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Answering Your Heat Off-Season Questions

After spending quite some time diving into individual Heat players, or possible free agency/trade acquisitions, I want to talk about some things in the big picture.

So, I’m going to be answering all of your questions in this piece. Personal opinions on specific players, scenarios, and more. Well, let’s hop right into it…

Some may view this as a tough question to answer, but I believe the perfect combo for this current Heat team is a veteran point guard and a young big.

Now, this doesn’t mean that if a type of deal with Collin Sexton and Kevin Love came available that I wouldn’t do it. But when talking about players in a general sense, that is not only the best option in the short-term, but also the long term.

There are two point guard options that I believe are 1 and 2 on Miami’s priority list, and neither of them fall under the youth category. With the cap room that they have, it feels like Kyle Lowry or Mike Conley will be on this Heat team in a matter of time.

The reason I say that the youthful big man is the way to go seems pretty clear. Veteran front-court pairings is all Bam Adebayo knows in the NBA, and if they want to maximize his game, a viable sidekick is necessary. Not switching from Meyers Leonard to Jae Crowder one year, then reiterating the same thing with Kelly Olynyk and Trevor Ariza the next.

They did what they had to at that time and they plugged those holes, but if they can find a stretch four that they trust via trade, I believe they pull the trigger.

As much as I just harped on finding a young big, a cheap front-court filler seems to be the most likely option moving forward. I don’t believe Andre Iguodala will be back, while Trevor Ariza could be resigned to play a much different role.

But if both are off the table, there are plenty of guys to plug into that spot, and two of them come to mind for me.

The first one is Jeff Green, who is getting up there in age but continues to be effective. He’s coming off some big time playoff performances next to Kevin Durant, and obviously, that’s not what he would be asked to do in a Heat uniform.

Green fits the build of the players that they like to plug next to Adebayo, and could be plugged into whatever spot Coach Spo needs him to with the amount of experience he has.

The second guy that could be a possibility is soon to be NBA champion Torrey Craig. Not only is he about 5 years younger than Green, but he seems to me like the type of player that the Heat would like for super cheap. If a lot of the guys that we expect to be out the door for the Heat actually are, then cheap deals like this one will be neccessary.

Those are just two options, and I could spend much more time on that subject with the amount of guys that are in that play-style/money range.

For starters, I don’t believe there’s any way that the Heat would trade Bam Adebayo under any circumstance. The reason we have the timeline discussion with Jimmy Butler and Adebayo is that you have the other one to balance it. Jumping fully into the Butler age range just doesn’t seem remotely close to a smart idea.

Now, to answer your question, a team with Butler and Damian Lillard leading the way is a good way to start, but if you call beneficial becoming the Portland Trail Blazers of the East, then possibly. But frankly, that team will be having the same exact discussion the current team is having: how can we get that final piece?

Except in the Lillard-Butler world, you don’t have the option to go into a younger mode. This is clearly all of a fantasy discussion when talking about sending Adebayo out of Miami, especially when the team wouldn’t be seeing tremendous growth on what’s coming in.

If Duncan Robinson was able to become a reliable on-ball threat, it definitely changes the things that Adebayo and Butler are able to do offensively, but that just doesn’t seem likely.

Minor improvements will most likely be made over time for his ball-handling duties to increase, but the current focus for him this off-season has to be the second level of the half-court. He’s surprisingly efficient when he gets to the rim, while defenses know if he is chased off the perimeter, the mid-range pull-up isn’t an option.

But it should be.

Even a little bit of a mid-range game changes the things they can do in the offense, and all that includes is 1-2 dribbles. I don’t ever really see him becoming a true facilitator, but I do think he can be at least average once the true expansion occurs down the line.

I definitely agree that type of play-style should be integrated into the scheme regularly, but more importantly, it should be focused on with certain players.

The interesting part about it is that they focus so much on preventing it, but don’t harp on it themselves. For example, when the Heat miss a shot, the two guards are supposed to immediately sprint back to fill up the open court. It’s easy to scheme against, but harder to scheme for.

When I mentioned before that the focus should be for certain players, a guy on the top of that list is Bam Adebayo. When he decides to attack in transition, it always leads to good things, either with his pure ball-handling and speed or a nice looking DHO fake for an open lane.

The issue is that he always seems to be searching for a bull-dozing Butler when running the floor. He basically needs to obtain the Goran Dragic mentality, since he’s one of those guys that locks in on the basket when trotting down the floor at full speed.

In all, I think it’s more individual tweaks than scheme tweaks, but it should definitely be seen more on a versatile unit like Miami.

Unless those two close friends would really love to play together again, it would probably be hard to do. Both will be looking for similar money that the Heat would not be able to give. But in this sense, should the Heat even be willing to give it on a pay cut?

As stated in that question, three non-shooters would be a tough thing to see in today’s game. Andre Iguodala became the scapegoat at a lot of points this past season, but in reality, it was just the inability to play him next to two guys that can’t truly space the floor.

Demar DeRozen is no Andre Iguodala, but my point still stands. The only way I see the Heat doing this is if they’re very confident that Bam Adebayo expands his game to the perimeter at some point this season. Other than that, it just feels very complicated from every perspective of this addition.

If we’re talking about things that may not sound very realistic, I think they should sign Kyle Lowry for that point guard presence and Jimmy Butler pleasing, then flip Tyler Herro and other assets for a guy like CJ McCollum. Some cheap fillers to plug into the front-court will be needed, and you are good to go.

The issue is that the McCollum move may not be very likely, even though I believe he will be moved no matter what happens with the Lillard situation in Portland.

As I’ve listed many times, I have point guard and half-court scorer above front-court pairing in my priorities. As I mentioned earlier, the amount of veterans four’s that are out there make this even easier to focus on the main two things.

Grabbing either Lowry or Conley, then flipping assets for an all-around scorer feels to be the thing the Miami Heat’s front office would be eyeing.

And for my final bold statement, I believe they end up grabbing an undrafted player following this year’s draft who end up becoming a bottom of the rotation player for next season’s Heat team.

 

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Jimmy Butler: Excelling at the Small Things

We have reached the final stage of my Heat roster evaluation series, and clearly, we must end it off with the star of the show, Jimmy Butler. A disappointing end to the season, after a poor first round performance, should not be the season takeaway, since frankly, he had a career year at age 31.

Career highs in rebounds, assists, steals, and field goal percentage doesn’t even tell the full story, due to the fact he did that in such an uneven year. Going out for a long period after some Covid effects, then trying to will the team back into Eastern Conference contention after a slow start.

He got them into a reasonable spot to try and make yet another post-season run, but it just felt like there was nothing left in the tank. The short turnaround after an all-time Finals performance contributed to that, but as Butler would probably say, none of that is an excuse.

Now the focus is to move forward into the off-season and the 2021-2022 season. Some players that he has close relationships with could be on their way in, which could truly fulfill the next run they try to make with the Miami Heat.

Anyways, these pieces are always about taking a brief look back. With Butler, we already know all of the things he’s good at, which is why we will take a slightly different approach. We’re discussing some of the small things.

Why will that be the focus? Well, Jimmy Butler is really good at the small things.

The PnR Passer

We all know how good of a passer Butler is, especially following his career year, recording 7 assists a game. But this stuff transcends the numbers, since it’s more about the degree of difficulty.

There aren’t many teams that have their two best players as non-perimeter shooters. To that point, there aren’t many teams that have their best pick and roll set including two non-shooters. The reasoning: there aren’t as many 2 on 1’s created in the Butler-Adebayo PnR, since most defenders aren’t racing to go over on the screen.

But still, it’s somehow super effective. Adebayo’s soft touch and threatening lob catching ability definitely factors in to that success, but most of the credit goes to the crafty passing of Butler.

When taking a look at the first clip above, something well known with Butler jumps off the screen immediately. He holds such gravity when moving downhill, that the defensive player of the year and a skilled perimeter defender stay locked in on Butler all the way to the rim.

The difference with guarding him in the PnR, is that he can make passes that a lot of guys just can’t. He throws the wrap around bounce pass to Adebayo for the easy flip shot, which makes this pairing effective with the correct spacing.

Now, take a look at the second clip above. The same situation, same defenders, and well, the same result. As mentioned before, the defender smartly goes under and contains perfectly to eliminate the roller. I mean, try* and eliminate the roller.

He hits a much different wrap around bounce pass down the baseline, while he knew Adeayo was drifting toward that spot. Elite shooting seems to be the consensus for an effective PnR in today’s game, but an exceptional passing ability basically levels things out, especially when a Duncan Robinson type is on the floor to eliminate any help or tagging on the roller.

A More Fitting PnR Role

As I just dove into previously, Butler as the ball handler in those pick and roll sets clearly work, but when teams like the Bucks begin to muck things up in the middle of the floor come playoff time, things can change.

It’s not just about adjusting to a defense, it’s also about tending to the star player. The reason Butler had so many reps in those spots was due to the team lacking a point guard. Yes, they had guys who can run primary actions to find spots on the floor to lift, but it wasn’t a play-making role.

Now, I consistently bring up the Goran Dragic-Butler duo over the last two years. Dragic isn’t the play-maker you want running those sets, but he’s been a capable one at times. It’s why the Butler-Dragic PnR, both normal and inverted, became such a primary action at the end of games.

Speaking of inverted PnR’s, that is where Butler needs to be most of the time. When there were three spacers on the floor, while Dragic and Butler ran their set at the top of the key, allowing Butler to catch in stride toward the basket, that’s when he’s at his best.

It allows him to play to his strengths in every facet of the game: get moving downhill, play-make via kick-outs as defenders crash, and of course, embrace contact around the rim.

Fast-Break Freight Train

I spoke a lot about fast-break opportunities in my last piece about Adebayo’s next steps, but it is really special what Butler can do in the open court. Adebayo has shown to be very good in that area, but he doesn’t seem to take advantage of it enough. Butler, on the other hand, may take advantage of it a bit too much.

For an aging player, taking contact each and every game for easy points in transition may take a toll on him. It’s a staple of his game, and it’s pretty clear Butler will never shy away from that type of physicality. But it feels like we’re rapidly approaching the point where it’s no longer Adebayo surveying for Butler on those possessions, and instead it’s the other way around.

Aside from that, I feel the one major element to this elite ability in Butler’s bag has to do with something that occurs at the end of the clip. It’s all about the stuff at the rim. Adebayo has no problem getting to that spot on the floor with his versatility and skill, but the interesting part is that’s it’s not the same type of scoring as it is in the half court.

Take a look at the clip above. When Butler gets to the rim, he does something that we see much more than just this one clip. He hangs in the air for that extra half a second. That extra time allows him to adjust and score as defenders fly right by at full speed. That’s just Butler’s thing, and I believe that’s the key for that to become Adebayo’s thing.

This is why I mentioned earlier that it’s about the small stuff with Butler. All of those things add up, and it leads to him being such an elite player without a primary ability in the game of basketball, shooting.

Put-Back Expert

As we talk about stuff in his game that isn’t discussed frequently, why not dive into his oddly effective ways of being a put-back expert? Put-backs aren’t always an important area to highlight, mostly since it comes with the territory of being a big man.

The difference is that Butler is 6 foot 7, and somehow works that in repeatedly. The reasoning for that is just his basketball IQ, which I will dive into a bit more down the line on the defensive end.

We always discuss his methodical movements, knowing when to speed up the game or slow it down, and that just refers to the word: timing. And that’s why the put-backs have become second nature for him.

Once again, go watch the clip above, but don’t watch Adebayo with the ball, just watch Butler. Most guys sprint to the glass to try and tip it in, which ends in plenty of possessions where the offensive player flies right by the rim as it results in a defensive rebound.

Butler doesn’t speed up here, though. He takes his time as the ball goes up in the air, then explodes upward as soon as it bounces off the rim. This may not seem major, but everything is measured regarding Butler’s play-style.

The Helpful Actions for Downhill Success

There’s always a section on these pieces where we must discuss the utilization of each player. It may not be a huge deal for a team’s best player, since he will obviously be in so many different spots, but there’s a clear outcome for Butler thriving offensively.

When diving into film on Adebayo and Butler, it makes you realize how alike they are within their strengths. The hot topic with Adebayo next season will be running offense for him to get moving downhill, and well, that was where Butler truly thrived this season.

In the first clip, we see the usual DHO from Adebayo, but there are a bunch of layers attached to that. Tyler Herro sets the off-ball screen for Butler to flow into the DHO, while Duncan Robinson sets the back-screen on the big guarding Adebayo. We saw this 3-man set quite a lot this season, with the main option being a Robinson three as he sprinted to the wing for a kick-out.

No kick-out was necessary here, as Buddy Hield, who was originally guarding Robinson, is put in an uncomfortable spot as he’s no longer glued to his defender. An easy lay-in for Butler is the outcome.

The second clip above is very similar, as Butler’s battling to flow downhill and Herro sets the back-screen for him to get to the rim rather easily. As I’ve discussed, a point guard will be necessary to acquire in free agency, but a guy who can play off the ball will be even better for Butler to run stuff like this.

Spoiler alert: a close friend of Butler falls under that category.

The Defensive Skill that Sums It All Up 

There hasn’t been a ton of defensive talk in this article, which is Butler’s best side of the ball, but this one skill sums it all up. He essentially doesn’t have a defensive weakness, but after watching him closely this season on that end of the floor, his defensive IQ clearly lands at number one regarding his strengths.

In my opinion, the best way to discover defensive IQ is positioning and off the ball tendencies. When a defender doesn’t have to be on-ball to be effective, that’s when it becomes impressive.

The play above is a perfect example, since as I’ve mentioned repeatedly throughout the season, he has a special ability to unexpectedly double for a positive result. He notices Naz Reid receive the ball without accounting for his backside, which leaves Butler taking a costly gamble that leads to easy fast-break points.

After this game, I asked Butler about those unexpected doubles specifically, which he responded, “I think you gotta look at who has the ball, right or left handed, what their skill-set is, and I guess some good timing, some timely gambles…If I get them it’s a good thing, if I don’t I gotta here Spo telling me to stop doing it, but I think I got them tonight.”

Once again, every major part of Butler’s game has evolved so fluidly due to all of these small elements coming together. He has already shown what he is capable of on the basketball floor in a Miami Heat uniform, and now it’s time to fill out the roster to get him and this team back into contention.

It’s not hard to find likable characters to put next to Butler, since he just wants one thing: guys who care as much as he does. And once they find that after a resting period this off-season, it’s pretty clear they will be back.

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Kyle Lowry’s Fit with Heat More than a Jimmy Butler Relationship

Kyle Lowry’s fit with the Miami Heat isn’t just being discussed because he’s the Godfather of Jimmy Butler’s daughter. Of course that’s the starting point, since it draws interest from a player like Lowry, but it seems like there are many more reasons for this to be a seamless fit.

The Heat have a bunch of needs, and when evaluating Lowry as a player, he fills a bunch of those things that Miami has missed. That is exactly what we will be diving into here. Aside from the exact numbers in a contract and surrounding pieces, what would he give Miami next season?

Let’s start here…

PnR Ball-Handler

Before talking Lowry’s strengths, the Heat’s weaknesses must be highlighted. Something I’ve talked about constantly is Miami’s lack of a pick and roll ball-handler. They had a guy in Kendrick Nunn who can get to the mid-range. A guy in Tyler Herro who can make the occasional pull-up triple. And a guy in Goran Dragic who could drive hard to the basket for a physical bucket.

But they don’t have somebody who can do more than one of those things.

When looking at that first round series against Milwaukee, a major key for their struggles was that certain player’s area of weakness became apparent rather quickly. The Bucks forced the Heat to take shots that they gave them. And well, Lowry navigates offensively on his terms.

In the clip above, we see Lowry run the PnR, leading to a lob and finish, but that aspect I’m going to dive into a little more down the line since that’s probably the most important part of the offensive fit. But staying on this topic, 28th in PPP when the ball-handler has the ball in the pick and roll would not be the case if Lowry was dissecting defenses.

The reason that most of the clips you’ll see in this piece are from the Raptors-Lakers game is to show that pulling highlight moments isn’t the point of this explanation. In fact, this game was Lowry’s last game of the season, showing that this is very recent film. Spoiler alert: he finished that game with 37 points and 11 assists.

Strong Attacking and Free Throw Antics

Another missing piece to this Heat offense is a secondary attacker, which has been harped on all season, then exposed come playoff time. When a team cuts off the head of the snake, in Jimmy Butler, there’s nobody else to attack in space. Combine that with the constant off-ball denial the Bucks through at Miami, and you have a very troubled offense.

Not only is Lowry a capable attacker, he’s a physical and ruthless attacker. Those two things translate to a good amount of free throw attempts, which took a bit of a dip this season from the year prior.

We all know that’s what Butler’s game is based on as well, which makes that combo so interesting. Something that’s always mentioned is that Butler plays at his own speed, and a major reason for that is he can slow the game down by turning it into a free throw competition. Lowry mirrors that same play-style, and I think that can benefit the franchise centerpiece.

Bam Adebayo improved in every area of his game this season, but of course, many seem to harp on the post-season lack of aggression more than anything. That aside, there’s no doubt he’s in line for another step forward with his offensive game. And the best way to propel that is to put two savvy vets next to him to control the pace, and allow him to play his game.

We’ve seen Butler’s gravity give Adebayo plenty of open elbow jumpers, and it feels like Lowry can bring that same element. Allowing Butler to get some rest in a game without the whole offense crumbling means that Lowry and Adebayo’s chemistry will be huge, and both of their play-styles feel like they would mesh well.

Oh, a Point Guard?

On my list of off-season needs, I had point guard very high. This kind of goes hand in hand with the PnR ball-handler discussion, but this expands even further. Why is that? Well, just take a look at the clip above.

Lowry is moving downhill with his roller, one defender trailing and the other containing. He stops at the free throw line, jabs and uses a ball-fake to force Montrezl Harrell to drop. They both fell for the fake, and it gave Lowry more than enough space to pull-up into a shot that he’s made plenty of times over his career.

But, Lowry is always reading a defense one rotation ahead. He saw LeBron James duck all the way into the paint for a possible tag/cut-off, and Markieff Morris rise with Pascal Siakam which eliminates his ability to split the difference with the corner. Lowry makes the pass to the corner for an open triple.

The reason that I’m diving into this play so deeply is because this is what the Heat miss. It shouldn’t be Butler and Adebayo creating for others each and every play, since that just restricts their own effectiveness in the offense. Yes, they will also look out for others as play-makers since that’s their game, but at times it seems like they’re forced into that role.

With that passing ability and those different offensive scoring techniques, it allows Erik Spoelstra to be much more creative in how he chooses to run his offense. If they retain Duncan Robinson, as I expect them to, they can diversify their sets a lot more with a point guard of Lowry’s caliber.

Shooting Spots

After hitting on a bunch of his ways of scoring, it’s important to note the part of the offense that is essential next to Miami’s two stars. When you’re two best players aren’t good three-point shooters, that third acquisition has to have that ability in his bag.

He has just that, and while we’re discussing Coach Spo’s creativity with him, this is where that comes into play. When looking at the clips above, we see Lowry’s ability to score off the dribble with step-backs, side-steps, and obviously, the pump-fake until the defender jumps technique.

He got the foul call and knocked down the three, which is not something we’ve seen a lot of this season since most of Miami’s triples occur with off-ball screening, dribble hand-offs, or pick and roll pull-ups.

But that’s not why Spo can get creative, since it’s the second clip that brings that point alive. After an offensive rebound, they reset offense and Lowry comes off a DHO for a three. Having a player that is a threat off the dribble, as well as off the ball is quite the player to add to the offense.

Although I’m showcasing a DHO that ended in this fashion, he seems so comfortable in that set since he loves to play-make on the move. The over-the-head pass from the wing to the elbow was his biggest strength in that action, and well, we all know who would be stationed at that elbow: Bam Adebayo.

How does Butler Benefit?

Adebayo’s been a sticking point within the offense during this Lowry discussion, but how would Butler actually benefit? Other than the stuff about a secondary attacker and a guy who can control lineups when he goes to the sideline, I see the most effectiveness with them running stuff together.

We saw Dragic-Butler PnR’s become one of their best offensive sets in the regular season, which just shows the way they were trending offensively. As seen above, Dragic would usually lob it up to Butler as high as possible, knowing he’d climb the ladder and come down with it at the basket.

They also ran a bunch of inverted PnR’s with Dragic as the screener which worked just as well. Dragic setting the angled screen for Butler to go downhill with a guard switching onto him always ended in a positive result.

This is important to note because Lowry/Butler combinations can be even more effective. He’s a craftier passer when getting in the mid-range area, since it’s not just the lob pass that is the option. He also has a quicker pull-up that constantly keeps defenders on their toes. They both have had major success in that area over their careers, which makes me think we’d see plenty of lineups with 3 floor spacers to give them two the middle of the floor to go to work.

Adding Some Defense

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This entire piece has been offense driven, mostly since that’s where the actual fit can be discussed. As a whole, we already know what Lowry brings on the defensive end at the point of attack, which makes the acquisition even more intriguing.

He’s physical with opposing guards, he can force them to become frustrated, and even has success in the post with his wide frame. All of these elements lead to something that Miami lacked for most of the season which is transition offense.

Referring back to Lowry’s ability to get to the charity stripe, a lot of that comes from fast-break opportunities where he takes the contact to get some points. Miami’s guard play this season was a lot of avoiding contact to try and score, which becomes an issue when things tighten up in the post-season.

As showcased in this piece, it’s clear that Lowry’s fit is much more than a relationship with Butler, but well, that’s where this topic stems from. They know that they have a good shot at him due to the fact it’s intriguing to come play with a player and an organization that shares the same mentality that he does.

The next step would be to round out the supporting cast to become an Eastern Conference contender, but that’s a decent start. We’ll see what happens with that type of stuff as we approach the off-season, but for now, one thing is clear: Lowry can change a bunch of things for the Miami Heat.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Series Ending Loss

Well, that’s all from your 2020-2021 Miami Heat. The Bucks finish off the Heat in game four to fulfill the sweep, which was far from an expected outcome. Anyway, here are my last takeaways of the season…

#1: Miami’s early offense based around Jimmy Butler in a passing fashion, but maybe too much.

The story of game three was that Jimmy Butler came out aggressive, but he was the only one able to knock down shots. The exact opposite occurred in this match-up, as he was getting to his play-making spots to really get others going. Six assists in the first quarter didn’t tell the whole story, since he was doing absolutely everything he could to find the open man. One of the main sets they went to for Butler to begin the game was side PnR’s with Bam Adebayo. That’s usually their late game go-to, but it was necessary to start off with their peak abilities. It led to an Adebayo floater and a Butler mid-range bank shot, which allowed Miami to expand back into everyone else. The issue was that the third quarter was a different story. Shots weren’t falling as often, and Jimmy’s motto seemed to stay the same. When that occurs, the aggression must become the primary ability once again, instead of being the number one facilitator.

#2: Trevor Ariza steps up to begin the game.

One of my takeaways from the last game was the non-existent play from the four spot with Trevor Ariza, but well, that changed in the first quarter of this game. Three triples and eleven early points gave Miami a great boost, since he was simply making the shots that were given to him. Through the first three games of the series, Miami’s had 102 open threes and made only 32 of them. If that Ariza three ball becomes a threat for Milwaukee’s defense, things shift for Miami offensively and lead to many good things. Many were wondering if Nemanja Bjelica would step into that starting spot after Ariza’s struggles, but Spo stuck with him and that was the right move. As the post-game story becomes off-season discussion, Ariza is important to note.

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#3: Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn do their job early: making shots in the dead spots.

There have been clear dead spots in the Bucks’ drop coverage that I’ve discussed time and time again, but Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn finally took advantage of it. Nunn, specifically, had some bounce to him when he was inserted, getting to the areas of the floor that he did all regular season. Pull-up mid-ranges on the move is the shot that was open all series, and it was falling in the first half. Herro got some good looks as well from beyond the arc, showcasing why the home crowd seems to play such a crucial role in his offensive rhythm. Of course, there were plenty of defensive lapses that occurred from each of them, but that was expected heading into this match-up. The key was that they do their part on the side of the ball that falls under their strengths, allowing the others to takeover from there. Spoiler alert: that didn’t occur.

#4: Offensive slippage leads to defensive slippage to begin second half, but then Nunn happened.

The Heat had a 7 point lead coming out of the half, but the offensive rhythm did not carry over to begin the second half. Shots were not falling for anybody, which always leads to defensive slippage. Once players start to notice the trend of clank after clank, it blends into the other end of the floor, which can’t happen against this Milwaukee team who has plenty of guys who can get going. Khris Middleton was the guy in the third who began to knock down the shots that he did in the first three games, while Miami had no answer. Well, until Nunn was subbed in. I discussed in the previous takeaway that Nunn was taking advantage of the open spots on the floor, but a late stretch in the third was primarily on-ball stuff. Back to back pull up threes and a baseline reverse led to a Bucks timeout, which didn’t seem possible with Miami on their heels. Clearly, it didn’t ultimately matter, but this would’ve looked very similar to games two and three if he didn’t show up.

#5: Well, Miami gets something they haven’t had in a while: an off-season. 

That’s enough talk about a game that ended in a sweep for the Milwaukee Bucks over the Miami Heat, but now it’s time to take a step into the next stage. An off-season isn’t the most familiar thing in the world for the Heat, after a quick turn-around led them right into another season. Saying this series loss is a result of fatigue is a semi-lazy take, but it was clear that the locked in mentality wasn’t the case, except for a handful of stretches. One thing that they missed occurred in the fourth quarter when Goran Dragic got in a skirmish with Khris Middleton. That was one of the first times in this series that I saw some type of fire, and they’ve missed that type of action to spark some energy. Anyways, this off-season will be so interesting due to their being so many different decisions that must be made by the Heat front office. So it begins…

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5 Takeaways from Heat’s Game Three Loss to Bucks

The Miami Heat drop game three to the Bucks, reflecting how they played in the first two games in Milwaukee. Some of the same general issues loom, mostly due to the Bucks being a much different team from the one we saw a season ago. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game….

#1: The shooting woes continue for Miami.

A key for Miami in this series, when I previewed it a week ago, was the element of controlling the pace. And well, that pacing has been fully controlled by Milwaukee since the start of the series. That lack of pacing combined with a swarming Bucks defense leads to forced offense for Miami. We discussed taking advantage of the mid-range jumper, but not only the mid-range jumper. There’s been nothing else, and even when there’s been open looks generated, they just haven’t found the net. Aside from Jimmy Butler, everybody else was 8 for 33 from the field in the first half. Duncan Robinson didn’t have a shot make in the first half, which usually mirrors how the offense was flowing. Scoring 36 points in a half just doesn’t win you a playoff game, but it’s what occurred tonight.

#2: First half recap: Jimmy Butler.

When looking at the Heat’s lackluster first half, there was only one guy who was semi-clicking in that stretch, Jimmy Butler. 16 points on 50% shooting was his stat-line at the half, and a major reason for that was he was knocking down the shots being given to him. Everybody else was fighting to get to their usual spots that aren’t available, but Butler was making the shots when defenders went under screens. Not only from the mid-range area, but also behind the three-point line with two triples through the first 24 minutes of basketball. They got the aggressive Butler that many have been awaiting, but the supporting cast just couldn’t get anything going. Butler can only take them so far with his bully ball offensive mentality, but when shooters can’t make shots, it’s usually a long night.

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#3: One play summed up the offensive side of the ball for Miami and defensive side for Milwaukee.

To continue on the offensive theme, there was one play that summed up that side of the ball for Miami. I’ve touched on shots not falling, but Milwaukee’s defense deserves credit. The play consisted of Dewayne Dedmon at the extended elbow, looking for somebody to hand it off to. There was only one issue with this: he couldn’t find a person to give it to on the perimeter. The Bucks do a tremendous job of denying off the ball, not allowing Miami to break free to flow into their usual actions and offensive sets. That play ended in Dedmon turning twice, then facing the basket for an uncomfortable jumper that clanked off the rim. Even on their home court and in front of their home crowd, they were playing on the Bucks terms, and that’s an issue.

#4: One of the many holes not filled for Miami.

It’s hard to magnify one position or player in this game and series for Miami since there have been so many issues. But one interesting element has been the four spot. I hate the Jae Crowder discussion since it’s semi-useless, due to Miami making the right decision by letting him walk. But it’s not him that they miss, it’s what he brought. Crowder was clearly playing above his head for Miami in the beginning of the bubble, but it was a major push for Miami in many games in that Milwaukee series. Now, Trevor Ariza gave them pretty good minutes to finish the regular season, but hasn’t played to that level in the post-season. Once again, pinpointing Ariza in these three games isn’t fair due to everybody struggling, but it is something that hasn’t carried over into the playoffs.

#5: Umm, why was Nemanja Bjelica the best player not named Jimmy Butler tonight?

Yeah, this headline will tell you how odd this game was for Miami. Coach Spo decided to throw Nemanja Bjelica into the mix, and he gave them better minutes than anybody not named Jimmy Butler. Some much needed triples, good looking play-making, and even some decent defensive possessions. Dedmon and Bjelica being two of the biggest positives in this series so far is quite interesting, since both were unexpected mid-season acquisitions. “Positive” may be a bit of a stretch since it reflects negatively against the rest of the supporting cast, but that’s just how this series has gone, and more specifically, game three.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Game Two Loss to Milwaukee

The Miami Heat lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in game two on Monday night, and well, it wasn’t pretty. A scoring explosion from the Bucks and poor play from Miami leads to a result of one team looking much better than the other. On a very one-sided night, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: A historic night. And not in a good way.

A good place to start this post-game piece is stating that this was a historic night for Miami. A historically bad one. They trailed 46-20 at the end of the first quarter, and 78-51 at the half. There aren’t many schematic ways that I can approach this game. But there are some obvious points that must be stated: Milwaukee made shots, a lot of them, and Miami did not seem fully ready. When a team is putting up that many points, there’s just not many things that you can do about it. Pinpointing certain issues throughout the game and individual players seems useless to an extent in this match-up, due to the fact increased play from one single player wasn’t changing the outcome. Of course there are things to discuss with specific players, but this night was going to be historically bad either way for the Heat.

#2: The first time Jimmy Butler wasn’t playing at his own pace.

The main takeaway from Jimmy Butler’s game one struggles was that he just missed shots, since many of them were open. Tonight’s primary takeaway was completely different. Butler was forced to play at a much different pace, and that’s something I haven’t seen from him many times in a Heat uniform. He is always able to speed up or slow down the game by getting to the free throw line or playing downhill in transition, but he doesn’t have the room to do so at the moment. When people claimed Miami would have to make threes against this Bucks team, there was a reason: the interior is just absolutely packed with solid team defenders at all times. They’re now able to throw different guys at him throughout the night, which puts a lot more pressure on the surrounding cast.

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#3: Well, Dewayne Dedmon was good, but that’s it.

You may have thought all five takeaways would be negative from this domination of a game, but well, I got one positive thing to mention. Dewayne Dedmon was Miami’s best player tonight, and well, that’s an issue. He was the only Heat player in double figures at the half, and he only missed one shot in that span. An above the break three, the usual flip shots around the rim, and aggression made for a pretty unique half for Dedmon. When your buyout market acquisition is your only source of offense in a playoff game, that is a pretty big issue. Even though this was my one positive takeaway, it leads right back into a negative result, which was the theme of this game.

#4: Bam Adebayo didn’t have the expected #BounceBack, but I’m not sure it would’ve made a difference.

When people were talking about Bam Adebayo coming back from that non-aggressive game one to take initiative in game two, I wasn’t sold. That jump wasn’t made throughout 72 games in the regular season, so why would it be made in the second game of the post-season? He has his role on this team, and he’s not just going to flip a switch to become that natural scorer that many expect him to be in the future. But as much as his aggression seems to be harped on in this game, it would not have made the difference. It’s pretty clear that many people just want to see some heart from their second best player no matter the score, but it’s just a lazy take at times to just immediately point to that. He will need to be more aggressive if they want to compete in this series, but no level of aggression puts them in this game with the way Milwaukee played.

#5: Who takes things more personal?

In the big picture, this Milwaukee win felt like a team that lost in five games the year prior to this Miami Heat team. Not only did they play a lot better, they played like a team that had a chip on their shoulder. Now, the reason I posed the question about who will take it more personal, is due to it being Miami’s time to feel that way. The Heat players must go into game three on Thursday night playing like they just lost by 30 in game two. This Heat team loves to discuss the chips on their shoulders and playing for extra reasons, yet they have an even bigger chip on their shoulder after this game two domination. It’s hard to see Butler going out this way, even while he’s being blanketed every possession, which is why these two games back in Miami may come down to the mental battle.

Breaking Down Miami’s Late-Game Offensive Execution in Game One

Well, it was an interesting game one between the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat to say the least. There are so many different angles to approach this game from a negative aspect, but I’m going to focus on the late-game offensive execution here.

Some things that I’m looking to point out may seem minor, but as Erik Spoelstra said after the game, sometimes the deciding factors of a playoff game are the stuff “in-between.”

And yet, there were a lot of things “in-between” through 53 minutes of basketball, while I’ll begin at the five minute mark in the fourth quarter…

When talking about some of the odd statistics from beyond the arc, Jimmy Butler definitely headlined it. He attempted nine threes in this game, which is an interesting number for a player that usually finds himself inside the arc.

But speaking of bad three-point possessions, Miami sprinkled in some odd moments of chucking up threes in a very early shot-clock. They actually did a good job of controlling the pace early on, which is necessary in this series, but that control definitely seems to shift when settling for these type of shots.

In the clip above, two above the break threes before setting up offense occur in a span of about 20 seconds. That just can’t happen in a playoff game. Well, unless the guy taking it is Duncan Robinson.

Two wasted possessions in a tie game just doesn’t seem to be the recipe for success. Obviously this was a much different Butler, who went 4 for 22 from the field, but maybe the three-point element isn’t just a one game thing.

He said after the game, “I might shoot nine next game as well. They will fall.” I’m not so sure that he will actually shoot up nine on Monday night, but those shots will be there. The difference is that he must pick the correct times to put them up.

Here’s another minor element that went wrong, and it has nothing to do with a missed three from Goran Dragic who was open in the corner. The play actually worked exactly how they planned, but the action early on is the part to harp on.

Robinson setting an on-ball screen for Butler then darting to the perimeter after a screen from Adebayo was used frequently in this game. Too frequently.

As mentioned earlier, rough games for Butler and Adebayo mean that this set isn’t providing many options, even though it worked pretty well on this possession. Miami began to flow into this as their base set at times, while everybody knew what was coming next.

The main issue when Butler and Adebayo are off has nothing to do with their actual numbers. It’s actually about what it means for everyone else.

The spacing basically becomes non-existent in these moments, which is hard to do when you have the ultimate space provider on the floor, in Robinson. To that point, I feel there could’ve been some extra creativity on offense down the stretch, and I believe that’s one of the biggest adjustments that are made heading into game two.

Miami’s two stars hitting shots is an adjustment on its own, but the next element is providing some diversity.

For example, one thing I don’t think we saw enough of in game one is guard screening. It’s something I touched on in my previews, and it’s something that appeared to be coming in the second half. But it didn’t.

Specifically, the bench unit with Butler seemed like a perfect time, since Dragic or Herro screening could leave Bryn Forbes on Butler, which is exactly the purpose. Also, even though I’ll touch on the issues of Adebayo in this game down the line, some guard screening could’ve been great for him as well, whenever Brook Lopez wasn’t socially distancing from him on defense.

There’s nothing better for Miami down the stretch than a Butler-Adebayo PnR in an empty corner. It’s such a hard combo to guard, even when both guys are struggling. But there just seemed to be something a bit off, and I’m not just talking about their jumpers.

In this clip above, this is something we see quite frequently, but not in this fashion. Usually, it would be Butler probing left as Adebayo dove quickly, leaving the two options as a lob pass or an easy bunny, which may not have been too easy in this one. Instead he utilizes a snake dribble, allowing the recovery and leads to a jump ball.

To say that the issue with Miami’s stars was shots not falling is not entirely true, since the process of getting those shots looked to be the bigger issue. And yet, it still came down to one final shot, and I don’t think we see anything close to this Butler performance again in this series.

As much as we can talk about some of the errors and struggles down the stretch from the guys on the floor, there were some questionable moments regarding timeouts and decision making late in the fourth on the coaching side of things.

Everybody was aware that this game was in the mud, and that’s an understatement. This possession left Butler without a dribble and not a person to pass to, and yet no timeout was called with two of them available. This isn’t one of those free flowing situations where an out of the blue slip up occurs, since as mentioned before, the offensive spacing was an issue all game.

So, as we talk about offensive execution in this game, it’s important to note some of the miscues that occurred all across the board. Yes, Miami ended up tying it up anyway to go to overtime, but these type of “in-between” plays matter in the post-season.

And now, the current focus for the Heat at the moment by many observers: Bam Adebayo.

Butler’s issue at times was taking shots he shouldn’t have, while Adebayo’s issue was not taking shots he should have. And even though that’s been the way things have been trending all season, a week of preparation against an opponent that gives you a clear opportunity seemed to be the turning point.

For starters, take a look at Lopez in this clip. Forget the space between Adebayo and himself. Instead look at the space between Butler and himself. The element of Adebayo’s aggression has more to do with others than it does his own benefit or points on the board.

As I pointed out, spacing was an issue with the way things were going, but allowing a team to just double guys in the paint and not have to pay for it is exactly what they can’t do in this series.

Now, back to Adebayo, this is much more mental than it is physical. Yes, he can make that mid-range jumper at the elbow or free throw line. Yes, he can take an extra step in to get into rhythm closer to the basket. No, he can’t be indecisive.

If there’s one thing the Bucks defense exploits, it’s indecisiveness, and that’s exactly what Adebayo had on Saturday afternoon. He ended up attacking Brook Lopez, who did a great job around the rim in this game, leading to an unnecessary and contested shot at the basket.

The team knew what shot would be there. Adebayo knew what shot would be there. This wasn’t a surprise, and it won’t be surprising if this Miami team goes down if that doesn’t shift quickly. As I discussed this week, the deciding factor in this series is Adebayo.

Not to take an unrealistic leap in the post-season to will this team to win. But actually, just to be himself. And even though his attributes consist mostly of unselfishness, the occasional bucket to keep the Bucks defense honest is all that is needed.

Adjustments will be made heading into game two, and I don’t believe they will be major. As I’ve said, sometimes the minor adjustments are the most important.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Bucks in Game One

The Miami Heat fell short in game one against Milwaukee, in a very odd game all around. Jimmy Butler sent the game to overtime on a buzzer beating layup, while his overall performance wasn’t as positive. Goran Dragic and Duncan Robinson kept them in it throughout, but it ultimately wasn’t enough, after a Khris Middleton jumper in overtime to take the lead with 0.5 left. Here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Miami’s early offense was, indeed, a flash from the past.

As explained in my previews throughout the week, I mentioned that the initial adjustment for Miami would occur on the offensive side of the ball, reverting back to DHO’s with Duncan Robinson. The reasoning was due to Brook Lopez’s deep drop giving Robinson more than enough room to get shots off, and he did just that to begin the game. Three triples early in the first quarter came out of that set, and well, that was pretty much all they got from that area of the floor, which I will discuss next. It’s great to see Robinson getting these type of looks in a playoff setting, since his only way of offense throughout the season has been either catch and shoot or high pick and roll stuff. As Milwaukee did last year in the post-season, they will start to send more out to the three-point line to eliminate Robinson’s looks, which is where Bam Adebayo comes into play.

#2: Shooting was far from being pretty on both sides.

Miami shooting 8 for 21 from beyond the arc in the first half may look bad, but not as bad as Milwaukee’s 2 for 17 shooting display. The exact opposite was the expectation in this series, since both teams give up a good amount of threes. Shots just weren’t falling on both ends, but that shouldn’t discredit each team’s defense. The Bucks did a good job of chasing Miami off the line and forcing them into tough shots at the end of the shot clock. And by the way, it wasn’t only threes that weren’t falling early, since they only shot 30% on twos in the first half as well. The looks that many expected Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro to knock down against the drop, wasn’t occurring as frequently. And well, the shooting from Miami’s stars definitely didn’t help, as I dive into next.

#3: Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo struggle in first half.

3 for 16 from the field in the first half of game one of the playoffs is not what was expected for Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, but that’s exactly what happened. Butler had the mid-range jumper plenty of times, but charged the basket instead, leading to plenty of missed bunnies. But at least Butler was trying to generate offense. Adebayo was not taking advantage of the offensive space that I’ve been discussing all week. One possession in the second quarter told the whole story: Adebayo searches for a DHO on the elbow with nobody near him, and looks to pass to Butler who waves his arm for him to go. Adebayo uncomfortably and reluctantly turned into a jumper which clanked off the rim. The moments in which his jumpers are effective is when he’s comfortably shooting them. And that first half proved he wasn’t comfortable in that role.

#4: Miami’s bench was an absolute roller coaster with positives outweighing the negatives.

When discussing the Heat’s bench as a roller coaster in this game, it’s the perfect description. For starters, Goran Dragic played with great pace and burst throughout this game, which was the one element that was unexpected to begin the series. He was one of the few guys that gave Miami positive minutes all the way through, which is a positive element for this team as they go forward. Another positive bench player was Dewayne Dedmon, since he just carried over his regular season role perfectly into the playoffs. He fights on the boards, contests shots at the rim, and has an odd level of efficiency around the rim. Lastly, Tyler Herro rounded out the phrase roller coaster with the second unit. He wasn’t in his normal rhythm as Milwaukee hounded him, and couldn’t get to the spots in the drop that many expected heading in, but began to become his usual self in the fourth for a spurt. An interesting element to the Heat’s reserves is that some night’s they can be the team’s biggest boost, while being the team’s biggest downfall other games.

#5: Once again, this isn’t last year, meaning overall schemes change.

My last takeaway from this game is that this isn’t the same series, and last year shouldn’t continually be harped on. The reason for Miami stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo was not because of Jae Crowder alone. They built a scheme that included Crowder who did a great job of utilizing his strength against him. But he’s not here anymore, and Miami’s still going. Trevor Ariza does not provide the best one-on-one match-up for him, but one-on-one and Antetokounmpo are two things that don’t go together. They throw a bunch of guys at him, which is why it’s been so effective over time. So, my final point is that harping on the past is just a lazy take at this point of the season. They have their guys, they have their adjustments, and it’s working just fine on the defensive end.

How Will the Match-ups Look Between the Heat and Bucks?

The individual match-ups between the Heat and Bucks first round series has become a hot topic leading up to Saturday, but the truth is that there isn’t one set solution.

Especially an Erik Spoelstra coached team, there will not be only one guy thrown at the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, as well as Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. Speaking of Holiday, this gives the Bucks some options as well, after they lacked that type of versatility in the series a year ago.

Anyway, let’s start off with how the Heat will look to defend the Bucks match-up wise. And by the way, this may not be the initial coverage, but I do feel that this will be the number one adjustment that Miami will find themselves in for a good portion of the game:

Kendrick Nunn on Donte DiVencenzo

Duncan Robinson on Khris Middleton

Jimmy Butler on Giannis Antetokounmpo

Trevor Ariza on Jrue Holiday

Bam Adebayo on Brook Lopez

Many expect Trevor Ariza to step into that Antetokounmpo defending slot, which I think is the most likely option to begin the series, but there’s a reason Miami adjusts into this base.

As explained in my latest piece on Miami’s defensive scheme, Ariza and Robinson are going to find themselves as the primary blitzers on Holiday and Middleton, which is why it makes sense for them to match-up automatically.

Robinson’s improved defensive abilities combined with his length make it possible to stick him on Middleton and await the double, while Ariza’s strength is guarding smaller players. This allows Butler and Adebayo to play as the free safety at times and play in transition when hitting the passing lanes.

Of course, the match-up many would look at here is Butler on Antetokounmpo, due to the fact you may not want your best offensive weapon to have that type of weight on his shoulders. Spoiler alert: Butler wants that weight on his shoulders and will take that match-up 10 out of 10 times.

Once again, things are going to change over and over again throughout the series, and Miami’s switching means that mismatches will be fluid. But in a tight game, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is what we see from Miami in the half-court.

Now, on the other side of the ball, the Bucks have some extra guys to throw at Miami this time around. The consensus seems to be that Holiday will find himself on Butler from the start, which I expect as well, but I don’t believe that’ll be who he guards as the game progresses. Here’s how I believe it plays out:

Holiday on Robinson

DiVencenzo on Nunn

Antetokounmpo/Middleton on Butler/Ariza

Lopez on Adebayo

This prediction doesn’t have many surprises, but the reason I bundled up Butler and Ariza is due to those two guys flipping back and forth. If Holiday is guarding Robinson, many believe that it will just be the normal Middleton on Butler, but I feel Milwaukee’s counter would be to try out Antetokounmpo on him.

Middleton is capable of guarding a stretch 4 in Ariza, which makes this option even more possible.

But the head of the snake in this assignment would be Holiday guarding Robinson, and there’s a reason that I see that happening. If you asked me Holiday’s biggest defensive strength, I would immediately point to his ability to constantly navigate around screens without getting lost. And that description points directly to Robinson.

He will be an even bigger part of Miami’s offense in this series, as shown in my offensive breakdown, since he’s the one who will get Miami into their base sets. To that point, it just seems obvious that’ll be the route they go as the series moves forward.

This has become an interesting debate over the last few days, but as mentioned earlier, it’s semi-useless to a degree with the amount of cross matches that will occur. Milwaukee shifting into a switching scheme at times means that Butler will be able to handpick who he wants guarding him, which makes this series so interesting for him.

As much as the focus is on the starting lineup here, the real exploit should occur with both bench units, since Miami will need Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro to pick up the slack again, as the Bucks adding Bryn Forbes, PJ Tucker, and Bobby Portis means they feel good about their second unit as well.

The match-up discussion is pure, but the main match-up that will not be debated in this series is Erik Spoelstra and Mike Budenholzer. If you don’t think Spo has completely different adjustments up his sleeve for this series, you are completely wrong.

 

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Could Miami’s Offensive Scheming Vs Bucks be a Flash from the Past?

When looking at the Miami Heat’s series against the Milwaukee Bucks last year, it’s pretty obvious that both teams are different from where they stand today. But the scheming on the other hand, may not look all that different.

I’ll dive into that a little later on, but the beginning phase of the Miami Heat’s offense in this upcoming series, that will open up on Saturday, is Bam Adebayo. It’s no surprise that he will need to step up in order for this team to win, but there are many more valid reasons this time than a random Tuesday night against Dallas with no Jimmy Butler.

It’s actually because of the coverage that will be thrown at him and the space he will be given. So let’s hop right into it…

Bam Adebayo Pulling the Trigger

I will mostly be showcasing some things from last playoff series and how adjustments will be made, but recency discussion is the most important thing when talking about Adebayo. Just over a minute into the game on Saturday night, Adebayo begins to face up per usual, but his defender does something a little bit differently.

He purposely trots back to the paint to let Adebayo know that he’s giving him that shot, a shot that he is very capable of knocking down. The issue is that he instead decides to force a pass to Robinson on the top of the key, which perfectly showcases why he’s the difference maker in the series.

It’s not even about adding two points to the scoreboard when that occurs. It’s just about forcing Brook Lopez and the Milwaukee Bucks to constantly adjust defensively, which is something Coach Budenholzer doesn’t like to do.

Oh, and it’s something Coach Spoelstra absolutely loves to do, and he will do offensively, as I’ll point out down the line.

Now, a few minutes later, Adebayo dribbles the ball down the floor, while Lopez is giving him as much space as he did in the prior clip. A different result occurs as he pulls up with zero hesitation, and knocks down his favorite elbow jumper.

Also, Adebayo’s effectiveness doesn’t just fall on the open mid-range jumper. Milwaukee’s defense is designed to pack the paint, which will obviously fall onto Miami’s three point shooters. But the next element to his impact is that once threes begin to fall for the Heat, it’s Adebayo’s time to shine from there.

One more thing on Adebayo in this series is that there will definitely be things run for him, much like this possession above. He has the ball in the middle of the floor, and Lopez seems to be giving him much different treatment when trailing 4 with 50 seconds left in game two.

The first thing mentioned about sets being run for him is about finding a way to get him moving downhill, but I’m not so sure that’s the way to go in this series. I actually feel we see him hit the floor with four spacers, and allow him to go one-on-one at the free throw line with Lopez. The creativity will be fluid with him in this series, which is why he must be mentioned first.

Kendrick Nunn: Drop Coverage Killer

Kendrick Nunn finally gets to hit the floor in a playoff series with a significant role, after last season’s lingering Covid effects left him with some restrictions. Now he’s absolutely rolling, and seems to be at the top of most people’s picks for the series X-factor.

The reason for that is pretty obvious: he thrives against drop coverage. Coach Spoelstra labeled him as a three-level scorer the other day, and this allows him to showcase every single level of his game with the ball in his hands. The mid-range jumper will be there, the floater has been dropping, and the threes have seen a major increase in numbers. But the most important element for him will be at the rim.

If he can finish at the rim early in the series effectively, everything will open up for him from there, and he really will become the X-factor to open up guys like Jimmy Butler late in games.

DHO’s: A Flash from the Past

Now that we got through the two obvious elements of the series, I think this is the first major adjustment we see from Coach Spo, and I believe it begins in game 1.

Miami’s offense last year consisted of dribble hand-offs, dribble hand-offs, and more dribble hand-offs, but teams began to figure it out which forced them to adjust on the fly. The thing is now they’ve already made those adjustments comfortably, and it seems they may revert back a bit to begin the series to truly maximize the offense.

Plays like this where they force mismatches off the ball with their off-ball screening, then fly off a dribble hand-off pin down and knock down a three. That was the formula, and it may just work at times again.

As mentioned earlier, many are aware that the Bucks like to pack the paint, while covering the three-point line means that they’re relying on a bunch of tight close-outs, which has worked pretty well. And that’s where these type of pin-downs come into play.

Tyler Herro’s latest three point surge definitely makes this change even more possible, and even Nunn has looked very comfortable in these situations. It doesn’t mean that it becomes their base, but it should mean that we see it early on as Miami expands back into their normal offense.

Here’s one more instance of the effectiveness, as Herro flies off an off-ball screen into a DHO, while Lopez drops down and gives him just enough room to pull.

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Also, the focus isn’t on the personnel in the clips above. Two guys for Milwaukee and two guys for Miami are not even on the team anymore, but the offense being generating is what we’re taking a look at.

It may come down to guys like Herro knocking down these good looks, but I believe that’s a result Miami will live with to begin the series in Milwaukee.

Duncan Robinson Adjustments

If you’re wondering what Coach Spo’s awaiting pocket adjustment is in this series, it’s Duncan Robinson. This is the element that refers back to my previous Adebayo point, and it comes down to seeing how the Bucks choose to play their hand.

This play seen above was basically an introduction for what was about to come for Duncan Robinson this season as he transitioned into a different offense. The DHO’s have been eliminated by defenses whenever he tries to run them, which means his new scheme consists of high pick and roll after high pick and roll. And well, they’ve been highly effective.

When looking at this possession though, Lopez once again drops even lower than usual as Adebayo and Robinson do their thing on the perimeter, leading to a nice looking triple on the wing. The next thing we must take note of is the game they’re currently playing, since it’s game two. That may not seem like a crucial point, but it is, and I’ll show you why.

Now, here we are in game three. Robinson may have gotten those open looks in game two, but take a look at the game and time in this very moment: game three, 40 seconds into the game.

That’s been the Robinson effect all along, and this is where Adebayo’s effectiveness comes into play. Robinson has basically perfected the pocket pass, for obvious reasons, which usually means that Adebayo is on the receiving end. It allows him to begin moving downhill and make the right decision with the 4 on 3.

On this play above, there’s one defender guarding two guys on the perimeter, which leads to a pump-fake to the wing and pass out to the top of they key for a three.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s on the Bucks to choose how they want to handle it. Do they drop low like they did in the first two games last year? Do they blitz Robinson on the perimeter out of the gate?

Either way, Miami has a solution, which is why Robinson is Spoelstra’s main adjustment.

The last thing that must be noted about Robinson is that the pocket pass on the doubles isn’t the only solution. He’s a much better passer now than he was the last time he faced the Bucks, and those reads were even occurring then.

Double. Patience. Kick-out. Three. That’s the formula, and even though many believe his threes falling is the most essential thing against a team that allows three-pointers, it may instead result in triples for the surrounding cast.

And if the primary evaluation for his contract this off-season is 3 point makes in this series, your evaluation is way off if they do end up finding a way to win the series.

Extra Useful Sets

Finally, there were some extra offensive actions that seemed to work well against Milwaukee, and Miami may be better suited to run it with their current roster. So, what do those look like exactly?

One of Miami’s most used lineups recently has been the three guard lineups. Herro’s play-making moving downhill and Nunn’s catch and shoot leap have really made that possible, leading to these situations.

Miami ran a double drag with Nunn as the initial screener and popper. They even had respect for Nunn at that time, leaving Herro with a 2 on 1 opportunity, ending with a lob and dunk, which Herro has shown major growth in down the stretch of the season.

Miami’s guards obviously aren’t going to be taking anybody off the dribble to create offense, but the young guys on the move like this will lead to great things for Miami. And when looking at Herro specifically, he totally thrives off confidence, and these type of reps might be the best thing for him to find a rhythm.

This may not be anything spectacular, but this is just one quick example. The Bucks were going under screens constantly in this series when Lopez wasn’t on the floor, leading to possessions like this.

When Lopez is on the court, their deep drop means that Jrue Holiday and others fly over screens then recover while Lopez awaits at the free throw line. But when that’s not the defensive scheme they’re facing, the guards must pull whenever a slimmer of space is given after a defender dips under.

When I asked Adebayo earlier in the season about his message to shooters no matter what, he responded sternly, “If you’re open, shoot it.” And I believe that’s the motto in the locker room before this series.

The last set that must be used fluidly consists of Butler, Adebayo, and three floor spacers. Miami usually waits to utilize their most effective set, Butler-Adebayo PnR’s, late in the game when they need a bucket. But during playoff time, that will be used right out of the gate.

Although this play ended in a dump-off play from Butler to Adebayo for a dunk, there’s just so many options that they have. For one, that elbow jumper we discussed for Adebayo could’ve been utilized, as nobody would’ve been in sight if Butler decided to kick it back out.

Also, whenever this play was ran, Robinson always found himself in that corner, which eliminated any type of help defense onto Adebayo on the roll.

Anyway, Miami’s offense is clearly based around a lot of guys heading into Saturday, while you may be wondering why most of these breakdowns didn’t include Jimmy Butler. That’s because there won’t be many changes in how he is utilized, and frankly, we already know what he’s going to bring to the table.

It just comes down to the other guys, and each of them have multiple ways of being effective, especially if Miami makes that initial back-track with DHO’s to begin the series.

 

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