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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Spurs

The Miami Heat beat the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, expanding their win streak to 3 games. Bam Adebayo early on to Jimmy Butler mid-way through to Tyler Herro closing it out, while Herro’s fourth quarter explosion was very important for his near future. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: An early aggressive Bam Adebayo sighting.

Bam Adebayo came out in this game in a way that many people would want. Attacking the basket, trying to get to the line, and most importantly, capitalizing on the mid-range jumper. When playing against a drop scheme like this, that free throw jumper was available time and time again. Although Jimmy Butler’s passive ways early didn’t take advantage of that open space, Adebayo did, which ultimately allowed Duncan Robinson to flow in nicely per usual from the outside. Even smaller moments, like the second quarter poster dunk that was changed to a charge, shows the initiation he’s taking as the offensive focal point to play some “bully ball,” as Butler likes to call it.

#2: Getting a look at the Butler-Dedmon duo.

After Jimmy Butler missed the last two games and Dewayne Dedmon got significant minutes for the first time in that span, it meant tonight would be the first time we would see those two in action together. And as I talked about before the game, it didn’t disappoint, since the initial set when he checked in was a Butler-Dedmon PnR, leading to a Dedmon slam and a Butler assist. Miami has needed to stagger Butler and Adebayo’s minutes more and more lately, but adding a consistent back-up big for Butler to rely on is a much bigger deal than originally expected. Dedmon once again gave them some solid minutes, while showcasing his current shape due to the extra minutes Spoelstra is playing him game by game.

#3: Duncan Robinson improving decision making on the move.

It’s time to discuss the undercover areas of Duncan Robinson’s game, instead of talking about the obvious abilities with his shooting. I’ve also dove into his solid defensive rotations, the off-ball screening importance for their offense, and much more. But something that must be noted is his growing decisiveness when moving downhill. It wasn’t as important to bring up in the past since he didn’t get to the rim much, but that number has been increasing as time goes by. The 2 on 1’s created by PnR’s lead to Robinson choosing between that lob pass or laying it up with confidence, which he’s surprisingly been pretty good with around the rim. The reason this is so essential is due to him gaining that trust in his own abilities, which can spark even more growth in his game throughout the season.

#4: A defensive third quarter gets Miami back into this game.

The offense seemed like it was finally tailing off in the third quarter, just like it has in many spurts throughout this season. But during those stretches, it’s time to rely on your team’s identity, and that’s exactly what Miami did. Other than Adebayo’s continued dominance in this quarter, the headline was their defense locking in after the Spurs went on a run. The Spurs did not have a made field goal for about 5 minutes of basketball, which has a lot to do with the coaching side of things. Miami went into a soft press for many possessions, which then flowed into a 2-3 zone. An intriguing element to this zone tonight was that Robinson found himself at the top of it, which may seem to be an issue in the big picture, but it was the complete opposite tonight.

#5: A rough night for Trevor Ariza, but next man up mentality comes into play.

Trevor Ariza has found himself on most of these takeaway pieces since joining the team, but this was the first night that there were some down moments. He didn’t have the same offensive impact that he’s had lately, which is expected from a role, 3 and D player, but the issues actually came on the defensive end at times. Some blown rotations, lack of effort at times, and more seemed to jump off the screen, which is when KZ Okpala came into play. Okpala got minutes tonight due to Andre Iguodala being out, and the eye test said more about his performance than the stat-sheet. Shots weren’t falling throughout, but he really had some great defensive possessions and knocked down an important triple early in the fourth. It’s the motto of this team, and next man up was in full effect tonight.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Denver

The Miami Heat had a similar outcome on the second night of this back to back against the Denver Nuggets, since some issues led to yet another loss. Although Bam Adebayo was aggressive to start and their defense was there for stretches, the overall consistency is the real issue. So, let’s take a look at five takeaways from this game…

#1: Bam Adebayo begins the game with an offensive purpose.

After Bam Adebayo had 6 shot attempts in a loss against the Phoenix Suns one night ago, he came out in the first half tonight with 12 points on 13 attempts. When discussing the reason for this exactly, I’d bet it has a lot to do with Adebayo realizing himself that he must takeover at times as the second best player on the team. And as I’ve mentioned, that doesn’t mean he has to take that open mid-range jumper every play, but instead it’s necessary to move downhill on a nightly basis. Centers like Adebayo are not a common thing in this league, which is why he must utilize those strengths any chance he gets, and attacking off the dribble is a good start.

#2: The interesting sides of Jimmy Butler as a defender.

Instead of discussing some of the all-around defensive issues that were shown tonight at times, it’s important to take a second to focus in on the elite abilities of Jimmy Butler on that end of the floor. For starters, it really is interesting that he’s so good at guarding guys in the post. I don’t know if it’s something he’s always been good at, or if it has developed over time, but either way that attribute no matter the post player’s size is pretty impressive. The other element to his defensive skill-set is the continued ability to hit the passing lanes. Once again, while I’m not going to focus in on some of the soft switching occurring throughout, Butler’s backside rotations to hit passing lanes basically saves that constant blitzing, highlighting his effectiveness even more.

#3: Trevor Ariza really finding himself in the offense.

I’ve harped on Trevor Ariza’s immediate fit on defense, by guarding opposing guards or getting deflections, but the offensive fit this quickly really wasn’t expected. After he kept Miami going in the first half a night ago, he was the leading scorer at the half as well tonight with 13 points. The most impressive stat at that point was the fact that he was 3 for 3 from beyond the arc, since that was the one thing we noted that Miami missed early in the season. The only issue is that he shouldn’t be the leading scorer for this team, which just furthers the inconsistencies of this Heat team. Once Miami gets clicking on the offensive end regularly, the effectiveness of Ariza as an offensive threat will become even more apparent.

#4: The two-way guys both one-way sparks.

When a takeaway is about the team’s two-way players, that basically sums up how this game went. Gabe Vincent was obviously going to step up into the role of Goran Dragic, but clearly doing just the opposite of what Dragic does. Even though shots falling from deep hasn’t been the staple for Vincent that we once thought, he really competes on the defensive end. Miami even began going into a 2-2-1 press at one point in the season just due to his aggression. But the other two-way guy is the real interesting piece. Max Strus is an outstanding shooter that never seems to really get a full opportunity. There may not be a consistent role for him on this team, but when the team has their moments of offensive struggles, why not throw in Strus to try and spark some things from the outside.

#5: Deja vu?

This game feels pretty similar to a past performance from the Miami Heat, and that may be due to it occurring exactly 24 hours ago. Some really great offensive flow and defensive execution out of the gate, then the team begins to slowly plummet due to a bit of inconsistency. The blame against Phoenix was Adebayo’s aggression and Dragic’s lack of production, but neither of those things can be utilized after this one. The only consistent takeaway is that Miami lacks overall bench production, leading to second quarter fall-offs. Erik Spoelstra clearly notices it as well, since he took Adebayo out six minutes into the game, as he tried to stagger Adebayo and Butler’s minutes as much as possible. And well, that’s when the eyes will turn to Tyler Herro, since that’s the reason he is in that bench role.

Jimmy Butler: Steering the Offense for Miami

After watching the Miami Heat’s roller coaster of a night against the Los Angeles Lakers, headlined by inconsistent play and an injured Victor Oladipo, the individual performances have basically been pushed aside. But well, they shouldn’t, since although it was obvious that Jimmy Butler played well throughout the game, 28 points in the box score was a bit of a surprise.

So, let’s take a walk through Butler’s performance, while focusing on the offensive side of the ball instead of the recent defensive dives…

– The Foul Line Ease

This article could very well consist of Butler drawing fouls the entire time, but we’re not going to do that. But it is important to note the simplicity it is for him to get to the basket and draw the foul on a consistent basis.

On this play, the first thing that is seen is the amount of spacing given to Butler. Duncan Robinson, Victor Oladipo, and Trevor Ariza lined up on the perimeter on the same side, opening up the driving lane for Butler completely. He drives to the basket as Wesley Matthews defends him closely, and takes it up strong while hanging in the air to get the foul call plus the bucket.

This is nothing new when evaluating his play, but the amount of time that he hangs in the air before actually attempting the shot is a major reason for the amount of and-1’s that he converts.

– The Jumper Evaluation

We don’t see many catch and shoot threes from Butler, since most of his attempts from beyond the arc involve late shot clock jumpers off the dribble, or late-game pull-ups.

On this possession, they run a DHO off the inbound, while it gets denied leading to Butler reversing it right back. This is another one of those three-point attempts late in the shot clock, but the fundamental elements on this play reiterate the reasons for his deep ball struggles.

Although the defender may be in the way with this angle, take a look at the amount of lift he had on this shot. While some shooters on the Heat rely on timing, or others rely on confidence, Butler just needs that consistent lift in his legs, which is why shots were falling so frequently in the post-season last year.

– A Counter Player

A good analogy for Butler’s offensive play is a counter-puncher in boxing, since he constantly just reacts to the defenses initial move.

For example, Dennis Schroder reaches immediately on this play as Butler begins to back him down, and it seems like he instantly knows he’s going up for the layup in a cleared lane. He spins off of him, rolls with the contact, and gets a much needed score for Miami to give them a comfortable lead, which as we all know, the lead is never comfortable.

– A Great Game-Plan: Butler/Adebayo PnR’s

Miami came out of the half looking to make an offensive run, and it seemed like the immediate plan was to run Butler/Adebayo PnR’s, as they usually do to close out games.

It’s a pretty unique combo, since as seen here, the defense has to make a decision as Adebayo floats, due to his ability to play above the rim and find a dead-spot at the free throw line for a jumper. This allows Butler to make his quarterback read, which Andre Drummond’s final step-back led Butler into a fluid mid-range jumper.

Here’s another instance of that Butler/Adebayo PnR to begin the third, except on this play, Adebayo eliminates Matthew completely, which gives Butler all of the room to go one-on-one.

Another interesting element to this is that there aren’t many players like Butler in these situations. Most defenders are used to guys pulling up with all that room, or getting up in the air to float up and under the rim. Not Butler though, since his patience is like no other, as that slight pump-fake gets Drummond into the air, allowing him to score fairly easily.

– More Butler PnR Reads

These two possessions pretty much go hand in hand on this topic, since it refers back to his ability to read defenses so quickly and efficiently.

In this first clip, he almost gets caught in the air as both defenders focus in on him, but Precious Achiuwa quickly rolls and converts the and-1. A little bit later, Butler and Achiuwa run another PnR in the same exact spot, and it seems like Montrezl Harrell had that Achiuwa finish a few minutes prior stuck in his head, since his hesitance led to another Butler mid-range.

Everything runs so smoothly when Butler has the ball in his hands directing traffic, which makes the moments when he fades to the corner a bit to play off the ball in the first half even more apparent. Obviously, he shouldn’t be relied on every single play, but once things begin to slip away a bit with the inconsistency, it’ll be important for him to step in even sooner.

– His Presence Leads to Points

When people associate the word gravity to different NBA players, this play shows the reason why.

The initial thought on this play may be that Goran Dragic made a great cut to the basket as Butler drove, but the second time watching it shows something a bit differently. The amount of eyes on Butler on this possession is the actual reason for it, since Schroder and Morris being so worried about the Butler cut-off led to neither of them picking up Dragic on the cut.

This is only one play that is being shown, but this is a constant thing when Butler is on the floor. It’s the reason that shooters like Duncan Robinson benefit from Butler being on the floor so much, since the defensive worry he creates allows others to roam a bit more freely in the offense.

– Late-Game Butler

There isn’t much to breakdown on this play, but instead it’s the amount of times that things like this are seen. Butler’s ability late in games to basically continue to put it out of reach is like no other, since the reiterated point is that when he wants to turn it on, he can.

Isolation plays at the top of the key isn’t the usual set that Erik Spoelstra runs in these situations, but at times the decision making caters to the star player. And a big man switched onto him and an efficient scoring night are two things that contribute to that choice to basically try and will the team to win.

The best part about discussing Butler in the article like this is that it’s only half the battle, or better yet, it’s probably only 40% of the battle. The things he does on the defensive end should not be taken for granted, which particularly last night, his ability to hit passing lanes was the main reason for Miami coming out with a win.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Lakers

The Miami Heat beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, sweeping the season series with them. Although I’ll address five takeaways from this game, all eyes will turn toward the Victor Oladipo injury situation that occurred in the fourth quarter. But, let’s take a look at some takeaways from this game specifically….

#1: The Jimmy Butler experience, a common theme but an interesting element.

Although Jimmy Butler’s first half consisted of only one missed shot, the continued theme showed up once again. He was the leading scorer at the half with 11 points, but the team still thrives off his aggression. As he got some much needed buckets early on, it sparked some scoring runs from Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic, which will always be the case with this team. This isn’t to discuss the drop-off when he exits the floor, but instead the moments in which he slightly fades away into the corner to be an off-ball player. It’s not the ideal situation for Miami to need an ultra-aggressive Butler against a highly depleted Lakers team, but that was the case tonight, especially since they weren’t getting the Bam Adebayo aggression early either.

#2: Tyler Herro making leaps off the ball, which is needed in his role.

Tyler Herro had his moments in the first half, but the real takeaway is what has transpired over the last few games for him. He’s been highly productive on the ball since moving to that sixth man role, but his off the ball fit is the actual essential part due to the guys he is surrounded by. One example is his reads off the ball, since he seems to watch his sole defender’s eyes a bit more, leading to instinctive cuts to the basket for easy points. But getting back to the areas he showcased tonight, it was mostly from beyond the arc as a catch and shoot threat, which is key in those lineups next to Victor Oladipo as the ball-handler. The next part to the development of these two on the floor will be Herro playing as the ball-handler more, while Oladipo can become the threat off the ball who can attack in motion.

#3: Plain and simple, the ups and downs are a normal part of this team. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s no offense, like it’s been for many games this season, or an ineffective defensive game, as portrayed against the Memphis Grizzlies, this Miami Heat roller coaster is just pretty normal at the current stage. When evaluating the overall issue tonight, it’s just the overall sloppiness and lack of consistent play on each end, while throwing in the lack of energy that was much needed in a game that they were supposed to handle easily. Now, Miami has always had trouble competing at that level in these majorly winnable games, but these type of games are very important in a season where the Eastern Conference is as closely packed as it is. If Miami wants to take that next step as a team, aside from the development or fit from individual players, team consistency is the one and only thing that fits that category.

#4: Victor Oladipo finding his offensive fit game by game.

It’s pretty obvious that Victor Oladipo’s offensive fit would progress the more games he played, but the leaps he made tonight were very crucial for the upcoming steps. Other than the simple scheme understanding, the next part of it becomes lineup fits, certain players he bounces off, among other things, which is why Coach Spo was able to experiment with that a bit after some life was shown by him in the third quarter. He was tied as the leading scorer for Miami at the end of the first quarter, and he didn’t attempt a field goal. They need him as an aggressive figure on this team, especially since the aggression levels are up and down with the Heat’s two stars, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. The attacking was important for Oladipo early on, but the falling jumpers off the ball will be the area that he’ll find himself in more and more. And the injury that occurred in the fourth quarter will be another thing to monitor, which could change this entire topic of rhythm, as an added obstacle could be given to Oladipo.

#5: Nemanja Bjelica back-up big in first half, Precious Achiuwa back-up big in the second.

Bam Adebayo’s foul trouble forced Miami to look at different options in the big man department, which is pretty limited as Dewayne Dedmon isn’t available to play yet. Nemanja Bjelica obviously had his name called early on, and he gives them a surprising drive and kick ability, with the emphasis on kick since he is more than willing to give the ball up. The issue is that his offense, particularly the shooting, isn’t what many may have expected at this current moment, since the catch and shoot ability should be the easiest part for him to slide into. Precious Achiuwa ended up getting the nod in the second half, since Miami needed more of an interior presence who will at least battle with athleticism. He got into some foul trouble of his own, but he had some flashes that gave Miami what they needed in those minutes, but these exact flashes reiterate the fact that his development in a Summer League or G-League would be so helpful for him right now.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Memphis

The Miami Heat’s winning streak ended on Tuesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. After some early open looks from beyond the arc for the Grizzlies, following that up with a third quarter Dillon Brooks explosion, led to Miami playing from behind throughout. So, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Bam Adebayo comes out with early offensive aggression.

Some may point to a certain ESPN ranking, which placed Bam Adebayo at 9 among the top player’s potential under the age of 25, for the reason of this early aggression. Others may just call it inevitable when he’s facing favorable match-ups in certain areas. Jonas Valanciunas was basically begging Adebayo to shoot a wide open mid-range jumper throughout, so he did just that. But he really looked to attack in spurts that many have been awaiting for quite some time. Forcing that defense to collapse benefits the shooters on the floor, which is why both Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro had some good looks early on. Coach Spoelstra always has that interesting offensive card in his back pocket to throw down in a playoff series, and that may just be unleashing Adebayo to play as free as can be.

#2: The one negative defensive aspect on display.

Defense has been quite the topic when discussing the Miami Heat as of late, but the negative side of things must be harped on. Adebayo switches in the pick and roll may have been cured a bit with the newest defensive acquisitions, but now it’s a new obstacle for him. As I asked him following the past game, it seems to be more about reading the defender in the PnR than it does the offensive player. Although he may be able to switch when the PnR includes Jimmy Butler, who is very capable of guarding a big, other guys on the roster aren’t as capable. As he responded to my question, there’s a heavy reliance on that backside rotation, which may not consist of the correct guys while Adebayo is eliminated from the play on the perimeter. That exact mindset led to 10 first half triples for the Grizzlies, while most of them being wide open due to that exact defensive takeaway.

#3: Tyler Herro finding an offensive rhythm.

As I already touched on Adebayo’s early offensive explosion, Tyler Herro followed that right up with a very efficient start of his own. The two of them combined for 21 first quarter points on 82% shooting, which is very impressive. Herro was doing it in many different ways, including some catch and shoot threes, as well as mid-range floaters out of a pick and roll. Although he showcased this all for many stretches, it’s apparent that he fades away in the offense during other spurts. When other creators, like Victor Oladipo, are on the floor with him, it’s alright to allow them to run some things while he plays off the ball, but when he’s rolling like he did tonight, that decision is questionable. As I’ve mentioned since Miami picked up Oladipo, the most intriguing aspect will be the fit next to Herro. Oladipo has been super unselfish since joining the team, but Herro has to be able to control the offense and read a situation when he truly has it going.

#4: The Jimmy Butler third quarter comeback becoming a common theme.

Jimmy Butler third quarters have become a common theme recently, and I’m not so sure it’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s a positive element when discussing his ability to flip a switch to attack the basket and score with ease whenever he wants, while the negative aspect is letting two quarters pass by may lead to it being too late. Victor Oladipo will become a crucial part of Butler’s effectiveness for one reason: lineups. Butler and Adebayo continually have their minutes staggered, as they’re asked to lead their respective lineups. But once Oladipo can create consistent offense and score the ball, Adebayo and Butler may be able to play together for longer stretches, without allowing the lead to expand and continue to play from behind.

#5: A quick Victor Oladipo observation following first full practice.

This was going to be an interesting game for Victor Oladipo, since he was able to practice for the first time on Monday afternoon. Now, that may not mean he’s able to immediately fit into the offensive scheme since it still takes time, but it definitely gives an added feel for the scheme. Although he had his moments throughout the night, the one thing that seems to be holding him back has nothing to do with scheme. It’s actually his personal play style at the moment, which is a bit tense a lot of the time due to his unselfish play. Much like I’ve discussed with Butler and Adebayo, selfishness is needed in many spots of the game, and Oladipo has shown to be that type of player over his career. Once he gets fully acclimated with the offense that may come, but it’s important to monitor since they need him playing freely offensively for him to be at his best.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Knicks

The Miami Heat ended their 6 game losing streak with a win over the New York Knicks. It was a tale of two halves for Miami, after Jimmy Butler went into takeover mode in the second half. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Well, this is Miami’s offense at times.

The reality is that this is Miami’s offense at times. Dissecting different reasons for the offensive struggles game after game have become a constant thing this season, meaning this is who they are. The leading scorer after 12 minutes of basketball from both teams was Tyler Herro with 6 points, which furthers the point about the overall stagnant offensive play. The only difference is that the Knicks went on spark runs by some of their primary players, as well as turning defense into offense. Miami wasn’t as lucky to have those scoring spurts, and it may have nothing to do with luck. There were small flashes of Bam Adebayo takeover, which never really panned out in the first half, which I will dive into next, but it’s clear that a passive Jimmy Butler in games like this always leads to them playing from behind, which turned around in the second half.

#2: Bam Adebayo having his moments, showcasing just an incredibly unique skill.

Now, I mentioned the small positive flashes from Adebayo early on, and although the Heat scored 36 points in the half, it must be touched upon. For starters, he scored 8 points in that stretch on 4 for 5 shooting, which is a major part of this. Efficiency is clearly a great attribute, but not when it’s costing the team points. Andre Iguodala having the same amount of shot attempts in the first half as Adebayo reiterates that point even more. The reason that I wanted to touch on his unique skill, which is widely known, is because he shows glimpses of realization then reverts right back. Pull-up jumpers with a behind the back dribble occurring right before seems like a moment where that Brooklyn Nets-like game takeover is coming, but the following play leads to off-ball screens and kick-outs to Miami’s different wings. Adebayo utilizes guard moves throughout the game, which is the perfect description since it happens pretty effortlessly.

#3: Precious Achiuwa struggles again, turning eyes toward buyout market.

The continued discussion surrounding last minute pick-ups for Miami have included the addition of a back-up big for the Heat. The non-Adebayo minutes have become just as bad as the non-Butler minutes lately, since they don’t have that big man who can keep them afloat. Achiuwa had flashes early in the year, but his offensive limitations and undersized build allow him to get lost rather quickly. Although most of the guys that are currently in the buyout market get labeled as “past their prime,” that attribute may be more helpful for this team than an inexperience rookie. It’s obvious that Miami will make a move in that area pretty soon, but the consistent hole in that spot should speed that process up in the coming days for the Heat’s front office.

#4: The Jimmy Butler takeover.

As I mentioned before the game, as well as halftime, a Jimmy Butler takeover was necessary. When offense is stagnant like it was tonight, it’s important for him to search to attack, but it’s even more clear when all of the signs are pointing in that direction. Butler seemed to be locked in as soon as some back and forth occurred between him and the Knicks, both the players on the court and sideline. When he’s locked in like that, he’s a hard man to stop, since it’s obvious that he is more than capable to score at the basket whenever he chooses. So, he did just that in the third quarter, turning a 36 point first half into a 39 point third quarter. And although the points he scored will be harped on, the intensity and energy that he brought changed the game for Miami.

#5: Duncan Robinson with one of his best all-around performances.

Duncan Robinson hit some nice shots on the outside, which may have sparked him moving forward, but that’s not what I want to discuss. The part that must be mentioned is that this game may be one of Robinson’s best all-around games of the season. For starters, he put the ball on the deck at an exceptional rate, which led to some very impressive passes. When defenses continue to fly out at him, that element will be essential, and adding the dump-off on the move to the cutter takes it to another level. The second part of tonight’s game for him was on the defensive end, which could’ve been one of his better defensive games of his career. Not only some big steals and deflections to get Miami into transition, but he also stayed in front of his guy individually much better than usual. This type of performance is all he needed to get back to normal, so we will see how this progresses.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Charlotte

The Miami Heat lost to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night, which originally began as an absolute blowout, but ended as a close battle. Although the main takeaways are negative tonight due to the Heat’s poor play early on, it’s a constant theme of playing in a consistent fashion for 48 minutes, since they were really solid down the stretch. So, here are five takeaways from this game.

#1: Well, let’s start with allowing 72 points at the half.

Now, this clearly won’t be the most positive post-game piece after Charlotte pulled away much earlier than ever expected. Open triple after open triple led to the Hornets expanding their lead more and more, beginning with Malik Monk looking like the team’s owner, Michael Jordan, when he plays the Miami Heat. When evaluating the issues on the Heat’s end, it’s just clearly the definition of the second night of a back to back on the defensive end. Late rotations became the theme in the first half, while the effort on that end was not up to the expected level to begin the game, which is needed against the offensive firepower in Charlotte.

#2: That one player not able to break away from the pack in points category.

When scanning through the box score at the half, the biggest takeaway is that one player wasn’t able to break away from the rest in the scoring column. Butler and Nunn led with 10, while Ariza, Adebayo, and Robinson followed behind with 6 points. But on a night like tonight, they need that one guy to takeover for different stretches. Adebayo and Herro did that for Miami against Portland last night, but they combined for 10 points at the half tonight. Obviously Victor Oladipo, Nemanja Bjelica, and Goran Dragic are still not playing with this Heat team yet, but it’s no excuse when evaluating this team as a whole. They’re built as a team with a bunch of options, but none of those options seemed to have it tonight.

#3: The optimistic perspective.

After diving into each of Miami’s issues on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, is there anything positive to draw from this game? Well, I don’t know about the description positive, but this definitely puts some things in perspective, which is hard to do while the team is on a 6 game losing streak. So, take a look at the rotation tonight, since although they had more than enough guys to step up, the bench makes it quite interesting. For one, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent are getting consistent minutes, which isn’t a terrible thing since they’ve played well, but it’s a role that they won’t ever play for this team. Also, Precious Achiuwa is still the Adebayo relief guy, which may not be the case once Miami solidifies their signing from the buyout market. The point is that this rotation might look a lot different on Monday night, which may force you into a bit more of an optimistic view.

#4: Trevor Ariza’s high minutes changing Andre Iguodala’s role.

When discussing a change at a position, this does not consist of some young guys battling it out to stay in the rotation, such as a Kendrick Nunn. The actual positional battle I’m referring to is the two veteran wings, Andre Iguodala and Trevor Ariza. Aside from Ariza being inserted into the starting lineup next to Adebayo recently, there has seemed to be high trust levels in Ariza since he first joined the team. It’s widely known that Iguodala isn’t the biggest fan of regular season play, which makes this certain insertion even more effective, but some of the newcomers make this interesting. Not just Nemanja Bjelica, but also a possible LaMarcus Aldridge addition links some question marks to the rotation moving forward. Although it may not hold much importance at the current moment, it will for Coach Spoelstra as the season progresses, and he must choose between the better shooter and the better defender, who can each sprinkle in the opposite element.

#5: Miami battles until the final buzzer, showcasing some grit to fight back.

Although it’s still not the result many may want, it was a pretty impressive run that this Heat team went on beginning late in the third quarter. Although the offensive side of the ball will be looked toward first after they went on a 25-8 run, the defensive rotations were night and day compared to the first quarter. They were locked in on that end of the floor, didn’t foul as much, and contested well on those same Charlotte triples. The offensive side of the ball was a slow grind with a three here and a three there, but Tyler Herro was the headliner for a short stretch. He showcased that same confidence in his scoring abilities, but then it began to tail off as the fourth quarter progressed. Those same triples were not falling late in the fourth when they needed it most from him, but then Adebayo stepped up late in the fourth for an exceptional stretch under two minutes to go. This then leads to the constant eyebrow raises about Adebayo not realizing how talented he is all 48 minutes.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Suns

The Miami Heat lost to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night in the last game before the trade deadline. Since there wasn’t many takeaways from this game particularly, I took some turns into trade additions. So, here are five takeaways from not only this game, but the team overall…

#1: The shot-creating/play-making absence apparent.

Instead of utilizing my first takeaway to discuss shooting struggles every single night, it’s important to instead evaluate the reasoning or replacement necessary. The shot-creators are the ones who are currently being discussed in possible trades, and tonight’s game only furthered that point of need. One example is the box score half-way through the second quarter. Miami’s bench included Trevor Ariza with 1 shot attempt, Tyler Herro with 3 shot attempts, Andre Iguodala with 0 shot attempts, and Gabe Vincent with 0 shot attempts. While this may not seem like a big deal to some, it just shows the areas that Miami takes a major decline in when Butler steps off the floor, which the struggles tonight were actually with Butler on the floor as well as I will discuss next.

#2: An off Jimmy Butler night early basically digs Miami a deeper hole.

When Butler finds himself on one of these pieces, it’s usually in a very positive manner. But tonight just was not his night, as he just looked out of sync on offense early on, leading to a 15 point deficit at the half. The point of this discussion is not to talk about Butler struggles, since an off-night was pretty much due. But it furthers the point about the supporting cast, since although the Heat have struggled on exceptional Butler nights, they just have zero chance when he has the slightest of issues. Now, not to insert the trade possibilities into every point, but this is another reason for that being a necessity. That Kyle Lowry or Victor Oladipo type is the guy who makes the difference when that occurs by taking over as an on-ball threat.

#3: The Bam Adebayo element: Reading the situation.

Bam Adebayo has a unique gift to read the floor, attack match-ups, and make the right decisions as an extraordinary play-maker. The only issue with that is sometimes that unselfishness takes control, leading to the constant worry of getting other players going. Butler has been a culprit of this as well over his Heat tenure, since he’s capable of dominating as soon as the ball is tipped, but decides to get his teammates into a flow. But this situation is completely different, since it’s been a common theme of offensive struggles with the over-reliance on role players. It’s just a clear area that may need a bit more selfishness inserted in order to give the team the best chance to win, since forcing back-door bounce passes to get another player into some sort of rhythm actually doesn’t help all the time.

#4: Kendrick Nunn silently having one of his better games of the season.

Now, while a lot of people may want to only hear Kendrick Nunn’s name when it’s attached to a trade deal, his performance tonight must be noted. When it seemed as if this game was clearly out of reach, Nunn battled in the third quarter scoring 13 points, and cutting the Suns’ lead down slightly. It’s no surprise that he can score the ball, especially after an incredible run after being inserted into the starting lineup, but then he began to fall off a bit for this last stretch. And well, that’s the Kendrick Nunn story, since consistency can’t really be counted on. Either way, his fight throughout this game to either try and win or to boost his personal stock seemed to work, as he showed the upside to his game, which begins and ends with scoring.

#5: Who could this be the last of with Miami?

The final and overall takeaway from this game is the looming thought of what this team may look like past the deadline. The Heat’s next game is on Thursday at 7:30 while the trade deadline is on Thursday at 3:00. So, that means this could be the last game for a few players wearing that Miami Heat jersey, or it could just be yet another game of many if they elect to keep this same team. While that may not be a statement many want to hear, it’s just something to prepare for if these discussed trades don’t work out. Now, in my opinion, instead of diving even deeper into trade packages, player fits, and more, this game tonight was basically the icing on the cake of this team needing a spark. And well, there are some “sparks” on Miami’s current radar.

How Would Kyle Lowry Fit with the Miami Heat?

The Kyle Lowry discussions have gained more and more traction after Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer reported that league sources say the Heat are pursuing a deal for Lowry harder than anyone. So, that obviously means the overall chatter has been about the pieces included in a deal, the long-term situation, and of course, the immediate fit.

To that point, it seems necessary to dive into the areas of this team that Lowry would be able to improve upon arrival. For starters, the relationship with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo makes this even more interesting, while that big 3 can be the one counter to the Brooklyn Nets big 3.

It’s no surprise that the Nets will be able to score the ball at will when fully healthy, so why not try to rival that with a defensive core if you’re the Miami Heat? And well, although there is optimism about the offense returning to form, the defense seems to have the most potential.

This defensive trio can clearly wreck havoc on a night to night basis, so let’s dive into the opposite side of the ball to see the offensive adjustments if a Lowry pick-up was made.

– The extra attacker, the missing piece

Another article, another discussion about Miami’s need for an attacker. The three-point shooting has been harped on constantly over the last few games, but it’s actually magnified the point about the absence of a downhill threat next to Butler.

The reason that the main focus for Miami’s current personnel is to keep shooting is since they don’t have anything else to adjust to. They’ve got a few shooters who have trouble with finding separation at times, which leads to chaos when shots aren’t falling.

So, this leads us right into the Lowry fit, since as seen above, he gets the ball in transition and immediately gets to the rim with one of the league’s most versatile defenders guarding him. There’s a reason that so many transition plays end up in pull-up threes or setting up half-court offense. It’s because many players don’t have that in their arsenal at this stage, which occurs more and more when Butler is off the floor or even off the ball.

He works angles as an attacker as well, which is exactly what Butler does for Miami on a consistent basis. He’s a high IQ guy who can find favorable match-ups, as seen here when he turned the corner to force Kelly Olynyk to switch onto him.

Now, this is not one of those instances where you throw around the term “high IQ” as a viable description. It’s actually to showcase his knowledge of not only the game, but the league. He can control the pacing, much like Butler, by getting to the line late in games or utilizing exaggerated movements to maybe work an official.

– The Added Shooting Element

Well, here we are again, talking about shooting. Except this time it’s being discussed in a positive manner, since Lowry has been having a good year shooting from beyond the arc. He can be trusted to hit some catch and shoot triples as seen in that video clip, but more importantly, the above the break threes are the major addition.

Those three balls have gone from a major strength to a major weakness for the Miami Heat, which is halted even more with the limited offensive options that I discussed earlier. Even when discussing a lot of the Heat’s shooters during their hot stretches, they still create issues in other areas of the game.

But Lowry brings a defensive presence, a trusted play-making ability, and the primary element, a nightly closer.

– The Spo/Lowry duo leading to creativity

After depicting some of the obvious elements to Lowry’s fit with Miami, it’s time to discuss arguably the most intirguing duo if this deal was made: Erik Spoelstra and Kyle Lowry.

While I’ve discussed Butler and Lowry quite a lot, Bam Adebayo is still going to be the primary ball-handler and play-maker in most of the Heat’s advanced sets. Now, this means Lowry can be utilized in a completely different way off the ball, which seems to benefit him quite a lot.

If you are having trouble imagining what this may look like, watch the clip above while replacing Fred VanVleet with Butler and OG Anunoby with Adebayo.

I’ll wait.

Okay good, so now you see the Spoelstra element to this addition.

– The need for a “go get a bucket” guy

The Heat are 22nd in the NBA in points per possession in isolation, while being 3rd in points per possession off a screen. Now, that stat basically screams the lack of a guy who can create for himself to just get a bucket.

This in no way means Lowry would be utilized in an isolation fashion, but it does mean that he’s capable of doing so in a stagnant offense. In the clip above, Lowry makes a tough turnaround jumper with Butler blanketing him, which is the exact offensive element that this team misses when Butler isn’t trucking people to the basket.

Lastly, it’s important to analyze these type of things in a very simple way at times, since overthinking it may fog the original thought. And well, the simple takeaway is that if you have a chance to insert a six time All-Star and NBA champion next to Butler and Adebayo, it’s a natural fit.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Overtime Loss to Indiana

The Miami Heat lost in overtime to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday afternoon. It was a roller coaster of a game for Miami, going from constant struggles to great offensive runs to end regulation, then finishing overtime in a disappointing fashion. Anyway, here are five takeaways…

#1: A nightly takeaway: Miami’s shooting continues to be the downfall.

The first takeaway seems to be a copy and paste version on these pieces following every game, mostly since the issues being discussed hasn’t changed. Miami shooting 3 for 18 from beyond the arc in the first half is clearly no change in the offensive issues. Now, it must be noted that there aren’t many offensive adjustments to be made regarding three-point shooting, since the team’s personnel can’t afford to go away from it. They’ve lacked extra attackers in the rotation, which becomes even more apparent when the shots aren’t falling. Although it’s pretty much the entire team that is enduring these struggles, Duncan Robinson hasn’t made it any better, since his story went from lack of attempts early in the season to a lack of makes currently.

#2: Bam Adebayo early aggression kept Miami alive, and brings a bit more clarity.

Bam Adebayo was one of the few bright spots for Miami in the first half, since he not only brought the needed aggression, but also the essential energy. And that’s not just because of a highlight dunk early on, since the jumper was looking consistent as well. The non-Butler minutes are continually harped on for obvious reasons, but the non-Bam minutes looked even worse for Miami today. Now, this clarifies two things. For one, although Adebayo’s high impact play isn’t as clear when others are shooting poorly, it just makes his natural talent to score the ball more apparent. He continued to take advantage of switches when he got the ball in the paint, mostly when Myles Turner was off the floor or out of the play. The second element to this is the clear need for a front-court addition, since adding veteran wings to supply Butler is important, but Adebayo needs some relief guys or sidekicks since Achiuwa has become a non-factor.

#3: Jimmy Butler is Miami’s offense.

Well, here we are again, discussing the Miami Heat’s offense even more. Instead of looking at the exact numbers and reasons for the struggles, it’s important to note the only reason Miami continues to compete with teams considering the offensive trouble. Two words: Jimmy Butler. When you talk about consistent play this season for the Heat, you’d probably start and finish with Butler, since he finds himself with a similar box score every night. And with the lack of three-point shooting, his downhill impact is even more important. He put his head down per usual to flow into his close bank-shot or go-to floater, mostly since the usual drive and kicks are a non-factor in games like this. The way that Butler can keep this team competitive no matter the circumstance should truly not be overlooked.

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#4: A longer observation for Heat’s newest addition, Trevor Ariza.

Trevor Ariza got some increased run in today’s game against the Pacers, even becoming the first player off the bench in the second half. He played a major role late in the second half, as well as overtime, which says a lot about him as a player for the trust to already be that high. He hit a nice corner three, a solid drive, and some very positive defensive possessions throughout this game It just furthers my earlier point about that front-court addition, since when Adebayo has a versatile, small-ball four next to him who can shoot and get to the basket, it just creates for a natural flow on both ends. Although it’s unclear this early if Ariza will be that guy to that extent, it’s just a clear hole that he can possibly fill when he gets to his peak abilities at this stage.

#5: The two-way guys: One with a productive day and the other waiting to be utilized.

Gabe Vincent stepped into that back-up point guard role with Goran Dragic out, and he was probably the only guard who gave Miami any type of offense, while also competing on the defensive end. Miami’s 2-2-1 press is utilized religiously when Vincent is on the floor, since the tandem full-court with Andre Iguodala has proved to be highly effective. The other two-way guy, Max Strus, was not a factor in today’s game since he didn’t get any playing time, but it’s still a conversation to be had. Continued shooting struggles when being wide open is one thing, but not experimenting with a pure shooter during those spurts seems a bit interesting. He’s also another one of those guys who compete on the defensive end, which raises some question marks about the decision.

Voices

The Defense Manual: Miami Heat Edition

After the Miami Heat expanded their winning streak to 3 games on Thursday night against the Warriors, on the same night Victor Oladipo made his Heat debut, the defense is what truly stood out. Miami has the option to run lineups with 4, or even 5, of the most versatile defenders in this league, which was absolutely extraordinary to watch last night.

So, let’s take a look at every positive takeaway from the defensive end in that game, including player spotlights, team defense, and more…

– Victor Oladipo:

It would be offensive not to start this piece with Victor Oladipo, especially since he had so many great defensive flashes.

He eliminates any possible pass to the cutter as the play begins, then immediately switches onto Andrew Wiggins on the screen. He angles him to the baseline, knowing that he had Bam Adebayo for the cut-off on the backside. It leads to a turnover and Miami possession.

But that wasn’t the only thing that stood out on this play. They aren’t even one minute into the game, and Steph Curry is seeing his third different one-on-one match-up. Yes, third. From Trevor Ariza out the gate to Victor Oladipo the following possession to Jimmy Butler on this play. This told us the identity of this team right away, that they have defensive options now.

One thing that stood out about Oladipo in this game was that he is not easily beat when he’s on his heels, which is a terrific attribute. While it seems as if the ball-handler may be able to find an opening baseline on this possession, Oladipo stops him in his tracks. He then forces him to lose the ball, which could’ve led to transition offense.

And although I’ll dive into Duncan Robinson a bit more later, just take a look at this contest on Curry, forcing a miss to cap off a great defensive possession.

The part to watch on this play is the amount of switching Oladipo does in a matter of seconds, guarding three players in less than a 10 second span. The reason the switching is less problematic now is due to it being a revolving door of good perimeter defenders. If Oladipo noticed a weaker defender in that spot, he would probably fight over the screen.

Although the main part of this possession for him is the final contest, it’s about him being able to predict the offensive player. He notices Kevon Looney unwilling to utilize his size on him, which leads to him awaiting the jump-shot on the DHO. These are the attributes that make up a good defender.

Now, this was one of the plays that stuck out to most people when watching Oladipo’s debut. This team has gradually increased in the team defense category, but they’ve missed this one-on-one point of attack defender.

It’s far from an easy task to guard the greatest shooter to ever play this game, but he did it rather effortlessly. Aside from looking at Oladipo on this play, take a look at Adebayo, since that’ll tell you the level of defense Oladipo is bringing. If that was Kendrick Nunn or Goran Dragic on Curry here, Adebayo would not be standing on that side of the paint, since he would force the extra pass and rely on backside rotations.

And well, that right there is why Oladipo elevates this team on that end of the floor.

Here’s yet another example of predicting the offensive player, since it’s usually a good choice to take the charge when a big is running the floor, due to the lack of body control. Well, unless your name is Bam Adebayo.

He takes the hit at a crucial point in the third quarter, which seems to be a recurring theme lately, where the third quarter defense sparks offensive runs. And there’s nothing like drawing a charge to give the offense a bit of a boost, since gaining possessions is one of those things players always discuss as sparks.

 

Let’s take one last look at Oladipo’s defense in this game, and it’s pretty intriguing to acknowledge the difference in movement when a guy is taking you off the dribble, compared to other Heat guards. Possessions like this always end in a reach in foul, since foot speed is always an issue when they get you on your heels.

But as mentioned earlier, his recovery speed when back-pedaling is fantastic, and he doesn’t even need to use the slightest advantage with his hands, since he relies so heavily on his movement. He cuts him off, jumps in the air, and forces a risky kick-out which led to a Butler deflection.

– Bam Adebayo:

Other than this Adebayo block passing Udonis Haslem on the franchise blocks list, this play showcases something unique with Adebayo. Most shot blockers are guys who camp out on the bottom box, then rise up for easy swats when players attack. The difference with Adebayo is that most of his blocks in his career begin with him defending on the perimeter, and there’s a reason for that.

Even though every player is aware of Adebayo’s freakishly unique defensive skill-set for his size, it never seems to click until a few possessions like this. Guys see a big switched onto them and immediately think to themselves that they can beat this guy off the dribble. Well, until this happens.

It’s the Adebayo effect, and it leads to indecisive movement from guys when he switches onto them more and more.

Other than the result of this play being a Draymond Green score, it’s just yet another moment that defines Adebayo. Take a look at him blanketing Curry off the ball on this possession, starting way above the top of the key, following him to the corner, and flowing right over two off-ball screens. It’s just not a normal thing for a big man.

It also seems like Tyler Herro has been taking some Andre Iguodala defensive lessons, since he’s utilized that swipe down more and more. The only difference is that he may not get officiated on those plays the same way a veteran Iguodala does, but it’s pretty promising to see Herro finding ways to improve on that end.

And now, the play of the game, which ended up being the ultimate closing possession for Miami. Adebayo switches onto Curry without hesitation, while knowing his only option is a three-point attempt.

He has great body control on the final behind the back cross-over to continue into a strong contest, and leads to a Curry air ball. Once again, these just aren’t normal occurrences for big men to defend guards to close out games, but Adebayo is just that guy.

– Trevor Ariza:

Although the key point of attack defender for Miami has become Oladipo, Trevor Ariza has done as great of a job as anybody on smaller guys since joining the Heat. He tips the Curry pass 10 seconds into this game, while Bally Sports still hasn’t even placed the scoreboard on the screen.

He stays right with Curry on the second switch, and his lengthy wingspan allows him to get a nice block on his mid-range jumper, kicking off the Oladipo defensive era with quite the bang. And honestly, I wouldn’t be shocked if Coach Spo has Ariza begin on talented point guards instead of Oladipo, especially if Oladipo gets into a real rhythm offensively, which could lead to taking some pressure off of him.

Guards aren’t the only position he can cover, since he did a pretty great job on guys like Draymond Green as well. He awaits the Curry drive so he can cut it off, which would pretty much put him out of the position for a Green drive after receiving the ball.

Except he somehow turns and recovers, while angling himself toward the basket for quite the contest on a Green runner. When Ariza begins to truly find himself in the offensive scheme, which he began to do slowly in the first half of this game, it’ll be an interesting choice for Coach Spo when deciding between him and Iguodala in certain situations.

– Jimmy Butler:

I figured we should limit Jimmy Butler defensive talk to one clip, since it’s something I dive into almost every single game. The one thing that I wanted to point out here is Butler’s ability to guard bigger guys, especially in the post.

Obviously his savviness allows him to poke the ball free like he did here, or pull the chair when they try to overpower him, but his overall strength is really impressive. He has continually been able to handle post players, especially since Adebayo never feels the urge to help when he’s in that position. And it’s the one thing that basically covers up some of Adebayo’s soft switching on the perimeter, since Butler is capable of handling it on the backside.

– Tyler Herro/Duncan Robinson:

You may be wondering how Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro found themselves on a defensive piece, but it’s extremely important to track their development, especially on a night where both of them had plenty of good flashes.

It’s necessary to begin with this impressive Robinson block, not only because it’s a highlight play for him, but also why it occurred. When I discussed his development on this side of the ball recently, I mentioned the need to utilize his length to his advantage. And he did just that here, since even though it looked as if Kelly Oubre had a step on Robinson, his reach allowed him to recover and send it back.

These are the plays that weren’t happening a few months ago with Robinson on the defensive end. He gets put on an island at the top of the key, covering Andrew Wiggins, and not only does he not get beat, but he forces a kick-out to Green.

When he’s capable of making defensive plays like this consistently, it makes this team’s defense even more elite when he’s surrounded by four above average defenders. This play also refers back to the Ariza discussion, since he stays on Curry even while Green sets the immediate screen, and somehow keeps a hand in his face forcing the miss.

This possession is another moment that solidified a point I mentioned in my past piece. Defense elevates when shots are dropping, and it can make below average defenders at least average. After a Robinson three, he eliminates the rolling Looney as Bjelica lags behind, then flies back out to the wing at Kent Bazemore.

He swipes down and forces a jump-ball, mostly due to that made shot on the other end. As much as the phrase is defense to offense, this team seems to feed off offense to defense much more.

To further that earlier point about Robinson defending on an island out on the perimeter, here it is again, and here is Robinson stepping up in that area. He drops down on Green to await the rotation from Herro, then pops back out to Wiggins.

Once again, a few months ago, Wiggins would probably get a pretty good look on this possession, but Robinson seems to know exactly where he is going, and contests the shot to perfection. And another recurring theme: using his length to his advantage.

Teams are still finding ways to pick on Herro as much as possible on the defensive end, but it always seems to end late in the fourth. When things begin to clamp down at this point of the game, he always seems to make some of his best defensive plays, which may be a bit of awaiting the pass to the guy he is guarding since that’s usually the plan.

Even without a lengthy wingspan, he keeps his arms up to try and eliminate the pass to the cutter, but Green passes it anyway. He deflects the pass right into Butler’s hands, which was a big moment when Miami felt they pretty much had this game in their favor.

– Team Defense

Now that we addressed many of the individual plays that Heat players made, let’s finish this off with some of the team defense that is constantly harped on.

As Green fakes the DHO and dives to the rim, he gets stuck since Looney isn’t running in his direction. He still is forced to make that pass, and Herro, Butler, and Ariza collapse at that middle point to force a turnover. Also, these moments of slight overplaying just shows the level of confidence that they have in their rotations, which is a major element.

If you want a look into what Miami’s perimeter switching looks like when they have multiple versatile defenders on the floor, here you go. Adebayo crashes onto Poole to extract any possible dribble penetration, while Oladipo switches comfortably on Looney.

Oubre tries to take Iguodala off the dribble but is unsuccessful, so he kicks back out to Poole with Adebayo still blanketing. They roughly flow into a DHO as Adebayo pops out on Oubre, forcing a miss, and creating quite the glimpse of how good this Heat defense can be.

On this play, Adebayo reads the offense to slide over and cut off any possible lay-up for Wiggins. He uncomfortably kicks it out to a swarming corner with Butler and Ariza, which Butler saves it into him leading to a foul call.

Now, although Adebayo made this play, go back and watch it again, while focusing on both Butler and Ariza. They both knew where that ball was going next, which just shows the IQ of this Heat defense at this stage. When rotations are as crisp as this, it won’t even matter what personnel is on the floor, due to the scheme carrying the way.

One of the ways Miami handled Curry in the first match-up with him was by blitzing him on every screen, basically forcing every other player to beat them. And although they relied on individual defenders much more this time around, they sprinkled it in once in a while.

That occurred on this possession, as Bjelica flashed high and deflected the pass. While Bjelica reverting back may have seemed like a breakdown was coming, they recovered rather quickly, forcing the Warriors to reset. Curry receives the hand-off, which is something Iguodala has seen way too many times before, and blocks the shot. Although this play ended in a foul call, which was a bit interesting after the replay, it just shows the different things this team is capable of on that end of the floor.

 

This is Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo’s Time

Prior to the series against the Milwaukee Bucks, many talked about different guys that would need to step up in order to win. A lot of people said that it’s going to lay on the shoulders of the supporting cast on this Heat team, since that’s Milwaukee’s weakness.

Well, that hasn’t entirely been the case. And Miami is still up 3-0.

They have gotten major contributions from Goran Dragic, Jae Crowder, and Tyler Herro. But at the end of the day, stars win you playoff games.

To start with Jimmy Butler, he began the series with an offensive display which led to scoring 40 points in game one. And as soon as the national media saw this, they jumped on it. Mostly since people don’t fully understand the player and personality of Jimmy Butler. But clearly Miami does.

Everyone, including the Milwaukee Bucks, began to say that they must stop Jimmy Butler with the ball in his hands. And evidently, this is exactly what Jimmy wanted them to think.

He’s clearly a guy that is capable of putting up a bunch of points, but he doesn’t feel that always translates to a Heat win. He is such an elite facilitator and passer, and since there are so many knock down shooters on this Heat roster, he’d rather play to his strengths. And well, that’s what he did in game two.

He pretty much gave the scoring reigns to his offensive co-pilot Goran Dragic, which was an easy decision since it seems that Goran just can’t have a bad game. And most of the reason Goran was able to do this so well, was because Jimmy was being watched. And once again, when it mattered most, Jimmy got the ball in his hands with four seconds left, which led to him getting fouled on a jump shot and Jimmy hitting the game-winning free throw.

Seems as if Giannis Antetokounmpo got in his own head a little bit in game two, after he saw all of social media’s comments about not guarding Jimmy Butler in game one. But do you know who is never mentally impacted by the outside and constantly stays absolutely locked in. Jimmy Butler.

And finally in game three, he played half the game as he did in game one and half the game as he did in game two. That’s what makes Jimmy Butler so intriguing as a player. He seemed as if he couldn’t get an offensive rhythm, since he was 1 of 3 mid-way through the third quarter. Then he turned it on once again, proving the world that he’s not a pure scorer. But he’s an important scorer. He’s able to read a situation so well, that he knows what is needed at different points of the game.

And now to Bam Adebayo. Since Jimmy went on that late run in game three, Bam hasn’t gotten much recognition. But he should.

Bam scored 20 points on 88% shooting and grabbed 16 rebounds against the defensive player of the year in Giannis Antetokounmpo. It’s been talked about all season that Bam Adebayo has the ability to be an offensive force, but he needs to realize it. And well, it seemed as if he realized it yesterday.

That’s not even discussing his defensive impact guarding Giannis throughout the series, including when he stripped the ball from Giannis in game three, which proved to be a substantial play in the game.

Either way, Bam doesn’t care if he gets credit or gets recognition, he just wants to win. He knows what it’s like to have doubters, since many didn’t even know his name coming into this season, and now he’s a second option on a team heading towards the Eastern Conference Finals.

Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo weren’t looked at as the ideal duo heading into this postseason by many, since many didn’t think their offensive package was big enough. Well, that proved wrong when Jimmy and Bam scored 27 of the 40 fourth quarter points in game three, which ultimately close the game out to beat Milwaukee.

This is because, once again, stars win you playoff games.

Jimmy Butler. Bam Adebayo. This is your time. Go get what’s yours.

 

Brady Hawk (@BradyHawk305) is the youngest contributor in the Five Reasons Sports Network, and a frequent guest on Five on the Floor and #FloorsYours. If you want to sponsor this or any other content on the Five Reasons Sports Network, contact skolnick@fivereasonssports.com 

Jimmy Butler finally found a home in Miami

Every hero’s journey has his or her own origin story, a path they follow to their ultimate goal. That path is almost always filled with lessons learned, hardships endured, and battles won against villains/doubters that got in their way. The odds are stacked against them, but they persevere even if the odds are 14 million to 1.

The Miami Heat is ready for such a challenge, even if the formidable Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers stand in their way. They don’t just believe they can make it to the NBA Finals this fall, they know they can. That determination starts with their leader: Jimmy Butler.

Butler was pushed to his physical limits in Chicago, misunderstood in Minnesota and heartbroken in Philadelphia before arriving in Miami. He has never felt happier or more fulfilled than during this past year with the Heat, but he knows…He knows that he must reach another level to shock the world.

In order to do so, the hero Miami needs will have to reckon with his memories and his own limitations to break through. To understand Butler’s future, the key lies in his past.

DON’T EVER GIVE UP

Still, he loathes reliving the past — so much so that he has removed the rearview mirror on his car (yes, really) as a symbolic reminder to never look back.

Jimmy Butler can be intense. He will get in your face and dare you to play and practice until you pass out, demanding the same amount of selflessness and effort on the court and obsession off of it that he has, challenging preconceptions, and that is not for everyone. It takes a certain culture to embrace that.

We all like to think that we can and will get up from whatever blows life throws at us, but let’s face it. Like Rocky once said, “nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.”

Put yourself in Butler’s shoes:  You spend your childhood without a father after dad walks out on you. But you hold no grudges, and you keep going. You grow up in Tomball, Texas, a small town of 10,000+ people close to Houston but far from the spotlight. Its more famous resident for years was former Enron executive Sherron Watkins, but you dream big.

Then you are in middle school, just 13 years old, and you are coming home thinking about that girl you like or that math assignment due the next day. You open the door and your mom Londa tells you “I don’t like the look of you, you gotta go.”

A lot of things must have been going through his head. How can your own mother’s last words to you be so cutting, so searing? At that point, it’s easy to break if you feel all alone. Bur he held no grudges, and he kept going thanks to a support system that propped him up when he felt down.

Butler wasn’t homeless for long. He attended Tomball High School while staying with the Leslies and becoming friends with Jordan, who was two years younger and would eventually make it to the NFL.

Butler would play basketball with Jordan and be Tomball’s MVP after averaging 19 points during his senior year, but there were no state championships or All-American honors on his trophy case. Most disappointingly, there were no recruits or major scholarship offers. His recruiting profile was a faceless ghost, a two-star nobody. But he held no grudges, and he kept going.

FROM ZERO TO HERO

Butler wasn’t ready to give up on his basketball dreams, so he enrolled at a small school 200 miles away called Tyler Junior College. Nobody had ever made it to the NBA out of Tyler before, and nobody has since. He wasn’t even a Top 100 prospect, but the young Texan was relentless and Marquette University’s coach Buzz Williams took notice enough to offer him an athletic scholarship.

Butler arrived at Marquette and contributed as a sixth man to a team that went 25-10 and lost to Missouri in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Jimmy scored seven points in 30 minutes off the bench, but there was a moment that could have changed everything.

Marquette was up 78-76 with 1:17 to go when Butler took a shot from behind the arc. He was 0-for-3 in three pointers for the season, but he believed in himself. He could make it, he would ice the game and send Marquette to the Sweet 16. However, he missed it, and Missouri came back to win 83-79.

The kid who nobody gave two cents for a year earlier was now a key cog in a contender, and he was ready for more. By the time the 2010-11 campaign came around, Butler was leading the team in minutes with 34.6 per game as he was joined by future Heat teammate Jae Crowder.

Number 33 was cold-blooded, and eager for more. The 2011 NBA Draft awaited him.

THEY WERE SO WRONG

Butler has always had a chip on his shoulder, but more than anything he needed someone to believe in him. Enter Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.

The small forward out of Marquette was considered a “jack of all trades, master of none” by many.

In a draft that saw busts like Jan Vesely and Jimmer Fredette as Top 10 selections, destiny would see point guard Norris Cole picked 28th by the Bulls and traded to the Miami Heat. Butler was chosen two spots later, and he was eager to join Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in Chicago for their quest to dethrone Miami’s own LeBron James, Wade and Bosh from the NBA throne.

Those Bulls would lose in five games to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals while Butler played only 42 games and averaged barely 2.6 points in 8.6 minutes per game during the lockout shortened season. Most importantly, Derrick Rose tore his ACL during the first round of those playoffs, and everything changed forever for Butler.

Thibodeau trusted him more after that and gave Butler the chance to play in every single game for the first and only time in his career during the 2012-13 regular season, starting 20 of them. One of those starts was against the Heat, and Butler’s 17 points and four assists in 43 minutes helped snap Miami’s historic 27-game winning streak with a 101-97 win by the home team in Chicago.

As Butler evolved, so did his reputation as a clutch player both defensively and, most importantly for his development, offensively.

The problem was, Thibodeau was running him into the ground. Butler averaged career-highs in both 2014 and 2015 with 38.7 minutes per game on his way to being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player and an Eastern Conference All-Star for the first time before signing a five-year, $95 million extension with the Bulls.

2016 saw him get the nod and recognition he craved, getting the nod from Coach K to go to Rio and win the gold medal with Team USA, averaging 5.6 points and 14 minutes a game while playing in every single one of them. His best outing came in the Group Stage against Venezuela, contributing 17 points and a +26 plus/minus in a 113-69 rout.

Butler also fell in love with soccer while in Brazil, where fuchibol is a religion, and forged a friendship with Brazilian superstar Neymar a year later when both of them were in Paris for fashion week.

Back in America, Butler was thriving as Chicago’s go-to scorer in the playoffs, where he averaged over 22 points in 2015 and 2017 along with a blistering 42.9 minutes on the court. However, the Bulls were regressing as Butler was progressing, so the Bulls traded Jimmy to Minnesota on June 22, 2017 for young players such as Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen.

The Bulls were rebuilding, but Butler had visions of a championship with the Timberwolves alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. In theory, those three should have at least put a scare into the Golden State Warriors, but Butler never meshed with them and requested a trade barely over a season after arriving.

THE LONG ROAD TO MIAMI

The “feud” between Butler and Towns was all sorts of ugly, and the press was having a field day concocting theories about Towns’ girlfriend cheating on him with Butler. There was a trend, and that trend was the perception of Butler as a destabilizer.

Minnesota was losing and looking like the NBA version of “Melrose Place”, but in reality all the personal stuff was secondary to what Butler saw as a lack of toughness and will to overcome in Towns and Wiggins.

It all erupted during a practice session that saw Butler play for the backups and decimate the Timberwolves’ starters, calling Towns “soft”. There was no coming back from calling out the franchise’s #1 draft pick, so the team took sides and chose Towns while trading Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Butler was rubbing people the wrong way as a basketball nomad, a troublemaker and disruptor. He even was being labeled as a dreaded “locker room cancer” by the national talking heads.

In reality, Butler didn’t really want to go to Philly. He already had his sights set in South Florida even if the insiders thought otherwise.

Once in Philadelphia, he took that team to another level and found a kindred spirit in Joel Embiid. In fact, he played just as well as Kawhi Leonard during the Sixers-Raptors series that Toronto won in seven games thanks to Kawhi’s miracle shot.

In fact, he could have been the Game 7 hero after tying the game with a layup in the final seconds, but it was just another heartbreak for Jimmy.

Bur he held no grudges, and he kept going, reiterating his desire to play in Miami once again after that season was over. The problem was that Miami had no cap space, or so everybody thought.

Pat Riley pulled off his magic in a sign-and-trade that shipped a malcontent Hassan Whiteside to Portland and guard Josh Richardson to Philadelphia.

So now he is ready to finish what he started and being homeless no more. Butler found his basketball home in Miami, and his family with the Heat. His philosophy has rubbed off on his teammates, there is no softness in the red and white.

With allies like that, Butler believes nothing is impossible. Not after garnering his third career All-Star nod and leading the Heat to a 41-24 record this year. More than anything, he finally feels right at home.