The Miami Heat played a much anticipated game against the Indiana Pacers on Monday night, and got the win 114-92. After a tie game at the half, Miami came out sharp in the second half on both sides of the ball. Here’s five takeaways from this big win…
#1: Jae Crowder continues to be Heat’s most consistent player.
Due to the amount of lethal shooters on this roster, including Duncan Robinson, Jae Crowder seems to get left out of the conversation. But, he continues to be the Heat’s most consistent player on both sides of the floor, and is shooting 60% from three in the bubble. Jae Crowder is also one of those guys that does the dirty work for you, which obviously fits well into this system. This is why Jae made his way into the starting lineup and replaced Meyers Leonard, since versatility matters on this current team more than ever due to their depth in wings.
#2: Bench unit struggles with Goran Dragic moving to the starting lineup.
Goran Dragic got the surprising start in tonight’s game against the Pacers, but consequently caused a problem. Goran had such a groove with the second unit, which was one of Miami’s biggest strengths this season. When most teams had bench drop offs, Miami didn’t. But today, it was evident they did. When Goran exited the game, it wasn’t the same bench unit we’ve seen all season, which caused Indiana to comeback early. Goran came back into the game with the second unit in the second quarter, which seemed to settle Miami down on offense, and led to Miami’s second half display. Although there’s been questions about taking Kendrick Nunn out of the starting lineup all together, it may be better to continue this rotation and let Goran and Tyler run the offense smoothly with the bench unit.
#3: Derrick Jones Jr tries to lock up a spot in the rotation.
Derrick Jones Jr has been in and out of the Heat’s rotation this season, but this may be Derrick’s time to lock up his spot. He has proved that he can guard every team’s best player, but his offense has been in question. But today, he showed he can use his vertical spacing to his advantage. And he’s beginning to improve his shooting from beyond the arc, which if he can hit one to two threes in a playoff game, that can change a game. There also seemed to be a special connection between Derrick and Goran Dragic tonight, since about 80% of his points came from a Goran lob. Derrick has said time and time again that he wants to be here, but he will need to prove his impact during this last stretch before he goes into free agency.
#4: Bam Adebayo comes out aggressive out of the gate, which is essential.
Bam Adebayo started the first quarter with fire in his eyes when he had the ball in his hands. And with Myles Turner basically daring Bam to take a mid range jump shot, he took it with no hesitation, but it wasn’t falling. The thing is with Bam though, it doesn’t need to fall to help the offense. There are plenty of guys on the court who can hit these jumpers on offense, but they can’t open up the floor like Bam does. He also had a defensive motor tonight, which he brings every night, but it seemed to have a little more energy behind it, due to the Myles Turner match-up. Myles got the spot on the USA team over Bam, which obviously didn’t sit right with him. If Bam can bring this energy and aggressiveness every night, it benefits this team’s offensive versatilities even more.
#5: TJ Warren truly isn’t in Jimmy Butler’s league.
Everybody has been waiting for the TJ Warren-Jimmy Butler match-up since their scuffle back in January. Fast forward eight months later and Jimmy Butler still hasn’t forgotten. TJ Warren has been going on an absolute scoring tear in the bubble. Emphasis on scoring. Someone in Jimmy Butler’s league would have to be able to score, rebound, play-make, defend, and lead the way Jimmy does. Jimmy showcased this today scoring 19 points, along with 11 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals. Jimmy also mentioned after their game in January that “I can guard him and he can’t guard me.” Jimmy guarded TJ to start the game, while TJ guarded Jae Crowder, which definitely raises an eyebrow. This was also far from a meaningless game since Miami is trying to secure the four seed, which may ultimately mean a first round match-up against TJ Warren and the Indiana Pacers.
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The NBA released their top 3 finalists for each NBA award today, which included Miami’s Kendrick Nunn and Bam Adebayo. These awards are given based on the player’s play before the NBA shut down, which was when Heat players were rolling. Here’s the award finalists, along with some predictions.
Most Valuable Player Finalists: Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and James Harden
There was not much of a surprise here, since these three guys have been the best players of the 2020 season statistically. But, this award is not a statistical award. The reason for the award was to reward the player who was the most “valuable” to their team. For example, players like Chris Paul and Jimmy Butler have been two of the most valuable pieces this season due to their leadership to elevate their respective teams. This is not to say that these guys shouldn’t be the finalists, since Lebron and Giannis have lead their teams to the number one seed in their respective conferences. Giannis should have the slight edge over LeBron for reasons that include: a better record, not having a top 5 second option, and a case could be made a harder conference. But, if this award is just based on statistics, maybe it’s best to change the award to Best Statistical Player.
Prediction: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, Kendrick Nunn
Recent challenges aside, it's remarkable that Kendrick Nunn was top 3 in Rookie of the Year voting.
It was pretty clear that Ja Morant and Zion Williamson would be numbers one and two on this ballot, but some questioned the third slot. Kendrick Nunn was the second best rookie in the league before Zion Williamson made his NBA debut, and he was still up their with these guys after his return. Some of Kendrick’s latest play has forced people not to remember his offensive success early in the season, mostly because it’s been about 12 months since the season first began. And as mentioned in the tweet above, he hasn’t had the easiest route to where he is now. Although he’s been great for Miami this season, he didn’t carry the same load that a guy like Ja Morant did, which gives him the slight edge.
Prediction: Ja Morant
Most Improved Player: Bam Adebayo, Brandon Ingram, Luka Doncic
Luka as most improved candidate is a bit of a surprise.
Luka Doncic being considered a most improved player surprised some people, but it really isn’t that crazy. Luka went from 21 points a game to 29 points a game, and increased his assist and rebound average by 3 and 2 respectively. But, he hasn’t made the same improvements that Bam Adebayo and Brandon Ingram did. The reason the Ingram and Adebayo race is so close is because their games are totally different. Ingram is a natural scorer while Bam is an all around player. This is another award that the NBA seems to always look in the PPG column, when in reality it’s about total improvements. Bam has went from a back up center to a top 5 center in the NBA, and has played a major role on a contender while Ingram wasn’t even a contender for an eight seed until he had the help of Zion Williamson. Based on an all around improvements, Bam Adebayo clearly has the edge over Brandon Ingram and Luka Doncic.
Prediction: Bam Adebayo
Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert
While these three players have clearly been at the front of this award all season, there are some other names that should’ve been considered as well. Ben Simmons and Bam Adebayo are two players that were most likely close behind, since they play both interior and perimeter defense at such a high level. These finalists do this as well, which is why it’s basically a toss up of who you choose. Giannis Antetokounmpo will probably take this award home, due to his strength, quickness, and length on the defensive side. If you asked NBA players who they wouldn’t want to go against out of these three, it would probably be Giannis unanimously, since he’s just a 7 foot athletic freak of nature.
Prediction: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Sixth Man of the Year: Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder, Lou Williams
For starters, how can two people from the same team be considered a “sixth” man. Especially when the stats are so close between a bunch of different bench pieces, including Goran Dragic, how does he get the edge. Not saying he hasn’t been great, because if there was a seventh man award, I’d give it to him. Anyway, Goran Dragic has had as good of a year as both Lou and Dennis had, except Goran’s had to carry much more of a load. Not saying Goran should win the award, but a top three finish should’ve been awarded. And between Lou and Dennis, Dennis should have the edge over Lou Williams this year, due to both efficiency reasons and, as said in the tweet above, not having another bench anchor with him.
Prediction: Dennis Schroder
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The Miami Heat, already likely without Goran Dragic (ankle) and Jimmy Butler (foot) for Saturday’s game against the hot Phoenix Suns, will be without Kendrick Nunn for longer.
Nunn left the NBA’s Bubble on Friday to attend to a personal issue, according to multiple sources.
UPDATE: He is expected to return this weekend, to begin the NBA’s mandated quarantine period, which starts at four days. That would make him available for the playoffs that begin the week of August 17th.
The rookie guard was late coming to the Bubble after testing positive for Covid-19, but this is not related to the disease or any other health matter in any way.
It also, according to a source, is not directly related to Nunn’s struggles on the court, which caused coach Erik Spoelstra to publicly support him in a Zoom conference call with media earlier on Friday.
Spoelstra on Kendrick Nunn: "He just needs more time, similar to Bam. I'm not making excuses for either one of them, but it takes time to regain your rhythm. Before the hiatus, he was playing really good basketball for a couple weeks before that."
There have been concerns of late inside the organization about Nunn’s focus of late, according to sources. But they were aware he might need to leave the bubble to address the issue.
Without Nunn, the Heat will likely start rookie Tyler Herro — who seems ready for an ascension — or rookie Gabe Vincent, who was listed as probable after being unavailable the past couple of games. Both Herro and Vincent will probably play a lot, because Miami is now very short on perimeter players.
Goran Dragic spoke to the media Friday for the first time since rolling his ankle twice against Boston on Tuesday, and said that the injury was not as bad as he initially thought, and that he would try to get some extra work in on Friday night. But he also said he wants to be judicious, and with the Heat likely headed for a 4 or 5 seed no matter what happens in the final four games, there’s no reason to push him.
The Miami Heat came up short against the Toronto Raptors, 107-103. Toronto seemed to have a good game plan for Miami early, while Miami battled back in the second half. Here’s my five takeaways from this game…
#1: Butler can score when he wants, but it’s his choice.
Jimmy Butler has been looked at as everything except a scorer this season, since his play-making abilities have been so elite. But today, he came out the gate with a scoring purpose. He showed that when this team isn’t knocking down their threes, he can step up. The problem is that sometimes he doesn’t choose to step up. He seems to get a little passive at times when he can easily attack the basket and score. Especially at the end of the game, Jimmy should be looking to score, instead of giving the ball up every possession. Jimmy will need to take more of a scoring load when the playoffs come around, especially late in games.
#2: Heat’s defense continues to show improvements.
Miami’s perimeter defense has continually been a problem this season. But, it was pretty clear they improved this in their first game back against Denver, when Denver shot 8/35 from deep. Today, it showed positive signs as well, even though Toronto scored the ball pretty efficiently. This may have a little something to do with the versatility in the lineup, now that Jae Crowder entered the starting lineup for Meyers Leonard. As Bam said, it’s a lot easier when you can switch everything. Miami also seemed to play a lot of help defense throughout. This forced Toronto into having 21 turnovers, which was one of the major keys to Miami’s second half run.
#3: Duncan Robinson gets targeted on offense.
Duncan Robinson has been Miami’s biggest offensive weapon all season. But, the Toronto Raptors seemed to read the scouting report, since they absolutely blanketed Duncan throughout this game. This did lead to more paint points for others, especially Jimmy Butler. This technique will definitely not be a one time thing. Teams will do this more and more, especially when they know your offense in a playoff series. I definitely don’t think Duncan should’ve just been taken out of their regular offense, which seems to be what happened in the second half. The Heat are going to need to figure out how to adjust their offense when this happens, since they’re losing a major scoring piece.
#4: Goran Dragic seems to be Heat’s biggest X-factor.
Goran Dragic entered the game in the first quarter and took control of the team. The play was slightly sloppy early, but he got the offense going. He also was Miami’s most important piece in their second half run. Goran Dragic will be a very key piece for this team since he has such a complete offensive package coming off of the bench. He seemed to struggle with the play-making side of his game today, but this is why Tyler Herro has taken some of the play-making responsibility off of the bench. Goran will also begin to be utilized more in games when Kendrick Nunn doesn’t have his shooting stroke going, like today. He will definitely be looked to down the stretch of games, since he’s one of the Heat’s most trusted players.
#5: Heat’s toughness is team’s best attribute.
The Toronto Raptors seemed to pull out of reach early in the third quarter, with Miami’s inability to shoot the ball. And well, this all changed midway through the third. This was lead by the bench unit with Goran Dragic and Kelly Olynyk. This lineup, surprisingly, began to adjust on defense, and eventually lead to Miami hitting some shots. This is because the guys on this roster are both physically and mentally tough. Coach Spo seemed to not only lean towards the hot hands down the stretch, but also the scrappy and physical players. This toughness is why the Heat are such an interesting team this year. If Miami hits their shots like usual, it’s hard not to categorize this team as one of the contenders.
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Jimmy Butler seemed pretty happy with how the team played in their first official game back, especially in the second half. Jimmy said, “We didn’t play our style in the first half.” It was pretty clear that they began to play their style in the second half, when they began to knock down their threes and most importantly attack the basket. This evidently lead to getting to the free throw line, which is definitely Jimmy’s “style.” He also mentioned that they had the mentality of not being complacent. It’s pretty tough to be complacent on this roster with the amount of leadership on the floor.
Post-Game Comment #2:
Bam Adebayo: "I feel like we got a great chance. I feel we can go against anybody. That's what I believe in."
Bam Adebayo seemed pretty confident in this Heat team’s chances after the game. Bam said, “I feel we can go against everybody.” This attitude seems pretty familiar. Jimmy Butler had said that he felt they can win a championship a few days ago. And that’s because they play on a team with a winning mentality. It is true that they can go against anybody, but they will only go as far as Bam Adebayo takes them. If he plays the way he did today, they’ll be a tough out in this year’s playoffs.
Post-Game Comment #3:
Jimmy on Duncan’s offensive versatility: “He listened. We told Duncan it’s okay to dribble the ball once or twice. Now when you get 3 dribbles in, something bad can happen.”
Said he’s a great decision-maker, not just a shooter.
After another offensive display by Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler talked a little about his impact. Jimmy said, “We told Duncan it’s okay to dribble the ball once or twice.” This was pretty clear in today’s game. Duncan seemed much more comfortable in all of the other aspects of the game. His passing improved, his shot-creating improved, and even cut to the basket more times than normal. Jimmy also said that he’s “not just a shooter,” which is something that’s been taken for granted this season. Jimmy ends with “I’m glad he’s on my team.”
Post-Game Comment #4:
Bam said that as the game progressed, "me and Jae Crowder switching, it becomes a hassle for the other team."
Bam Adebayo talked about their defensive strategy when he was on the floor with Jae Crowder. He said, “It became a hassle for the other team.” This was one of the major reasons that their perimeter defense was much better today. After Coach Spo started Jae Crowder over Meyers Leonard, it added much more versatility, and clearly helped Bam Adebayo on the defensive end. Bam also talked about his conditioning in the game. He said, “I did get a little winded,” which will slowly improve the more games they play.
Post-Game Comment #5:
Spoelstra also says this is a one-game thing for Leonard as far as not playing and I’ve was still on the “card.”
Coach Spo talked about Meyers Leonard regarding a couple of different topics. He began saying, “This is one game. I have not forgotten about Meyers.” He will definitely be utilized based on different match-ups, especially against Brook Lopez and the Milwaukee Bucks. Spo also talked about Meyers standing for the National Anthem. He said, “He has the backing of everyone in the locker room. Everyone knows where his heart is.” Meyers has repeated supported this movement throughout the process and will continue to do so, but will clearly do it in a way that he feels comfortable.
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The Miami Heat faced off against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday afternoon, which was the first official game of the NBA restart for Miami. The Heat came away with the win 125-105, while the Heat seemed to clean up all of their offensive and defensive issues. Here’s my 5 takeaways from this Heat win…
#1: Bam Adebayo displays his offensive importance.
Bam Adebayo is a clear defensive minded player, which we’ve seen against all types of match-ups all season. But, he showed his offensive importance in today’s game against Nikola Jokic the best way he knows how to. Attacking weaknesses. Bam began to attack the basket on Jokic to start the game, since he lacks on the defensive end. This isn’t all he did for the Heat on offense though. He’s the most important player on the team without the ball in his hands. His off ball screens, on ball screens, and cutting to the basket was all on display today. He’s also an offensive player that is impacted by confidence. When he gets going early, it’s pretty much a wrap for his opponent on defense.
#2: Duncan Robinson continues to be much more than a shooter.
It’s pretty obvious Duncan is one of the league’s best three point shooters. But, he continues to show the improvements in the other aspects of the game, especially his passing. Bam Adebayo has played a major role in the improvements in his play-making. Bam and Duncan have been deadly off of dribble hand-offs this season, but they are starting to expand this scheme even more. After defenders have learned not to leave any space between Duncan Robinson, he has learned to not only make the pass to Bam, but sell the shot. This is the first time he’s showcased this side of his game, since he’s getting much more comfortable with his shot faking. Now the only thing left for him to improve is on the defensive side of the ball.
#3: Heat’s efficient free-throw shooting holds more importance than usual.
The biggest thing you can takeaway from this game is the amount of foul calls. This is most likely due to the no fans aspect, since referees can hear everything on the floor. And well, this seems to favor Miami. Jimmy Butler has had no problem attacking the basket and getting to the line all season, but what was key today is the fact that he was knocking them down. The Heat went 32/37 from the free throw line, which seems to be much more important than usual. And when the game slows down even more in the playoffs, we may see even more foul calls, especially with the many physical players on this Heat roster.
#4: Erik Spoelstra’s tinkering with Heat’s rotation pays off.
It was a bit of a surprise that Erik Spoelstra took Meyers Leonard out of the rotation for Jae Crowder, since that starting lineup had such success this season. But, it seemed to payoff since Crowder hit some big shots in the third quarter, which played a major role in expanding the lead. Spoelstra also seems to play guys that perform well together. This includes Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson, and Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro. This is why those scrimmage games were so important for Miami. It gave Erik Spoelstra a sample of what to expect in this environment and forced him to adjust, which is something he does better than any coach in the league.
#5: Miami shows improvements with perimeter defense.
The Heat have known that their biggest issue this season has been perimeter defense. But, they seemed to polish this up a bit today against Denver. The Nuggets shot 8/35 from deep, which definitely makes the Heat feel good after those sloppy scrimmage games. This may be due to the rotation change that Spoelstra made, replacing Meyers Leonard with Jae Crowder. The more versatility on the floor, the less your defense will struggle. Even Duncan Robinson showed some good defensive stretches throughout this game. These defensive improvements may have a little something to do with the lack of shooting in the rotation for Denver, due to Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton not playing. Either way, this gives this Heat team confidence and momentum heading into three straight games against the top 3 teams in the East.
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The Miami Heat will be playing their first official regular season game of the NBA restart on Saturday against the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets are a tough game to start out against for the Heat since they are pretty strong defensively. Well, here’s some things to look out for in Saturday’s game…
#1: The Heat need good interior defense to beat this Nuggets team.
The Miami Heat have struggled this season with their perimeter defense, mostly at the point of attack. Well, this Denver Nuggets team will challenge them on the interior. Miami’s bigs will have to deal with not only one of the best centers in the league in Nikola Jokic, but also the rest of their lengthy bigs off of the bench. Meyers Leonard will probably see most of the match-up against Jokic, but Bam will probably get some possessions on him in the fourth quarter. The containment of Jokic in this game is important since this is a similar match-up they may see in a series against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers. Instead of countering Nikola Jokic all game with Meyers Leonard, Erik Spoelstra will need to go stretches with Bam as the center, since he can attack Jokic’s weaknesses on defense.
#2: Kendrick Nunn getting back to his old self.
Kendrick Nunn has been trying to get back into mid-season form since arriving to the bubble late after testing positive for Covid-19. He was a little rusty in the two scrimmage games he played, but the more games he plays, the better he will look. In the second scrimmage, Kendrick scored 5 points on 29% shooting, and in the third scrimmage he scored 6 points on 20% shooting. He will definitely look to pick that back up, especially since he will be out there on the floor with one of the most productive starting lineups in the league. He also is a major part of the offense since he can attack the rim and control the mid-range, which is something the Heat haven’t done a lot of on offense in these scrimmage games.
#3: Miami’s offensive players will receive more minutes.
As mentioned previously, Miami’s defense has been the biggest problem throughout the season, but their offense has enough firepower to exceed their defensive struggles in this game. This is because Denver has seemed to have the exact opposite problem than the Heat. Denver has been pretty strong defensively this season, but has struggled at times on offense. The Nugget’s offense only goes as far as Jamal Murray takes them, which may be a problem for the Heat since they’ve struggled against similar guards. But, Miami will most likely look to beat this team the way they know how to. Shooting the ball. For example, we will probably see more Kelly Olynyk minutes than Derrick Jones Jr minutes since they will just try to straight up outscore this Denver team.
#4: Heat’s depth must outweigh Denver’s depth.
One of Miami’s biggest strengths of the team has been their solid depth. But, Denver is one of those teams that has pretty solid depth themselves. They do have a lot of guys injured at the moment, which may hurt their depth, but they have the kind of role players that seem to break out against the Heat. Miami’s bench will need to outperform Denver’s bench if they want to win this game. Plain and simple. The Nugget’s offense has tailed off this season when the bench unit enters the floor, which it seems as if it improves when Miami does it at times. If Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, Jae Crowder, and others can get a rhythm going early, they will most likely win this game. But on the other hand, if Denver’s bench out performs Miami, it’ll be a hard game to win once NIkola Jokic and Jamal Murray enter back in.
#5: A Jimmy Butler offensive display.
Jimmy Butler has shown that his strengths are basically everything other than scoring this year, since he can play-make and defend at such an elite level. Well, he showed what he can do offensively in the last scrimmage game when he scored 18 points 80% shooting. This is what the Heat need Jimmy to do once the postseason comes around. The team trusts him scoring the ball, the coaches trust him scoring the ball, the fans trust him shooting the ball. But, Jimmy needs to trust himself scoring the ball. He obviously needs to continue to play-make and defend as his number one option, but will need to have scoring confidence at ends of games when the team needs him. If Miami begins to have trouble with Denver’s physical defense, look for Jimmy Butler to step up as the elite scorer that he is in this game.
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The Miami Heat had quite a rough showing in their final scrimmage game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Miami lost 128-110, which left the team with a negative note heading into the regular season games. Here are my five takeaways from this game…
#1: Defense continues to look problematic.
Miami’s defense has been one of the biggest questions for the Heat heading into the bubble. And well, this still stands. Perimeter defense has been the biggest problem since there’s a lack of defensive guards on this Heat team. Jimmy Butler and Derrick Jones Jr will definitely get a load of opposing team’s back-courts due to the lack of point of attack defense. There was also some trouble with interior defense since there was a physical big on the court in Jonas Valanciunas. But the biggest takeaway is something that Duncan Robinson said after the game, “defensive connection.” This seemed to be the major defensive issue in today’s performance.
#2: Turnovers are Miami’s biggest downfall.
Turnovers are just one of the issues in tonight’s performance, but it’s something we’ve seen in all three scrimmages. Most of these turnovers seem to come from costly and forced passes. This may be due to the fact that guys like Jimmy are trying to get everyone back in rhythm, since he had 5 turnovers in today’s scrimmage. It also may be due to the increased speed in these games in the bubble. These games are much like summer league games, which is a constant display of pushing the ball. More offensive possessions means more turnovers. Either way, this is something the Heat will need to touch up while they get closer and closer to the postseason.
#3: Veterans hold the Heat’s key to success.
There was a lot of discussion before play began in the bubble on whether veterans or young guys would benefit more. Well, these scrimmages have proved that its veterans definitely benefit much more. Many believe this is just an experience thing, but I think it may be due to no fans in the stands. These young guys are so used to feeding off of the crowd. One example would be Tyler Herro. Most of his impressive scoring stretches this year have been at home games, and at times when the crowd is into the game. This just proves that their should never be a time when one of Jimmy Butler, Andre Igyuodala, and Goran Dragic are not on the court.
#4: Spoelstra is still finding lineups with chemistry.
During these three scrimmage games, there’s been certain lineups that just don’t fit well together. Guys like Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk, or Duncan Robinson and Bam Adebayo, have proved to have natural chemistry and efficiency when on the court together. But, it’s been obvious that Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn don’t have the best of numbers when they share the court. This is definitely something that Coach Spo has kept track of. Also, the zone defense is definitely impressive at times, but should only be used with certain lineups. There’s been many times where they put their defensive wings up top, but leave Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic down low. This lead to many points in the paint, and will continue to be problematic if not utilized correctly.
#5: JimmyButler looked smooth on offense.
Although Jimmy Butler only played 22 minutes today, he put on one of his best offensive showings in a while. But the most essential part about it was the efficiency. Efficiency has been in question when talking abut Jimmy Butler, especially since he’s become more of a play-maker than a scorer with the Heat. This may be due to Bam Adebayo returning to the lineup alongside Jimmy, which they played most of their minutes together on the floor today. If Jimmy could keep this up on the offensive side of the ball and the Heat can polish up on defense, they will be a tough out come playoff time.
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The Miami Heat had an evening scrimmage game on Saturday, and they fell short, 101-99. The Heat were without Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in this game, which was due to rest in preparation for the counting regular season games. Well, here’s what was seen in this game…
#1: Kelly Olynyk solidifying big minutes off the bench.
Kelly Olynyk’s spot in the rotation has been in question due to the Heat’s major depth. Well, Kelly proved he can definitely be utilized after he put up 27 points in today’s scrimmage. This was one of the major factors that the Heat were in this game, since the Heat’s starters struggled early. Kelly was a threat at all three levels on the offensive side of the ball, which then opened up the floor for guys like Jae Crowder. We know Kelly is capable of doing this on offense, but the question is consistency. If he can do this on a regular basis, he will be a major part of this Heat rotation.
#2: Tyler Herro bounces back after tough shooting game.
Tyler Herro was coming off of a game that struggled from beyond the arc. His shooting seemed to be back to mid-season form, but that’s not what stood out. What stood out was his play-making improvements. He seems to be getting much more comfortable with running the point, which is a role the Heat would love him to play. This has especially been the case at ends of games, when Tyler runs the offense and is the go to scorer. This is just a glimpse of what we can expect from Tyler in the next three years, where he may be the primary play-maker on the roster.
#3: Heat’s offense is choppy without Jimmy Butler.
Jimmy Butler took the day off on Saturday, after a hard practice the night prior. Something I mentioned after the first scrimmage game was how much more fluid the offense was when Jimmy was on the floor. This seemed pretty evident in this game since the offense was very choppy throughout, especially with the first unit. Though Tyler and Iguodala did a good job running the offense today, it just isn’t the same without Butler on the floor. Guys like Duncan Robinson and Meyers Leonard benefit when Jimmy is playing, since he constantly draws people in, which forces wide open threes. Don’t be alarmed by the tough scoring night by Miami, since this will be fixed quickly upon both Jimmy and Bam’s return.
#4: Turnovers become problematic for Heat rhythm.
The Heat seemed to make some mistakes throughout this game on both sides of the ball, but turnovers seemed to be a big one. We know the defensive mistakes that were made due to the lack of a defensively strong back-court. But, the offense will need to clean themselves up, especially in games that are tight down the stretch. This may be something else that falls under the Jimmy category without him running the offense, but there will be times without him on the floor, and they need to be trusted. This also may be due to the fact that most of the guys are trying to get back to their pre-hiatus form, but hopefully this won’t carry over into the regular season games.
#5: Heat’s bench unit seems to be Miami’s biggest advantage.
To end on a positive note, Miami’s bench unit seems to grow stronger and stronger every time they play. Between the Kelly Olynyk display, Jae Crowder shooting, and Tyler Herro play-making, it seems as if this will be the biggest match-up for other teams. At times it feels like the team is getting better once the bench enters, which is not the case for many other teams. Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala are two other names off the bench that will impact this team, especially when the playoffs get going. Even Soloman Hill had good stretches throughout the game with his perimeter defense. As repeated over and over about this team, their depth is going to be a huge problem for opposing teams.
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The Miami Heat got the win against the Sacrament Kings in their first scrimmage game in the bubble, 104-98. There were a lot of positives from this team throughout the game, especially the amount of talented depth on the roster. Here’s five takeaways on the Heat from this scrimmage game, heading into the regular season and playoffs.
#1: Duncan Robinson hasn’t skipped a beat.
Duncan Robinson apparently wasn’t fazed by a four month layoff with no basketball. He started the first quarter with four threes. This is something that is expected from Duncan, but not many expected it to happen this fast. Especially since Duncan didn’t have his running mate, Bam Adebayo, who usually sets him up for his three point attempts. This shooting display eventually impacted the rest of the team, which usually happens once Duncan gets going. It opens up the floor for the rest of the team. If he’s doing this after not picking up a basketball for 1/3 of a year, it’s a scary sight on what he will be doing in the next few weeks.
#2: Andre Iguodala is positioning himself for major playoff minutes.
If there was one guy that was a surprise in this game, it was Andre Iguodala. He seemed to be comfortable running the point throughout the game, and definitely slows the game down. He has a natural feel for the game, most likely due to the fact that he’s had plenty of playoff experience. He seems to have a pretty good on court connection with Heat rookie Tyler Herro. This seems to be a connection on and off the court, since Andre spoke about this relationship with media on Friday. Andre seems to fit right in with every lineup, which subsequently means he will be one of the first guys looked to off the bench when Spo is in a tough spot.
#3: Jimmy Butler forces a smooth running offense.
The Jimmy Butler narrative has seemed to be the same all season. Shooting struggles, but major play-making improvements. This was shown in the first quarter of the scrimmage when Jimmy couldn’t get in a rhythm shooting the basketball. But, once he went to the bench, the team looked kind of lost. He has such control of the offense with passing, leadership, and spacing off of the ball. Which when Jimmy checked back in the game in the second, the team looked much more under control. This isn’t too much of a shock since it’s always tough to get in a groove with your leader off the floor, but will need to be fixed in order to beat teams like Milwaukee or Boston.
#4: Miami’s defensive lineup looked effective.
One of the most intriguing lineups on this heat team is the defensive lineup of Jimmy-Crowder-Iguodala-DJJ-Bam. We got a slight glimpse at this lineup in the scrimmage, of couse excluding Bam, and it seemed pretty productive. The defensive veratilities of this lineup gave the Kings major trouble. One of the biggest questions with this lineup was the offense. And there seemed to be no problem there since Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala, and Derrick Jones Jr looked pretty offensively sound. Now, adding Bam Adebayo to this lineup only makes it scarier, which means there’s a big possibility we will see Coach Spo pull this card in the postseason.
#5: Tyler Herro dusting off the rust.
Tyler Herro had to get through some rough patches in the first game back after a couple of months. Though he ended the game with 15 points, he had some trouble shooting the ball, going 0/7 from three. One of the only positives of his struggles, is that it’s a learning curve. Coach Spo left Tyler in the game throughout his difficult stretches, which seemed like Spo wanted him to figure it out. This is the only way for a young guy to get better of course. He continued to fight through his shooting problems, which caused him to attack the basket and play make. He began to draw fouls and get in a bit of a rhythm. These struggles in games like this, will only make Tyler more comfortable in a playoff setting.
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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.
Minnesota's Jimmy Butler has three preferred destinations for a trade, league sources tell ESPN: The Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks. Those three teams have max cap space to sign Butler as a free agent in July.
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.
I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My team expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my opponents. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight. pic.twitter.com/iUD7iFln8R
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.
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