Tag Archive for: Jimmy Butler

Five Takeaways from Heat-Lakers

Here were my initial five takeaways while watching Heat-Lakers tonight:

#1: Bam Adebayo with a ‘do it all’ first half.

11 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists is quite the first half stat-line when purely looking at stats, but his impact is what popped tonight (per usual). For starters, he was extremely aggressive moving downhill, while also stretching things out to the 3 early on. His passing stuck out to me which I’ll get into in a minute, but the defense continues to be an all over the place affair. Drop, switching, zone. The Lakers kept running into him, including him racking up some blocks which seems to be the only thing voters look for. Rotating weak-side at the rim or simply blocking AD at his release point, his two-way impact is undeniable.

#: The Heat’s core 3 guys’ passing proving to be the functional door for the offense.

Bam Adebayo gets the ball on the elbow. Josh Richardson pins down for Duncan Robinson and slips, as Duncan shortly after utilizes a delayed cut. Bam hits him in stride. Copy that formula and apply it to Tyler Herro or any guard on this roster, and that’s how Bam was accumulating most of his first half assists. As for Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, an area that has hindered the offense at times this season is only using one side of the court. Ball sticks, defense pinches, and things are tonight. Some things I saw early tonight was Herro and Butler prioritizing the skip. Butler had a rare over-head one to Jaquez weak-side who buried it, and Herro did the same to Robinson late in the clock who side stepped for three. Lack of “point guards” mean those guys are needed in that department.

Duncan Robinson’s confidence carrying over.

Watching Duncan Robinson as of late, it’s clear the guy is extremely comfortable. Timely back-cuts, under the radar passing following over-reaction, and well, the shooting. When I asked Jimmy Butler about those outer areas of Robinson’s game, he says being surprised would only equal “untrained eyes.” He’s a complete basketball player, which was amplified on a first half iso that included a stutter and attack for a layup. But as much as it’s fun to note those developments, the guy is still shooting at a high level. More PnR stuff than early years, and his 3 point percentage is being carried by the pull-up stuff. He’s been key to this team’s offense.

#4: The Heat have found their starting four.

As I mentioned a lot before the season, it made the most sense for Haywood Highsmith to eventually find his way into that starting 4 spot. I figured it would take them until around December to get to it, but a rough start moved the chains quicker than expected. And well, it seems like the perfect fit. They wanted somebody that is 3 and D, and man does it seem like he’s at the high end of that. The shooting is a legit skill for him with the overall consistency we’ve seen, but he doesn’t demand many touches at all while always seeming to be in the right spot. Plus just watching him on defense tonight, I thought he would see more time on LeBron, but his work around screens on the Lakers guard room was huge. That front-court should not shift.

#5: Jaime Jaquez won’t be going anywhere when Caleb Martin returns.

When Jaime Jaquez Jr got drafted, I asked him who he was looking forward to playing against most. “LeBron.” Not only was he playing against him, he guarded him in the majority of his minutes. Got a big steal on one of his early drives, and continues to really hold his own on isolation possessions against star players. Fast forward to the 4th quarter, the Heat were searching for offense before the Jimmy Butler return, Jaquez went on a run of his own. Drives down the lane against the smaller defender, spins inside, and finds the exact angle for the layup. Bam gets the steal on other end, hits Jaquez on the break, sends a shot fake then finishes. Very measured stuff.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Denver in Game 5

The Miami Heat’s season comes to a close…

Takeaways from this game 5…

#1: Bam Adebayo in takeover mode early on…

As the Heat opened up this game, things looked bleak. They missed 11 shots in a row in the first quarter, yet followed it right up by making 7 in a row. A lot of that: Bam Adebayo. Finding slots above the rim as a roller, the short jumper was dropping, and simply he was playing with more will than anybody on that floor. And well, sometimes just playing hard gets you places. Along with that, Miami held the Nuggets to 44 points in the first half, and that’s a Bam Adebayo compliment as well. Putting up an efficient 18 points in the first half while holding down the defense on the other, it’s a tough job to say the least. But seeing the foot speed and urgency from Adebayo in that first half was big time. It went from Denver running them out to a sustainable lead for Miami pretty quickly.

#2: The bench group providing the spark…

Along those same lines about that turnaround, it came around the time that Miami switched up the early lineup. Kyle Lowry in for Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin in for Kevin Love. And man did the speed of the game immediately shift. Lowry grabs the board and immediately looks up to push. In a game where nothing was pleasant in the half-court to start, he took it upon himself to create some new looks for his group. Martin’s movement, back-door cuts, and on-ball drives was needed as well in his stint. I’m going to get to him next, but Butler’s lack of rim pressure was imitated in a way by Martin. Duncan Robinson did his thing off some hand-offs to get things flowing, and we actually got some Haywood Highsmith minutes. Partly was due to Martin foul trouble, but either way, it was an immediate impact. Some starters like Vincent, Love, and even Butler weren’t as comfortable, which made the bench group impact louder.

#3: Still on Jimmy Butler watch…

To continue on that Jimmy Butler topic, I think there’s been a general shift away from this expectation that he’s going to enter that Superman mode. With the way he’s been looking and moving as of late, it has felt like we’re past that point. Yet when you watched him to start this game, he wasn’t pushing, not much offensive urgency, and still played into Denver’s coverages. The Nuggets switched things up to stay home on shooters and let Butler do all of his operation 1-on-1 downhill. That turned into a whole lot of jump passes that were unnecessary in that opening 24 minutes, since open spot-ups weren’t generated due to them staying home. He was getting two feet in the paint, but he lacked comfort once he got there. The efficiency just hasn’t been there for many reasons.

#4: The third quarter punches…

As the Heat walk into the third quarter with a 7 point lead, all eyes were on how they started. That’s usually how teams can rally back in once the rhythm settles, and we saw Denver claw their way back into things. This time, all behind Nikola Jokic as the creator and scorer. He was taking advantage in the low post and getting his flip shots to go, as Miami was scrambling to find some offensive option to consistently go to. Three point shooting definitely not the thing to rely on, Jimmy Butler no flow, which took us right back to Bam Adebayo. He had some great looks in the paint that rimmed out, but also got a short roll jumper to fall as a great response to a Nuggets run. Late in the quarter, Lowry looks at the clock in a potential 2 for 1 situation, and shoots up a deep 3 that drops. Heat up 1 into the fourth. Punches were thrown, and Miami crawled their way into the final 12.

#5: The fourth quarter…

Onto the fourth quarter with a 1 point lead…oh wait, is that Cody Zeller? A random Zeller minute gets thrown into mix and now the Heat trail by 4 with 11 minutes to go. If you came here thinking I’d provide an answer for that, you thought wrong. Now the Heat have to find a way to dig themselves out of a hole in that building. Tempo picks up, energy kicks in, yet shots did not follow suit. With under 7 minutes to go, the Heat trail by 5 after more Butler trotting around with an inability to convert, as the offense was non-existent. What eventually got things flowing around the 4 minute mark? Butler finally deciding that he can actually get off the ground on his jumpers. Corner spot up, wing pull-up. He was getting so far off the ground with incredible lift. Where has that been? He ends up getting fouled on a 3, follows that up with a turnaround jumper, and gets back to the line again under 2 minutes to go. 13 straight points. Bruce Brown responds with a tip-in, Heat down 1, Butler a chance to take the lead with 30 seconds left and he turned it over. 2 free throws from Denver later, Heat down 3 with 24 seconds left. And Butler misses the right wing triple.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Nuggets in Game 4

The Miami Heat fall down 3-1 to the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals.

Some takeaways from game 4…

#1: The Heat’s first half offense: from in the mud to finding slots.

With three minutes left in the first quarter, Caleb Martin gets his offensive board for a putback to finally crack the Heat into double digits. Yeah, not ideal. A quarter later as they head into the half, the Heat fight their way into 51 total points. Yeah, more ideal. When it came to the early offense, it was just in complete disarray, starting with the fact that everything was lateral. Not finding their usual slots at all, until the Heat ran a jumper montage to finish the first. Butler finding the pull-up, Kyle Lowry finding his shots, and more. The second quarter was up and down, but they grinded their way back into it by getting to the line a bit and guys like Bam Adebayo playing much stronger in the interior to close the half. A very ‘tale of two halves’ stretch of basketball.

#2: To be physical, or not to be physical.

When it comes to being able to utilize physicality, this crew of officials wanted no part of it. Well, at least on one side of the floor. I’m not usually the referee police, but Nikola Jokic definitely got a degree of physical leeway wherever he is on the floor. Locking arms and flailing in transition, putting on a show around the rim, etc. Normal basketball activity, except he was getting away with it. Frequently. As for the Heat, they were having trouble finding their way around battling on the boards or position around screens. It may not seem like a big deal on paper, but this Heat team thrives off physicality and getting their hands dirty, When you take that away from them completely, yeah it’s going to tilt things for sure.

#3: Max Strus vs Duncan Robinson in this series…

There have been series I’ve deemed as more fitting for Max Strus, and others that correlate with Duncan Robinson. But sometimes it’s not about scheme, and instead about rhythm and flow. Yet the latter lies with Robinson at the moment clearly. He has a certain confidence with the ball in his hands at the moment, and continues to move around defenders in different ways, while consistently drawing help. A noticeable shift upon entering. But why are minutes not matching production at the moment? There’s a certain trust level in Strus finding his way after what we saw following game 1, but let’s get back to schematics for a moment. Robinson is currently putting the ball on the floor at a higher level at the moment, especially in these actions with Bam Adebayo. And with the way Denver is defending, that’s what they need. Interested to see how this shifts…

#4: Kevin Love doing his best to provide a third quarter spark.

As things started to fall further and further away in the third quarter, there was one guy who continually kept trying to reel it back in. Jimmy Butler? Bam Adebayo? Wrong, it was Kevin Love. He found a flow from three off some spot-ups, mostly due to the way Denver has been defending him. As I noted early in the game, they were disrespectfully helping off possession after possession. They used him as the pressure point. So after he knocked a couple threes down, he then started playing the reactionary game. Defender flies out hard for a close-out, he puts the ball on the floor, gets into the lane, and flips in a finger-roll plus the foul. He also was providing some real feel on the boards during that stretch. He was essentially their third quarter offense, which says many things, but it kept them afloat while Butler was disengaged.

#5: The fourth quarter:

To kick things off, Adebayo forced Nikola Jokic into his 5th foul of the night as he battled for position. As the Heat trail by 10 and Jokic heads to the bench, there was hope. Bam gets to the line off a strong take with a new Gordon matchup, as Butler follows it up with a contact baseline and-1. Timeout Denver. The non-Jokic minutes made an offensive run of their own though, as they sent Murray off the same pindown to force 2-on-1 after 2-on-1. Now Heat call timeout, down 8. Yet the next stretch was just a run-on sentence. Still an inability to string together some stops, plus the offense was back to a grind again. Butler just could not find a flow, and seemed out of sorts on most attacks. Picking up the dribble, placing the ball down low, etc. Ultimately, Denver out executed Miami throughout game 4.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Denver

The Miami Heat go down 2-1 against the Denver Nuggets after a disappointing game 3.

Brutal shooting, lack of energy due to that inefficiency, and well, it all blended into the defense of allowing Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray do their thing at a high level.

So, some takeaways….

#1: Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo aggression definitely not the early problem.

The offense for the Heat in that first half wasn’t pretty. Not because the Denver defense was flattening them out time and time again, but instead due to the missed bunnies in the lane that could’ve swung stretch of the first 24 minutes. When it comes to the aggression topic that we often have, that was not an issue tonight. Butler got up 16 shots in that first half, yet only made 6 of them. He felt most comfortable when he got the right switches, since Jamal Murray or Christian Braun meant an immediate mid-post possession with his back to the basket. The floaters against drop was where the efficiency issues were. As for Bam Adebayo, he was extremely active yet again to begin this game. Jumpers, face-ups, and a ton of activity on the boards. Once again, they were aggressive.

#2: Round 3 of dealing with Jamal Murray-Nikola Jokic actions.

There’s been a lot of talk about defensive formula after game 2, due to the trend that Nikola Jokic as the scorer never really seems to be a bad thing. If you can limit both Jamal Murray and Jokic’s passing, it shrinks things for them. Yet it was pretty much the exact opposite in this game 3. Murray was finding all the right slots out of their usual two-man action, and the Heat couldn’t make him uncomfortable. They had to stay mostly in drop to contain things, but mixed in the occasional switch or blitz as well. The issue was that he reacted really well to all of that on his way to 20 first half points on 8 of 13 shooting. The only thing that forced any avenue of discomfort was the 2-2-1 press, since it essentially cuts their clock in half. As for the half-court stuff, it was clear the Heat needed to find answers at half.

#3: Caleb Martin finding his moments again.

As I mentioned the Heat’s top guys efficiency not meeting their aggression early in this game, they needed a role player breakthrough. Seeing Caleb Martin look healthy again following his sickness was a good sight, and man was he rolling in that second quarter. Let me start by saying they are defending him much differently than they started with in game 1. He wasn’t being helped off at that point, and saw a good amount of doubles on his rim attempts. Tonight, it was back to the defense reacting to Butler heavily and Martin feeding off. He had a pair of threes in a row due to exactly that, capping the run off with a transition run-out for 8 straight points. A bit later, Butler receives in the mid-post and the entire Nuggets defense shifts over. Martin one pass away finally gets it, sends a shot fake, and swings to the wide open Max Strus for three. Yeah, that’s what they need from Martin right now.

#4: Third quarter question marks…

As the Heat walk into the third quarter down 5, it felt like the needed an energy pick-up. But they also needed a shot making pick-up following that first half display. And well, things went from missing easy bunnies to losing sight of the offensive picture. As the Nuggets expanded their lead to 19 at one point, I still was leaning most of my focus on the Heat’s offense. Why? Well it’s been pretty clear that they should have solid openings in this defense to attack, which they found in Denver, yet it was thrown completely out the window for 12 minutes of play. Now that puts an immense amount of pressure on the defense to do the heavy lifting, which is a tough spot to be in against this offense. At this point in the year, you can’t have those lapses.

#5: Is it time for a rotation shift? Or is it time for a pattern shift?

As the Heat look for answers at this point following an ugly game 3, we could point to some things rotationally. No this doesn’t exactly fix the offensive issues I discussed previously, but a Haywood Highsmith insertion would feel useful at this point. Let him bother Jamal Murray for an extended stretch, and possibly ending the Cody Zeller minutes? That’s the main element that many have been waiting for, but how can Spo do it exactly? Well, that’s where the pattern shift comes into play. The Heat can get away with Highsmith at the five lineups due to Denver’s smaller front-line off the bench, but the issue is that Adebayo’s early exit in the substitution pattern throws things off. Now it may be time to just mirror Bam Adebayo with Nikola Jokic. The Heat like to be the ones to dictate, but now I believe it’s time to react. Let’s see if a change-up ends up coming…

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Nuggets in Game 2

The Miami Heat get game 2 in Denver.

Gabe Vincent stays steady, Max Strus punches early, Duncan Robinson punches late, Bam Adebayo controls throughout on both ends.

Takeaways from this one…

#1: Gabe Vincent and Max Strus come out swinging.

As the Heat start the game, their offense was simple. As Gabe Vincent waits for the screener to come up to the top of the key, he flows right into his spot in the pull-up against drop, cashing it. As for Max Strus who was coming off an atrocious shooting game, it was all about the defense reacting to Jimmy Butler. Butler has the ball, Strus slips the screen, wide open corner three. Repeat and repeat and repeat. This was pretty much the sum up of game 1: the looks were there yet they couldn’t capitalize. But when talking about the two guys up for contract in the off-season, they came out swinging and took advantage. The only issue occurred when they exited, since the gameplan fell apart, which I’ll get into next…

#2: The non-Jokic minutes drop-off for the Heat.

All of the talk in this series is about how to handle the Nikola Jokic minutes if you are Miami. Yet that wasn’t the Heat’s first half concern: the non-Jokic minutes ended up being that. There are a few different reasons for this, but I’ll start with the offensive side. As the Nuggets flow into their smaller lineup, that means they rely on full switching which ultimately flattened out much of Miami’s looks. Those pull-ups for Vincent to start were no longer there for others. Yet with that said, guys like Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson just seemed lost with their offensive role in the opening half. Turnovers, bad shots: that turned the game around in Denver’s favor. Well, that’s how the Nuggets fell into their offense during this stretch since they controlled pace. An odd development to say the least.

#3: The main adjustments…

To take a second away from the evaluation part of that opening half, I must also note the primary adjustments we saw. The obvious one included Kevin Love stepping into the starting lineup, but it wasn’t for the exact reason that everybody thought. Yes it provided the necessary size that Denver attacked to open game 1, but he wasn’t getting the Nikola Jokic matchup as an innings eater. As I said before the game, it felt like the defensive opening was clear. Love can help off Aaron Gordon, Bam Adebayo stays put on Jokic, and Jimmy Butler up-shifts to Jamal Murray. Throw Butler and Bam at the Jokic-Murray two man game to see how they react. Credit to Love who did a really good job in that range out the gates. Even with him playing, we still saw the Cody Zeller minutes as a surprise. Another ugly stretch again, so that needs to be the next adjustment: it may not be as simple as not playing him since they don’t want to go zone against him, but they need an alternative. It’s the Finals, so it’s time for Spo to throw out every last card…

#4: Cody Zeller. Let’s talk about it.

As I mentioned the next adjustment, one of them has to include cutting the small portion of minutes from Cody Zeller all the way down to zero. They were rough in the Boston Celtics series, and they didn’t even have a MVP level center that he had to face 1-on-1. Watching this innings eater for the Heat, it’s eating into the Heat’s production. Defensive liability, non-factor offensively, and somebody that is involved in every action for one reason or another on either end. Obviously he’s high usage defensively guarding Jokic, but they need his screening to bring Jokic into action on the other end. The point is this: this is now the NBA Finals, there’s no time for digging their way out of awful +/- numbers every single game. Bam Adebayo’s impact jumps off the page, but it’s time to cut this out completely. They don’t want to go zone against Jokic so they match with size, but now if they’re starting Love, it’s time to rotate him back as their backup 5 for a stint.

#5: The fourth quarter…

As the Heat open the fourth quarter down 8, they needed somebody to breakthrough. And well, Duncan Robinson answered the call. Shot fake on a three as he steps aside for the open look. Next time down, he takes a strong baseline drive off the dribble, and converts an and 1 at the rim. Foul on the ground on the free throw means Heat ball, Robinson holds the ball on the deep right wing, before pulling it and knocking down another. 8 points in about a minute of time. He draws 2 on a cut shortly after, as Vincent sits freely on the left wing for three. Heat get a stop, walk down on offense, Bam hits Duncan on a curl and he converts the tough lay at the rim. Mean mug, flex, and more. Heat go up 3. Minutes later, Butler enters the game after an outstanding stretch without him, and immediately turns the ball over recklessly. With worry of the game slipping, he follows that up with a tough spot-up three in the left corner, and a baseline push shot for the and-1. Big stretch. Lowry takes control of the next stretch as he gets fouled on a three, and simply controls the offense through and through. Pocket passes would be crucial, and he stepped up. Denver didn’t go away late, as they rallied back behind Jamal Murray to cut it to 3 under a minute to go. Yet the Heat escape.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Game 1 Loss to Nuggets

To kick off game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Heat were just a step behind.

Struggled shooting, trouble stopping Denver’s different offensive weapons, and led by the offensive attack of Bam Adebayo and…oh Haywood Highsmith.

Some takeaways from this initial loss…

#1: Dealing with the Nuggets’ offense…yes, a problem.

The big question to start this game was how Miami would schematically deal with this high powered Denver offense. Attention at Jokic? Murray? Well, Aaron Gordon was the early issue, as he attacked Miami’s lack of size in that matchup in the post. He was in double figures immediately. Nikola Jokic just sat at that elbow in full play-making mode, carving things up per usual. Jamal Murray was also 8 of 12 from the field with 18 points in the first half, which is another clear issue. You have to pick your poison with this Nuggets squad, but it felt like they were getting it all in that first half of game 1. As I always say, game 1 sets the table and the following games are coaching adjustments, but man will those shifting pieces be needed against this team.

#2: Bam Adebayo looking comfortable.

One thing about the Miami Heat’s offense in that first half was they were getting great looks for their standards, yet they just could not capitalize for extended pockets of that initial 24 minute stretch. The one guy consistently capitalizing ended up being Bam Adebayo. As I said before the series, much of the offense will be on the shoulders of Bam for a few reasons. He can attack 4-on-3’s on the roll if they send 2 on the ball, plus Jokic will force Bam into open mid range jumpers. But Adebayo had a great mix in his shot profile to start, as he got the dotted line jumpers to go, found some comfort in the paint on his turnaround hooks against different matchups, and the drives to the rim are much cleaner than that Eastern Conference Finals against Boston. So if there was a good sign as they trailed by 17 at half, it was that the formula is there for him to be a major factor in this series on the offensive side of the ball.

#3: From a role player show to a role player need.

In the recency bias of this Heat team, it’s been a lot of the Heat’s role guys stepping up big time as the top dogs, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, struggled to score consistently. Yet as game 1 of the Finals opened up, it felt like those two things can just never align. As mentioned before, Adebayo had it going, and while Butler could’ve been more aggressive, he was getting great looks. As for the other guys, man we’re they struggling to convert. Max Strus was 0 for 7 at halftime with a ton of wide open threes, while Caleb Martin’s recent run landed him at 0 for 5 shooting. As a team they were shooting 24% from three, and well, it’s hard to keep up with an elite offense like Denver when those numbers look like that. The reason I bring this up is because it’s important to monitor throughout this series, but to be completely honest, the offense doesn’t worry me. The defense deserves all of the focus.

#4: So what does Miami cook up next for the Murray-Jokic PnR?

As I noted, the defense for Miami is the main substance here for this series. To dive a little deeper, the Jamal Murray-Nikola Jokic two man game, as we all know, is the beginning to all of their problems on that end. Yes, Jokic playmaking at the elbow can hurt, or normal post-ups, or even Murray isolation work. But Miami can live with portions of that. As for that pick and roll combo, we saw a few different things. Adebayo stayed mostly in drop with Caleb Martin chasing over the screen: 2-on-1 with Bam containing and the pull-up available. When they shifted Butler to Murray, Miami was able to switch some of those actions, yet is that always the right answer? Now Jokic can back down Butler, the help shades down, and there’s another skip pass to the corner. They key to the Heat’s defense is usually helping off a number of guys who aren’t consistent three point threats. But there just aren’t many of those on the floor right now at this stage of the playoffs. The one shift that we need to see: more of Haywood Highsmith on Jamal Murray. That was their best look.

#5: High PnR actions effective for Heat, and a certain Heat player’s return is looming.

As the Heat’s deficit started to grow early in the fourth quarter, Kyle Lowry found some sweet spots. High pick and roll, pull-up at the three point line above the break, repeat. Gabe Vincent saw similar looks that dropped, while the set-shooters Max Strus and Duncan Robinson didn’t have it going for it to be effective. Either way, those shots are sitting there. It’s even more of a weapon on night’s like this when Bam Adebayo is highly effective as a rolling scorer. Yet with the recent reports of Tyler Herro’s return looming around game 3, or even possibly game 2, you can’t help but think that his looks would be as clean as he would wish. The issue is that they would be perfect for a healthy Herro, since we just have no clue how he will look following surgery on his shooting hand. There won’t be reliance on him, but possibly a decent spark. No matter what we see, high PnR sets will be made a priority.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Game 7 Win Over Celtics

Two best words in sports: game 7?

Wrong, it’s “Caleb Martin.”

History was indeed made tonight, and it’s that an 8 seed is walking into the NBA Finals.


#1: Heat come out with a defensive plan.

As the Heat walk into TD Garden in game 7, they needed something from their three best players: Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Erik Spoelstra. And Spo set those other two up early. Jayson Tatum got hurt to start this game, leaving him off ball many possessions. The Heat’s defense was full-out soft switching every screen, as they were daring them to work through the mismatches. Boston would force passes, Miami would swarm passing lanes, and turnovers were forced. A 15 point first quarter for this Celtics team that started the year with a historic offense? Yeah, it was needed. They shifted into the 2-3 zone to start the second quarter, and it was just as successful by forcing the shots they wanted. Miami’s defense came to play early.

#2: The role guys “rolling” with the punches.

As I mention the shift into zone in that second quarter, that was formed around the role guys beginning with new rotation piece Haywood Highsmith. He forced an immediate turnover and got a bucket on the other end. The offense took control from there with a Kyle Lowry pull-up, Duncan Robinson back-cuts, and well, Caleb Martin everything. This series started with Martin reacting to what the Celtics threw at him, and now they’re reacting to the combos he’s throwing at them. Capitalizing on spot-ups, controlling the pace, and simply hitting tough iso shots that he self creates. Just big time stuff in that first half. He also was rebounding at an extremely high level, which was needed due to the soft switching. It may flatten things out, but you are vulnerable on offensive boards following mismatches. Martin continues to step up.

#3: The first half Jimmy Butler ride.

Walking into this game, the expectation was clear across the board: Jimmy Butler has to set the tone for this game to matter. And well, he didn’t set the tone…and it didn’t matter. He was still utilizing that pump fake and wasn’t getting to his spots, but as I said before, the defense stepping up put them in a position to stay in it. As for Butler, he drove baseline mid-way through that first quarter, stopped before the right box, and pulled right into the jumper. That was the adjustment, yet he wasn’t consistently in that mind frame. Shortly after, he mixed in a hesi into an attack instead of the shot fake, which was another good sign. But with all of that said, his offensive first half was not loud or controlled by any means. It was a roller coaster depending on the possession, but the offense was still extremely smooth in the half-court. And to start the third, we entered “setting the tone” Butler time. An immediate pull-up three into a catch and attack for a floater, forcing a Celtics timeout. Yeah, an experience.

#4: Bam Adebayo seeing flashbacks…

As the Celtics made their third quarter run with the Heat’s offense running out of gas seemingly, the blame rested on an action revolving around their two stars. Butler-Adebayo pick and roll, Boston switches it with length on Butler and mismatch on Bam, and down went production. Butler continued to have trouble getting to those spots at all, and well, they began relying on the weakness to attack: Bam Adebayo. This was a flashback of exactly a year ago in game 7, as Boston forced Bam to put his back to the basket. So Miami went to it in the third, and he couldn’t convert: again and again. The fall back plan ended up being the role guys yet again, but that’s a problem that can’t be overlooked. Teams now have the book on him with the correct personnel with this exact coverage, and man can it hurt the offense if Martin isn’t casually converted into Michael Jordan 2.0 at the same time.

#5: Fourth quarter business…onto the NBA Finals.

My Butler take heading all the way into game 7: “setting a tone.” And well, he didn’t do it to start the game, but he did it to start the fourth. After the Martin heroics push the lead, Butler wasn’t letting his group let up. Knocks down a middy, pokes the ball free for the steal, and flows right into a transition dunk. Good punch. To sustain the distance, Duncan Robinson hits a leaning left corner triple, Kyle Lowry buries a late shot clock pull-up heave, and Bam Adebayo found a flow. All of a sudden, the tides were turning. With 6 minutes left, Robinson dives for another back-cut with the dish from Bam, and the Heat now lead 94-73 in that building. The 8 seeded Miami Heat have found themselves in the NBA Finals. All the talk about witnessing history tonight, and we did just that. Defeating the odds of a momentum filled Celtics team and landing themselves at their final destination. History indeed.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Celtics

Heat drop game 6 to Celtics on game winner.


#1: Caleb Martin continually saving the Miami Heat’s offense.

As the Heat trailed 34-29 after a quarter of basketball, it made you wonder how the Heat acquired close to 30 after that offensive display. But well, it pretty simply came down to a guy named Caleb Martin, who started in game 6 as expected. 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting was his stat-line heading into the second quarter along with grabbing 5 boards. But they always seem to be timely buckets. Offense completely in the mud, so Butler’s last resort was to let Martin make something out of nothing. And well, he kept doing it. Strong Butler-like drives got him going, right into some open spot-up triples that Boston just won’t adjust away from. He’s been terrific all series long, and that first quarter was all him when Miami had possession of the basketball.

#2: Jimmy Butler looking as uncomfortable as ever.

Watching Jimmy Butler in that first half, you would notice that you are watching a very different version of the guy we’ve seen as of late. 2 for 10 shooting wouldn’t even tell the full story, since it was more-so the lack of ways he could find comfort in the usual spots on the floor. Pump fakes weren’t working, space wasn’t provided with the crashing help, and he had no where near the driving lanes that he once had early in the series. To be completely honest, he simply looked disjointed. Inefficiency around the rim is never a good sign due to that mirroring a defense that packs the paint and forces outside shots. That’s why you saw Miami’s first half begin with threes and end with threes. Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin swooped in to save the day, but that version of Butler was something new.

#3: Oh, Gabe Vincent is back? Oh, Gabe Vincent is back!

As the Heat opened up this game, there was some worry about the mobility of Gabe Vincent’s ankle as he slotted off the ball every possession. Max Strus had an insane usage rate to begin this one, but later on, we saw Vincent step up in a major way. To begin the second quarter, his pull-up threes made an appearance to open up the half-court offense a bit, as he stepped into two very similar looks in the span of a minute. He cuts it to a 2 point game all of a sudden as the Celtics call timeout, but it was mostly about him taking the shots that Butler just wasn’t. Fast forward to a Heat team down double digits with 3 minutes left in the second quarter, the ball swings to an open Vincent for three who capitalizes again. His efficiency inside the arc wasn’t really there in that first half, but at least he was putting pressure on things. Playing that physical and mobile coming off an ankle sprain was unpredictable, yet necessary.

#4: Dealing with Jayson Tatum…then the others.

For the last few games, the Heat have been heavily reacting to on-ball Jayson Tatum, mixing in a ton of blitzes and show and recovers. That has led to a lot of high level passing for the role players to get going in games 4 and 5. Yet in game 6, we saw a lot more of isolation Tatum and man did he get cooking. Miami continued to mix up his defender between Butler and Martin, yet it didn’t seem to matter. He was getting to the basket with ease, which was the biggest difference between Tatum and Butler in this game. One could get to the rim to set up his offensive profile. The other one couldn’t at all. As for the third quarter run by the Celtics, their movement was just much better than Miami’s half-court play. I said before this game the team with better ball and body movement would take the cake, and well…

#5:  The fourth quarter…

We see an immediate lineup shift with Duncan Robinson entering for potential offense, and a Kyle Lowry attack and dish to him on the cut shaves the lead to just 3. Heat give up a White three, and Lowry answers with a…post-up bucket? Some fresh legs providing some new offense. 82-78, 9 minutes to go. Robinson answers the phone again with a massive contested triple to cut it to 1, followed with a strong attack into a Butler tip-in. The Heat finally lead. One Brown drive later, the call on the floor is a goal-tend while he takes two free throws, swinging the game majorly back in the other direction. Heat trail 88-83 with under 7 minutes to go. Robinson makes some plays on the offensive end, but none could make up any ground. The Celtics kept responding all over the board, right into a 10 point lead with 4 and a half minutes to go. Fully relying on Robinson and Martin with Butler and Adebayo nowhere to be found. Butler began getting to the line the next few possessions as they entered the bonus, but it was an uphill climb. And well, another Miami Heat scoring run later following a Butler three and some free throw battling, the Heat cut it to 3 with a minute left. Brown goes 1 of 2 from the line, as Butler powers down the court into an and-1 layup. 1 point game. Robinson has a great look, misses it, Smart gets to the line and goes 1 for 2. They push down the floor, and with 2 seconds left, Butler gets fouled. Butler ends up getting fouled with 2 seconds left to take a 1 point lead, and a tip-in at the buzzer puts Miami away. Incredible.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Boston in Game 5

Back to Miami we go.

An embarrassing performance in game 5 by the Heat puts some pressure on them in game 6 at the Kaseya Center.

But first, we need to address tonight:

Some takeaways….

#1: Butler, Bam, Lowry: let’s talk…

Jimmy Butler: 2 for 7 from the field. Bam Adebayo: 3 for 9 from the field with 4 turnovers. Kyle Lowry: 3 turnovers. Those were some of the key first half numbers in a pivotal game 5 in TD Garden. Their best players were not their best players, and it’s really that simple. Butler has been a tone setter for a while for this team, and he completely looked out of it and disjointed. Plus he’s what makes this entire Heat offense run at the moment, so if he doesn’t have it, they won’t have it. Bam Adebayo was just as careless with the basketball as humanly possible, continually bringing the ball down to the floor for easy strips. He just was totally out of sorts and matchups were stumping him. And lastly, in a game without any ball-handler, they needed a big one from Kyle Lowry. Those 3 turnovers didn’t even tell the story, since his lack of aggression on pull-ups was major. A tough first half but harder to look past these 3 over the first 24 minutes.

#2: Turnovers and offensive rebounds…

To continue on that first half, the efficiency was surprisingly not the problem for the Heat’s offense, as it settled in around 50% for a majority of that time-frame. Instead, it was the turnover problem behind Adebayo and Lowry. They couldn’t seem to gain control to get into their usual actions, and that quickly bled into the defense much like in game 4. Bad shots equal an inability to settle into half-court defense. That is how the Celtics made their initial three point punch to start the game, as they played at a much faster pace. Now down to the defensive end, the offensive boards kept getting the Celtics extra and better looks from deep. When a team has that many extra opportunities, especially at home when playing into the crowd, it just hurts. Those two elements tied in very closely.

#3: Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson trying to hold it together.

To get away from what went wrong for a second, let’s talk about the guys who kept them in the mix for large stretches. Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin had close to half of Miami’s first half points, which says a lot. Martin continues to be the stable piece of this team, as he just keeps reacting to his individual defender. Taking triples, manipulating close-outs into attacks, and playing as strong on-ball as he possibly could. Duncan Robinson also found a rhythm inside in a certain lineup around 4 defenders, Butler-Martin-Highsmith-Bam, since the back-cut seemed to still be alive. Robinson was going to be crucial for this offense without the abundance of guards, since his action with Bam is a walking, living hub in the half-court. They played their role to perfection, yet still trailed by 17 heading into the third quarter.

#4: Two primary adjustments on the Celtics side.

So, as I sit here talking about the players for Miami not playing at the level that you would hope, the next question we should pose is ‘why is it happening?’ And well, I have some thoughts. Two main adjustments have been made by Boston, and the first one pertains to Jimmy Butler. It’s nothing matchup wise since he’s still getting the same switches, but instead the ways they’re reacting to him on-ball. They are not biting on pump fakes at all from him. He relies on positional shots after getting to his spots, and he usually manipulates his defender in the mid-range by getting them out of position. Tonight, they weren’t budging. Staying down on shot fakes was a clear focus. Now the second adjustment was even clearer, and it surrounded Bam Adebayo. Something they’ve done going back to last year is give up “mismatches” for him down low, due to the fact they want him to post-up. They feel that doesn’t equal good offense for Miami, and they’re probably right with his discomfort with his back to the basket. They’ll just send some help, knowing he will probably bring the ball low as I mentioned at the top of this piece. They would swipe and bother him, leading to all the turnovers. Boston adjusted and got to Miami. Now Spo and company needs to throw a haymaker back.

#5: So, what’s next?

All eyes on Saturday night. From up 3-0 to up 3-2, feels like a major chunk of this season comes down to taking care of business in their home building in game 6. The Heat desperately need to re-group after what we saw in game 5, which was a team with no identity and zero control or comfort on either end. They looked lost, and that needs to change. Playing into the momentum of a home crowd could help that, but they simply need their best guys to be just that. Not just Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, but Erik Spoelstra as well. If the Heat want to win, it’s probably going to need to be an Erik Spoelstra masterclass. Adjustments will need to be flying, and that started tonight by playing Haywood Highsmith. Yet offensively, they need a new wrinkle in the half-court, and Spoelstra has continually showed in the past he holds something back. We will see what that is, but those three headlining pieces are going to need to mutually come to play in 48 hours.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Boston

The Heat fall short of the sweep in game 4 as Boston blitzes them.

Uneven showing for Heat’s main guys, and the offense is so reliant on them to create. And well, that bled into the defense.

Game 5 up next, but first here are some takeaways from game 4…

#1: The first quarter felt like a repeat of the series. But that was the only quarter.

Much like in game 3, you would expect the Boston Celtics to come out as the desperate team that they are to start the game. But well, it just felt like a re-run of much of the series. Not much adjustments aside from the Bam Adebayo on Marcus Smart factor, but the entire picture just felt like the Heat dictating everything. The switches they want, the pace to play at, etc. The Celtics obviously had their punches, but they’ve had those this whole series aside from giving up completely in game 3. My main early takeaway was that in a setting that you expect to be watching a completely new story in each and every game, as seen in the first two rounds, things have been rather competitive on the schematic front. But well, the last 3 quarters that fell apart.

#2: Are these big Caleb Martin games or is it just normal Caleb Martin?

14 points on 6 of 6 shooting. That was the stat-line of Caleb Martin as the team entered the half. Every game of the series he seems to take up a slot on my takeaways, but are we approaching the point where this is just normal activity? When I say 6 of 6 shooting, it’s not like his shots are easy at all either. Tough leaning threes, quick and swift attacks off close-outs: it’s just been an absolute individual masterclass from a 1-on-1 perspective. If the Celtics dip off, he makes them pay off the catch. If the Celtics chase him off the line, he has an attacking counter he will get to. From the guy that defenses help off of to the guy that is tearing defenses apart. Just rising by the day.

#3: Jimmy Butler’s defensive versatility.

Jimmy Butler has been the hub of this group all playoffs for obvious reasons. Not only by the way he keeps controlling offensively with everything running through him, but the way he mucked things up on defense in that first quarter. The reason it’s truly wild to see is the different ways he has been utilized on that end of the floor from series to series. Starting out against the Bucks, they threw a curve-ball to let his physicality lead on Jrue Holiday, and he played strong on his way to messing up their offense. Onto the Knicks, they put him on the guy they wanted to help off, and just let him go to work by helping down on Jalen Brunson into insane impact. Now against Boston, it’s been a flipping nature between Tatum and Brown, meaning not much room to linger. That’s been Bam’s job instead. Butler’s offensive control was just so rough in this one, that it bled into the defense. But still need to keep track of this timeline.

#4: Sensing fatigue for the Heat and fire for Celtics from deep.

The Celtics gave Miami a massive haymaker in the third quarter to really turn the tides. The Heat couldn’t seem to stop them due to the fact they were hitting the shots that Miami has been living with for much of the series. Marcus Smart threes, Grant Williams got hot, and Jayson Tatum finally started getting to the rim. What happened to the defense? The offensive struggles were bleeding into that end. Miami went minutes on end without scoring multiple times, and they were just totally out of rhythm and flow. But with that said, the biggest reason seemed to be fatigued. Short jumper after short jumper. They just couldn’t seem to get it over the rim and that screams tired legs. A lot of the time this league is the battle of outside shooting, and that third quarter was a perfect example of that. Also didn’t help when Butler was in and out of things for much of the first three quarters.

#5: The fourth quarter…

As the Heat walk into the quarter down 9, Butler was on the bench and the Heat needed a run. Duncan Robinson entered and the Heat leaned on him heavily for offense. Got some good attacks from Bam after pocket passes from Robinson, then a tough pass to Lowry down low forces a timeout. 88-83 with 9:40 to go. For some reason, Butler doesn’t enter right away and walks to the scorers table after the inbound, saving him…seconds? Boston runs off two quick buckets and we’re back in a timeout. 92-83 with 9 minutes left. And well, it slowly just grew from there. Threes kept falling for Boston, and the Heat offense was the part that was just completely it of whack to me. Also when the whole design revolves around on-ball Butler, you need him to be clicking. The others around him fully rely on the reactions to him defensively, and when he doesn’t have it, they won’t have it. Back to Boston for game 5.