawks

The Miami Heat took down the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night in intense fashion.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Could that have been Tyler Herro’s most impressive stint of his career?

Sixteen points, eight assists, eighteen minutes. That was Tyler Herro’s first half stat-line, and that doesn’t even almost tell the full story. For starters, the Heat were just playing some bad basketball to kick this game off, and that continued until, well, Herro trotted to the scorer’s table. His scoring popped out immediately, and you can always tell the way it’s trending with the manner he plays at. A quick split off of a double for a pull-up bank shot just put that on display in film form. His passing is another aspect that has taken a jump that can’t be described. Part of it is pure vision, but most if it is now being able to physically makes the passes. Lastly, that was the best half of defense I’ve seen him play. Not just because of a monstrous chase-down block, but the way he moved his feet on the ball. He got the switch on Trae Young and scored on one end, as Young tried to retaliate in similar fashion on the other end. Key word tried. Herro cut him off 3 times in a row, as he kicked it out for a three that bricked off the rim. Just an insane burst from Herro tonight.

#2: Duncan Robinson silently forming a bench tandem.

As I continue to talk about some of the bench notes, it must be noted that the reserves tonight were basically a second starting lineup. Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson, Dewayne Dedmon, and Herro all entered off the bench, just further showcasing the depth of this team. But when looking at Robinson specifically, this feels like it’s trending more toward long-term than a current rotational shift. The reason: it’s working…really well. For starters, Robinson’s looks aren’t shifting in any way. Defenses are still drenched on top of him, and a hand-off guy like PJ Tucker is usually on the floor. But what has changed my thoughts on this working all of a sudden? Well, once again, look at Tyler Herro. It was always about their ability to play together, and with Herro’s recent passing surge, it has looked flawless with a constant safety net sitting next to him. And most of all, it’s an immediate stagger for Erik Spoelstra even when starters return.

#3: Adjustment time strikes again for Erik Spoelstra.

As I talked about last game, Erik Spoelstra made a major shift in the offense. Instead of working everything through Tucker per usual, he handed the keys to Omer Yurtseven. And it worked to perfection. But as he tried a similar thing to start tonight, it was quite the opposite of the game against Phoenix. Not only were shots not falling, but actions weren’t being triggered with the jumbled up bodies in the half-court. So, as many teams in this league do already, Spo looked in a total different direction again: strictly perimeter play. It’s not the worst idea when you’re without Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, and it’s definitely not a bad idea when you can stick defenders like Trae Young in every action. And as I keep stating, he leaned on Herro just playing off his own rhythm, and that’s how shots were generated. Less structure, more production. Sometimes rough nights call for that formula.

#4: The Caleb Martin-Max Strus experiment.

Max Strus and Caleb Martin always seem to be grouped together on this team. Both are next up on the starter filler list when guys go down. Both have elevated their play this season in ways that it’s hard to imagine eliminating them from the rotation. But as much as similarities strike in that sense, their overall play hits me as so drastically different, in a good way. And not just one is a shooter and the other is an explosive attacker. As the second half opens up, Strus goes on a run to really put the score out of reach right out the gate. In the blink of an eye, he hits you with a couple threes before you can react. But Martin on the other hand is the marathon guy. He slowly chips away in the scoring column, with feisty tip-ins when shots don’t drop, an occasional three when offense isn’t flowing, and can take you in isolation in a broken possession. And both are equally important. They need both that instinctive spark and that long distance runner who will chip away, and they’ve gotten each of those things at an extremely high level this season.


#5: Dewayne Dedmon is back, and he’s not leaving.

Omer Yurtseven has been incredible for this Heat team in this recent stretch, but I think some of it needs to end there. The record rebound nights are fantastic, but when talking rotation roles with a healthy roster, he has some spots to jump. Seeing Dewayne Dedmon return tonight just felt like a healthy reminder of what it’s like to have a big of pure solidity and consistency. He gets you enough boards, provides some of the most picture perfect “role” type offensive play with the surrounding pieces, and has generally been extremely available. Plus, as the Herro conversation continues in this piece, the pick and roll combo with Dedmon seems as crisp as any two man game on the roster. Like I said, Yurtseven has been great, and can continue to be plugged in when needed, but right now, he’s a developmental piece of this team while Dedmon is the big man lock.


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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over the Suns

The Miami Heat faced the best team in the league tonight, in the Phoenix Suns, and completely dominated without both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro led the way off the bench, but pure outside shooting and offensive execution was the main reason for this.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Duncan Robinson steps down into bench role, but steps up in production.

It was one of those unexpected, yet expected moves that Erik Spoelstra pulled before this game with Max Strus staying in the starting lineup and Duncan Robinson staying in reserve mode. But as much as I thought I’d be discussing Strus’ hot start, Robinson absolutely took over the spotlight. It isn’t even much schematic points that need to be made, except that his confidence looked like it totally surged. Every shot, he had his legs under him and wasn’t swaying in anyway like he usually does after a couple don’t drop. Now, with him coming off the bench, the part many had their eyes on were the minutes of Tyler Herro and him together. And well, when you’re shooting like that, it’ll work. They did run some Herro-Robinson pick and pops with Robinson screening and slipping, which is the exact way to maximize that combo.

#2: Miami shifts who the offense is worked through, and an unexpected guy is the focal point.

I’ve talked a ton about the importance of PJ Tucker in that play-making role, but we saw a shift to begin this one. Initially, we saw much more of Tucker surveying in the dunker spot when one would drive and feed, instead of his usual back to the basket on the wing three. But that aside, they found a guy in the middle of the floor to just make the right sprays, and that guy’s name was Omer Yurtseven. Seven first half assists doesn’t even tell the full story, but just him stepping up when the offense needed that from him says a lot. We’ve seen monster scoring stretches from him this year. We’ve seen nonstop rebounding hounding from him as well. But that first half was the most promising stretch of basketball from Yurtseven that I’ve seen up to this point.

#3: Tyler Herro surprises in other ways now.

Yet again, it was a bit of a shaky start for Tyler Herro. Instead of being surprised by his wild shot-making or unexpected struggles, he surprised in a different way tonight. As I loaded up the box score for the first half, I did not expect there to be a 17 next to Herro’s name. Not only that, but he battled back to 50% shooting up to that point, which is just a big tell of where his game has gone over the last year. When he couldn’t get going tonight, he quickly got into “physical mode,” which is something I’d like to see him enter more often. One fast-break dunk looked to spark some things for him on the attack, and he began driving with his left shoulder leading the way. No more avoiding contact and wild scoops. Okay, there were a few scoops, but when the majority is just strong play from your young guard, good things will happen, which it did, as he ended up finishing the game with one of his best scoring games of the season.

#4: If Miami gets this offensive production most nights, they’ve found the perfect complements for Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

Roster construction is always a hot topic when talking about teams in the NBA, and more importantly, it’s a bigger topic for contending teams. Right now, the Heat are definitely a contending team. And when looking at the depth of this team, it’s led to us thinking about combinations that will work best in a playoff setting around Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, but I’m just not so sure there’s *one* right answer. But no matter who those guys end up being, this type of shooting around those two guys is the ultimate complements to each of their games. Even going back to Robinson and Strus, if both are shooting like this in a few months, there won’t be many minutes where one isn’t on the floor. That is the formula for Butler and Adebayo lineups, and Erik Spoelstra has found that formula.


#5: The Heat just keep doing it.

8-2. That’s the Miami Heat’s record against the top 3 seeds in both the Eastern and Western Conference. No matter who has been available, how many road games they play, or what player is currently in a slump, they’ve still found ways against the top teams in this league. They handled Brooklyn early in the year, dominated the Chicago match-up, and won the majority of games against the Bucks, which they were majorly shorthanded for. On the other side of the league, they lost to Golden State on this trip, yet swept the match-up with the Utah Jazz, and handled business tonight against the Phoenix Suns. That slate of games is as impressive as it gets. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo just watching from the sideline, as the young and hungry continue to battle through win after win. And well, that’s all that is needed. Buy time for Butler, Adebayo, and others, then it’s time to anchor down once the post-season hits. But they’re in a picture perfect position at this moment in time.


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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Pacers

The Miami Heat had the ultimate bounce back game on Tuesday night, beating the Indiana Pacers in intriguing fashion.

We can focus on certain guys in this one, but this was one of those cliche phrases: a team effort.

So, here are five takeaways from this one…

#1: The front-court projects coming up big without the front-court starters.

No Jimmy Butler. No PJ Tucker. No Bam Adebayo. That scarce front-court led to Erik Spoelstra plugging in Max Strus at the 4, but others stepped up even more in that spot. After a bad looking game from KZ Okpala and Omer Yurtseven against Detroit, they came up big in this one early on. The key: using them like themselves, instead of an Adebayo/Tucker role. Okpala was a very efficient 3 of 3 at the half, hitting a nice 3 in the corner, attacking well, and playing some of his best individual defense of the season in my opinion. Yurtseven was just playing one of his most active games of his young NBA career, hitting the boards hard, facilitating at a serviceable level, and setting some nice screens. These guys are still projects, but some reassurance in games like this is a great sign when down so many players.

#2: Duncan Robinson shifting has game little by little? Indeed.

The Duncan Robinson discussion is always an interesting one to have. Did he have another off game to evaluate or did he break the slump? But in the big picture, I have something else to think about: if the shot has been falling all year for him at a decent rate, we would be having the complete opposite conversation about Robinson. Why is that? Well, his inside game has improved more than anyone could’ve expected, and that’s not an overstatement. He took more dribbles in the last 6 minutes of the second quarter than he has in a single game all season. And those dribbles were leading to some nice looking sprays, nice retreat feeds in the lane, and most of all, an ability to really attack at a decent rate. His game has shifted, and threes falling like they were tonight puts it on full display.

#3: My microscopic game take: the defensive adjustments.

Looking at some things on a smaller level from this game, the defensive adjustments were intriguing, yet not unexpected. I don’t remember the last time an NBA team ran zone on the first possession of a game, but that was the case tonight. When Robinson and Strus are your front-court starters, it’s basically necessary. While that worked frequently, there was another outlet that didn’t work as much: blitzing. There are certain teams that just can’t work against, and there are certain lineups of your own that can’t work for. Tonight was one of them. Dedmon blitzing a pick and roll has worked well when PJ Tucker is the awaiting weak-side tagger. But when it’s Robinson or Strus on the back-side, it’s pure mayhem. Two passes, one lay-in. Obviously it didn’t last long since Miami played a great defensive game, but still something to keep in mind.


#4: The biggest individual basketball leap on this Heat team this season.

Speaking of microscopic takes, another young guy development must be discussed. I’ve spent a lot of time recently talking about Gabe Vincent, but something else must be discussed. The recent topic has been three-point shooting, since that shot has been falling at a much better rate, but the fact that he rounded out every part of his game throughout his slump stands out more. An off-ball guard had to turn into an on-ball threat real quick, as he told me before the season. Yet, his handles look as crisp as anybody on this team currently. It’s not just about the highlight-like pull-back dribbles for good looking threes, but instead keeping his dribble alive, constantly shifting the defenders body, and much more. If you asked me what’s been the biggest young guy growth, my answer would 100% be Vincent’s handle.

#5: Tyler Herro is back.

I think many of us were viewing the name Tyler Herro as a name on the injury report too much, instead of the complete offensive player that can come back and make an immediate impact. I wouldn’t say this was his best game tonight, but that’s what you would expect when first returning. Shots will be short, but his ability to still impact the game in his minutes and shoot through the slight “off” early is big time. Then, all of a sudden, another burst has arrived. One three here, another mid-range fade there. And well, that’s just Herro at this stage. Coming into the season, if you were to tell me you knew what you were getting from Herro on a night to night basis more than any of the top guys, I’d push back a bit. But that has been the case. Tyler Herro is back, and they’ve missed him.


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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Bulls

The Miami Heat faced the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night, and it was a pretty different game than the last one. No Jimmy Butler, no Bam Adebayo, no DeMar DeRozan.

Yet, Miami came away with a win due to a bunch of guys stepping up yet again.

So, here are some takeaways from this big win…

#1: Duncan Robinson and Kyle Lowry coming out in a different manner.

The first takeaway on many of my post-game pieces this season have been on Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson. But not usually in a positive way, especially with both of them on the same night. Robinson missed his first shot of the night, then didn’t look back. Pump fake, one dribble, pull-up mid-range was his first bucket of the night, and it triggered a three-point shooting parade shortly after. That’s the formula. Lowry also came out shooting the ball well, but his passing stood out even more. 12 first half assists pretty much sums up that entire point. When he’s playing with his natural flow and assertiveness, that age of his fades away quickly. These two guys have been trying to find a rhythm next to each other, and both of them enhancing their biggest skill is the way to do that.

#2: An offensive tweak without Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

Mid-post touches every single play down was the nightly occurrence when Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and even Markieff Morris was in the lineup. But without them, the offensive purpose has looked rough. Spamming perimeter movement, hand-offs, and normal pick and rolls. But over the last two games, Miami’s found an outlet. Instead of the mid-post with those guys I named, they’re using PJ Tucker and Lowry on the wing three in similar post position. It gives Lowry spacing to score, while also providing more room to play-make in a smaller guys body. Tucker is a threat to run a hand-off or set a quick screen, while also giving guys their spotting on the floor on the weak-side. Mid-post insertions was the team’s base, but they’re finally reviving an offensive home to get back to.

#3: Dewayne Dedmon looking like much more than a valued role player.

Dewayne Dedmon has deserved a ton of credit over this last stretch. When Bam Adebayo went down originally, I think everybody’s mind went to the same place: the back-up big minutes. The reason is that Dedmon is so solid that nobody questions his production, and he’s upheld that point. Night in and night out, he plays his consistent game of screening, rolling, and offensive rebounding. Tonight, though, he wasn’t afraid to show off that three-ball a bit more as well. He buried two shots from deep in the first half, while presenting the Heat with a great spark after Robinson and Lowry went off the floor. He’s the ultimate role player in this league, but his game can be expanded upon when needed in games like this. Many players with his build withhold restrictions, but he truly doesn’t in many ways. He’s a drop big who isn’t the quickest, but can blitz you all night with that recovering scheme. He’s versatile. Not on the floor, but in the lineup from game to game.

#4: KZ Okpala becoming a usable piece on nights like this?

We know what KZ Okpala is as an NBA player so far. Some restrictions offensively, tons of talent defensively, but an overall discomfort on both sides whenever he’s thrown in there. Over the last two games, things have been different though. The biggest difference, in my opinion, isn’t just Okpala doing anything insanely different, but instead who he’s lining up next to. I’m not so sure Erik Spoelstra would put a ton of trust into him on a regular basis, but next to PJ Tucker, the trust is undoubtedly there. Okpala and Tucker can interchange the big man match-up no matter who they’re facing, while the other is slowly edging down to rely on rotations. Hence, the struggling Nikola Vucevic tonight. If Okpala can continually be this playable this season, they can definitely use him with so many guys down.


#5: This is a big win…for many reasons.

Let me start by reiterating that Duncan Robinson needed this game. A home night explosion on the offensive end, while showcasing mental strength over physical strength. But as a team, the importance shines even more. This past Monday, Jimmy Butler returned and went out in the same game, leaving many predicting a gloomy stretch of games ahead. The reigning champ Milwaukee Bucks as the current 3 seed were up next, while the 2 seed Chicago Bulls quickly followed. Without Butler and Adebayo, that basically screamed 0-2. But well, Miami flipped that into a 2-0 stretch through hard overall play, and now we’re heading into another game on Monday to complete a 7 day stretch without Butler. Who knows if he will come back then, but either way, Miami has survived a stretch that didn’t seem possible. And after the 15th of December, things will get real easy for Miami up until New Years.


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