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A Look into the Miami Heat’s Start to the Season

The Miami Heat are currently 13-7 to start the season, and it’s been throughout a period of their schedule that was known to be one of the hardest stretches of the season. 13 of the first 20 games have been on the road, and the theme of this Heat team so far this season, is that they’re undoubtedly much better at home.

There have been plenty of team trends that have declined or increased over this span in comparison to prior expectations, but the focus of this piece, as we address everything up to this point, will be surrounded more by schematics. And more specifically, individual players in that area.

So, let’s hop right into what has been seen to begin the year.

Tyler Herro’s mid-range carving, spot-up leap, and separation avenue

Starting an early season wrap up with this Heat team and not mentioning Tyler Herro out the gate would be a terrible way to start. Not because he’s the team’s headliner or best player, but because he’s shifted the outlook on him, plus provided some on-court additions to this offense that have been absolutely necessary.

For one, we’re talking about a guy that is averaging slightly over 21 points a game through this opening stretch of games, but sometimes that can be misconstrued. The reasoning is that many players can come out hot right out the gate then come back down to earth.

But the difference here is that the way he’s doing it is 100% sustainable.

He has slowly mastered every spot of the floor, and what I mean by that is nothing is one-dimensional.

For starters, his mid-range game is by far his biggest strength on the basketball court, just due to the combination of difficult shot-making and improved ways of getting to his spots.

So much talk about if he could change his shot creation in a way where more separation can be created, and he’s done that by adding muscle to his legs in particular, allowing him to rise over the top of any defender in an unblockable fashion.

Three-point shooting has been an issue with this group from a team sense, but Herro has risen in that category as well. After shooting under 40% on catch and shoot threes last season, that has now shot up to 43% at the moment.

Obviously spot-up shooting shifts things for him and this team, but his demanding presence on the ball has made him an even bigger off the dribble three-point threat.

He has put in the work, and it’s paying off on the floor. Drop coverage was always a sign that a big Herro game could be in play, but he’s found ways to make switching defenses pay just as often.

And that’s the true tell between a young player who got hot early in a season, and a young player in the middle of that leap.

Mid-post killers: Jimmy Butler finds his home base, Bam Adebayo still searching for his

The only time we’ve been able to bundle up Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in the same conversation in recent years has been on the defensive end. Both can take over on the end of the floor, and have similar reactions to passing lanes, rotations, and pure perimeter hounding.

But to begin the season, another common thread has been found among these two: offensive positioning.

The Heat have skyrocketed in their post-play, and it’s not the Pat Riley coaching days “post-play” that I’m talking about. Miami occupies that mid-post right inside the wing on almost every possession as a way to get everybody into their spots.

Markieff Morris has found himself there, Kyle Lowry has found his way there once or twice, among others. But clearly, Butler and Adebayo are the sticking points of that section.

Butler has taken off in this new “role,” which hasn’t included much changing. The only offensive shift for him in this spot is less of an urge to play-make, consequently elevating his play to another level immediately.

There’s a reason Butler is top 5 in the MVP race at this time, and it has a lot to do with the spread out floor for him to play in isolation, get to the rim, get to the free throw line, and well, knock down that mid-range jumper that’s been falling all season so far.

For Butler, that is his home-base.

Adebayo, on the other hand, has caused many discussions about his offensive role with this new team, and I think that speaks volume. When in that mid-post spot, should it be more inside post-play scores? Should he face-up into that jumper? Should he rely on play-making for others?

In many ways, the simplification for him hasn’t been as seamless as that for Herro in his bench role.

For what it’s worth, Adebayo has had a great start to the season numbers wise, and continues to be that defensive glue for Miami’s top 4 defensive rating. But as we know, there’s still much more to untap with him.

With all of that said, Adebayo must find his home-base in that mid-post. In my personal opinion, he looks most comfortable in that face-up game where he can pick his spots and utilize his biggest offensive strength against bigger defenders: his speed.

Both of Miami’s top dogs are mid-post killers, but only one of them has totally felt right at home. It’s coming for Adebayo, since not everything just works out perfectly through 20 games of basketball in this league.

Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson simply awaiting for 3’s to fall, but could new perimeter spotting be on the way?

The shooting of Duncan Robinson has probably been the biggest worry among Heat observers to begin the season, and Kyle Lowry is right behind him. The team has transformed into a fully three-point shooting team to a group that has a “good shooting night” when they shoot above 30% from beyond the arc.

Herro’s kept them afloat. PJ Tucker’s kept them afloat. But Robinson and Lowry have been the anchored forces to them being a middle of the pack 3 point shooting team.

So much has been discussed about this specific topic, but now that we’re 20 games in, some slight changes in exact offensive positioning should be on the way. Lowry and Robinson each shot 42% on catch and shoot threes last season, which is now at 29% and 32% respectively.

Yes, things will come back to normal sooner or later, which has already come into fruition in the 20th game in Chicago, but in the meantime, weak-side operation can’t continually be the answer. Through a quarter of the season, it’s been a ton of Robinson awaiting the ball to fall into his lap, which has not been him at any point of his NBA career.

He needs to seek that ball out, receive more high pick and roll reps which transformed his shooting last season, and continually make that pocket pass as defenders continue to double out at him no matter his shooting percentages.

Lowry, on the other hand, needs to get back to his usual ways. More transition pull-ups like his days in Toronto, more quick pulls after sliding across the pick at the top of the key, and more corner spotting.

Could it almost mean Robinson and Lowry switching roles at times?

Lowry in the corner should be used more down the stretch of games, which have been a struggle. The reasoning is that no defender is dipping far off Lowry on that baseline, and Robinson on the strong-side of plays have shown to be a cheat code over the years.

Up to this point, those two have almost been flipped in that type of usage.

Either way, it all comes down to making open shots. And if the team’s biggest problem through 20 games of basketball is Duncan Robinson and Kyle Lowry consistently making an open gym triple, then they’re sitting in a great spot.

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Defensively: soft switching worries, individual match-up dominance, and additional creative options

This has been pretty offensive centric so far in this piece, but with this Heat team, I don’t know if that’s very fair to initially project. The Heat are currently 4th in defensive rating so far this season, and as you scroll through your favorite social media app, you would probably think it was the exact opposite.

A main reason is that when it comes to defense, poor defensive possessions stick out more than good ones. So Robinson or Herro getting picked on in isolation may immediately jump off the screen, but their positioning on the weak-side on the play before isn’t mentioned once.

I bring this up because that’s been the case with the Heat’s soft switching so far. It’s 100% problematic many nights when the opposing team has talented perimeter players who can pick out mismatches, meaning Lowry, Robinson, or Herro is fighting for their hypothetical life down on the block against 7 foot monsters.

It’s also why they allow so many threes, since the soft switch basically gives ball-handlers a half-second to pull when a screen comes, or allows a screener to slip to cause mayhem defensively. And when teams capitalize like the Wizards did in Miami’s loss, it just plainly stands out.

There are solutions to anything that is thrown at you at the NBA level, but it’s why Spo has so many things up his sleeve. Guys like Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin have played their roles even better than originally expected, just due to the defensive strategy based around them.

A 2-2-1 press backed into a 2-3 zone has been the cure for fast offensive teams many nights. But what do you think gets discussed more, those adjustments or the soft switching?

Like I said before, they’re definitely going to have to tweak it slightly though, just because this is a team that won’t fully die-out on screens and can handle most individual match-ups. PJ Tucker can essentially guard 1 through 5, Butler’s playing some of the best weak-side defense of his career, and Adebayo is still up there for DPOY.

The point is that this team has been a major defensive force in this early span of games, and more flaws have been recognized than strengths. That’s the formula for a team with true elite defensive potential.

PJ Tucker’s short roll and corner worries shifting the offense

Herro has exceeded expectations for sure, but not to the level that PJ Tucker has to kick off the season. Usually young players are the only ones that can truly shift a pre-season projection, but Tucker has taken that to another level.

We know who he is as a player. A major defensive threat, which as I said, can defend positions 1-5. He plays bigger than his 6 foot 5 height, mostly through rebounding by becoming one of the best box-out guys in the league. But with all that said, the reason the number on his deal was a bit slimmer than you’d expect is due to the offensive limitations.

But those have quickly vanished.

After shooting 32% on catch and shoot threes last season, it has spiked to 45% to begin the year.

As I stated earlier, he has essentially leveled off the poor shooting of Miami’s starting back-court, which was in no way an expectation coming in. The thing about that though is it’s not just about that high percentage or the number of attempts he’s putting up.

But it’s actually the pull he currently has on defenses. When you’re best players thrive off open lane drives, and isolation frequency rises, you need that corner defender to think twice before going for the tag. And that has been the case many plays up to this point.

He’s also making them pay in a totally off the wall position of the floor on the offensive end: a roll and float. Running hand-offs and setting screens is no surprise in his role with the way Coach Spoelstra describes him as one of the league’s best screeners, but it’s what comes next.

Two flash to Robinson, he hits Tucker in the pocket, and you worry about what comes next. Do you want a limited power forward running the 4 on 3 on the back-side? Well, now you do.

Tucker gets to the middle of the floor, rises with two feet off the floor, and flicks up a right handed floater. Bucket.

That’s become his staple, and it’s gotten Miami out of a bunch of sticky situations. A 36 year old veteran should not be adding to his bag in this way, but he truly has in this not-so-similar role around this stable group.

Exceeding expectations is one thing. But taking over games in more than just the rebounding column or defensive metrics is another.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Bulls

The Miami Heat came away with a win against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night in an anticipated matchup. Even with Tyler Herro out, they got it done, mostly due to the two-ways of last season, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus.

So, here are five takeaways from this win…

#1: Miami’s defense setting the tone early on.

In the beginning of the second quarter, the Heat forced the Bulls’ 10th turnover of the game, which doesn’t even tell the full story. DeRozan shooting 2 for 5 and LaVine shooting 2 for 6 in the first half doesn’t tell the full story either. It was just about the discomfort the Bulls were in from possession to possession, and lineup to lineup. The zone popped up again, Miami placed PJ Tucker on DeRozan so that he’d land on Vucevic after the screen, and they were just hitting the passing lanes as a whole. When you’re without one of the best scorers on your team, in Tyler Herro, it’s expected that defense would be the way you dictate a game. And they did just that to start.

#2: Tyler Herro out, Max Strus in.

Tyler Herro was a late scratch, after Spoelstra mentioned before the game he was a bit “under the weather.” That ultimately meant Max Strus would step into that next open slot, even though it felt his name would be called even if Herro played. Either way, he came out firing. Literally. He may have been the team’s leading scorer at the half, but the more important stat was he attempted the most shots on the team in that span. With 9 shots, 5 were threes and 4 were twos, just showing how this game was being played overall. We saw a bunch of different combinations with Strus, but the ultimate takeaway is this: he should never be on the outside looking in with Markieff Morris out and Victor Oladipo still healing up. Ten man rotation should be the next call before benching one of you’re better three-point shooters on a team that struggles from beyond the arc.

#3: Kyle Lowry the scorer made an early appearance. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo the facilitators quickly followed.

As we talk about the way Miami was generating offense, early on more specifically, it was almost a total flip in terms of individual player roles. Kyle Lowry came right out in scoring mode, getting to the basket twice in the first minute for easy layups. His drives were definitely up in this one as well, which meant simple kicks were the outcome. But not in the way you’d expect. Swing, swing, and there’s Butler or Adebayo in that mid-post waiting for the ball. Butler then drives and kicks. Or for Adebayo’s sake, he unfortunately waits for the double to come instead of attacking the smaller defender, and hits the cutter. That formula led to the two of them racking up 7 first half assists, and it did wonders to maximize the bench guys specifically. Without that big chunk of usage from Herro, the reliance on base offense was crucial.

#4: Duncan Robinson getting the ball up, and shifting his spotting.

This wasn’t one of those breakout Duncan Robinson nights where he shoots the ball like he used to. But what he did do is step up in the shot attempt column when others were drifting. Without Herro, you can push past inefficiency into the mindset of just getting them up, which he did. Some started to fall, but something interesting that followed was his willingness to begin scoring on the inside. Lay-ups, back-cuts, mid-ranges. That’s not really Robinson, but it needs to be in the prolonged stretch of poor shooting. Of course we can continually talk about the hope of it returning to normal, but there must be that in-between time where you utilize a non-Herro game to try and get out of it. It may be in his head, but the overarching mindset has yet to waver.

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#5: Gabe Vincent continues to come up huge for Miami.

Speaking of guys on this roster on the outside looking in, that was Gabe Vincent’s role for most of the season. He was an intriguing defensive spark when needed, but that has finally flipped. It all came down to threes falling for him, and we’ve finally hit that moment in time. But is that the only difference? Actually, I don’t think so. Opinions can fly about the recent play of Kyle Lowry all you want, but the fact that Vincent can play next to Lowry at this stage is a major difference maker. Vincent’s playing with confidence, he’s not a one-dimensional offensive player at this exact time, cannot be taken advantage of on the defensive end unless he’s facing a much bigger ball-handler, and the shots are now falling. The back-end of the roster is doing their job, and now all eyes are on the top-end of this team.

 

Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Comeback Win Over Pistons

The Miami Heat had a rough overall night against a low tier Detroit Pistons team, but came away with a win due to a Tyler Herro explosion.

He’s doing some elite level things as a scorer right now, and they’re very sustainable traits. Half-court control, defensive carving, and pure scoring one-on-one.

So, here are five takeaways from this matchup.

#1: Jimmy Butler comes out strong, while providing a broader team theme.

Starting off a post-game piece about Jimmy Butler is pretty normal this season, and that’s for a few reasons. For one, he’s scoring the ball at an elite level, and continues to get to the line as he’s averaging the most free throw makes a game this season. The other reason is that he’s been a first quarter killer recently. Why is this being looked at slightly negatively? Well, it seems like one player has their “quarter” every night. Butler, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, and Tyler Herro all seem to take turns on the offensive end, which frankly isn’t a great way to operate, especially when you pride yourselves on a ton of movement and non-stop ball movement. Once they can just gel ‘together’ for 48 minutes, that’s when you’ll see them really turn the corner offensively.

#2: When lineups look for offensive comfort, they often look for Tyler Herro.

As sixth man Herro enters the game, he has a simple rotational routine with this group. Play next to Butler to start, while Bam and Lowry revolve next to him shortly after. The point is that he’s playing with a ton of different combinations, yet there is one common denominator among every unit: Herro is the comfortable offensive piece. He’s no longer looking around for somebody to bounce off of, but others are searching for Herro to take control. As great of a point guard as Lowry is, the team is in a different level of control when Herro just takes guys off the dribble and scores like he was to finish this game. We knew a lot about Herro’s game heading into the season, but possessing that comfort and control was in question. Well, not anymore. He’s their guy.

#3: Miami’s lineups getting more and more interesting.

Miami’s starting lineup was in tact tonight even though Duncan Robinson, PJ Tucker, and Adebayo all had some questionable tags prior. Still, Miami’s missing Markieff Morris off the bench after the incident with Nikola Jokic, so it’s just the usual rotation, right? Wrong. As Miami floated through the first half, it took me a bit to realize that Max Strus hadn’t entered. Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent were both utilized instead, as Miami’s defense was based around their top of the key presence in the 2-2-1 press and 2-3 zone. But the lineups are the interesting part. Martin at the 4? Lowry-Vincent-Herro combinations for long stretches? This Pistons team was small due to them being without two of their bigs, but rolling with these groupings as a stretch shooter, in Strus, is on the sideline is just an interesting choice.

#4: Miami’s defense is schematically set-up to move forward, but continues to revert back.

The Heat’s defense was projected to be very high this season, and that begins with the surrounding cast allowing them to be much more controlled on that end of the floor. A point of attack defender in Lowry means Adebayo can play by the rim more often, and Tucker on the back-side gives them more perimeter flexibility. But the soft switching has not only returned, it has been elevated even further. Weak-side screen comes, Lowry’s on a big, Adebayo’s on a guard. Screen comes on the ball, Robinson’s defending in isolation. Where “soft” switching comes into play is that Detroit isn’t even setting hard screens. It’s just come up and the ball-handler retreats with his new defender. This team is an elite defensive team, but they need to fight through those screens to uphold their elite defensive skill.

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#5: Living at the free throw line: balancing that in a good and bad way.

There are two totally different reasons that Miami has lived at the free throw line in specific games. One of those reasons is that Miami just dominates the pace and can dictate when they elect to slow things down. The other reason, which was the case tonight, is that offense is so terrible that getting to the line is the only source of offense. In many ways, before the fourth quarter Herro explosion, the free throw line was the only thing that kept Miami competitive with this 4 win Pistons team. Butler obviously dominated in that category, but many other role players quickly followed suit. Some nights high free throw shooting doesn’t equate to a great offensive night, but sometimes it just gets the job done when needed.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Wizards

The Miami Heat fell short in Washington on Saturday night, even alongside another big time Jimmy Butler night. The threes couldn’t fall once again, and it ultimately lost them a close one.

So, here are five takeaways from this one, mostly highlighting some individual takeaways from Miami’s core…

#1: Miami’s first half sums up the team’s new look theme.

1 for 14. That’s the Heat’s stat-line from three in the first half tonight. It feels like I start these pieces the same way every night, but that’s just because Miami keeps starting their games in the same way every night. Aside from an immediate Tyler Herro three when he came in, the team just couldn’t get a shot to fall from the outside for that entire 24 minutes. 43 points in that stretch of time tells you that as well, but there’s one more thing to keep in mind: the Heat were winning at that point. They have a very gritty group of guys who just battle when the game is in the mud, and if we’re talking about the first half specifically, Caleb Martin and PJ Tucker were huge reasons for that. When you can embody this new defensive team theme, role players are much more valuable in this setting. But as we saw, when there’s a scoring drop-off on the roster, it puts you in a very tough spot to win.

#2: Jimmy Butler spamming moves and getting buckets.

Jimmy Butler has been in the MVP race to begin this season, and it’s not just because of big numbers in the scoring column and fun post-game comments. For one, he’s been terrific on the defensive end per usual. Doubling when he chooses, handling his specific match-up, and getting pick sixes like another corner-back in town. But his offensive efficiency and impact has been incredible. He’s basically spammed one move for the past 3 games of the season, and it just couldn’t be stopped. Post position, get to the mid-range, and turn-around and fire. That shot has been falling, but the difficulty of those shots is the more important part to note. It’s a new team around him, which means new spots to operate.

#3: A big time Bam Adebayo addition: the usage of his shoulder in the post.

Bam Adebayo has made some pretty intriguing minor improvements this season. Overall feel, pursuing certain spots on the floor in the half-court, and now, a post gadget. A hot topic with Adebayo recently has been about him getting in the post more often, taking advantage of smaller defenders. But what about when he’s being defended by guys his size? That shouldn’t always equate to just shooting the mid-range jumper, so Adebayo’s beginning to put that added muscle to use. He’s utilizing the shoulder to create just enough space for quick hooks under the basket, or space to fire over the top. That stuff jumped right off the screen tonight, and his engagement in actually being aggressive allows it to shine even more.

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#4: PJ Tucker, a steal, literally and figuratively.

Describing PJ Tucker as a steal is fitting just through his defensive presence on a night to night basis, but it completely transcends that. In terms of off-season pick-ups, Tucker had to be one of the best this past season, just through the lens of outplaying the money on the deal. For starters, the first half can be viewed in many different ways, but Tucker kept it close in a stretch where the game shouldn’t have been close. Fighting on the offensive boards and providing extra possessions was the major element, just continuing to do the dirty work like he always does. Then in the second half, Tucker’s scoring returned, including back to back possessions with corner threes from the same spot. When offense gets rolling and the primary scorers do what they do, defenders almost have to dip off Tucker in his spots. But well, he’s made them pay every single night.

#5: Tyler Herro flipping the script in terms of counteracting his scoring.

The catch and shoot three really plummeted for Tyler Herro last season in comparison to his rookie year. That led to him expanding his scoring inside the arc little by little, which has totally exploded to begin this season. But the interesting thing about a returning Herro on Saturday night against the Wizards, is that he did exactly the opposite in this one. He began the game 3 for 10 from the field, and just looked a little flat with all of his shots coming up short in the middle of the floor. That led to him firing from deep shortly after, and well, that got him going. Two above the break triples set him off in the second half, and everything just stemmed from there offensively. He’s doing some really veteran-like things just through his scoring reads against different coverages, and it isn’t going anywhere. But down the stretch of the game, he was being picked on defensively as the Wizards were taking him off the dribble each and every possession.

 

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The Miami Heat’s Roster: Top Heavy Options Turning Into Depth

Film dives aside for a second, the Miami Heat are the number one seed in the East.

Credit can fly in a ton of different directions. Jimmy Butler’s MVP status, Bam Adebayo’s two-way play, Tyler Herro’s continued emergence, or Kyle Lowry’s quarterback control. It just simply isn’t one translating factor to a winning basketball team.

Before the season, the depth of this team was questioned. Could Omer Yurtseven develop quickly? Will KZ Okpala finally break-through? Does Gabe Vincent’s scoring ability come along?

All of those were pretty viable questions to pose, and the frequency of actually presenting those questions has risen quickly.

Butler, Adebayo, Lowry, and Herro seem to be switching off games to take the night off, which is something they haven’t been able to do in the past. A strong core like that pretty much means they can pick up the slack for the others.

The issue is that 3 rotational pieces down in a specific game, means the depth dwindles down real fast. The best front-court option outside of the rotation is Udonis Haslem, and it’s kind of wild that it took so long to realize that.

While we know about that stuff involving the depth at this very moment, let’s fast forward to a fully healthy Heat team and evaluate the “depth,” since the goalposts seem to immediately move.

With a returning Victor Oladipo, even disregarding the exact health levels he comes back at, he will no question be a part of that bench back-court with Herro. To cap off the nine-man rotation, Markieff Morris and Dewayne Dedmon will most likely be the relied on veterans on the back-end.

What does that mean? Well, Max Strus, Caleb Martin, and Gabe Vincent will all be on the outside looking in, which is a pretty great spot to be in when looking at the team on paper.

Obviously we’re coming off a major offensive punch from Vincent on Thursday night, but that isn’t the only reason it’s being brought up. Aside from the shot falling or bricking, he provides something that Miami can use in certain spots of the season.

Lowry goes down, Vincent can be that sidekick to Herro’s scoring. Herro goes down, Vincent can be the strong attacker and eventual shooter in Herro’s role next to Lowry. And yet, his offense doesn’t even touch half the potential of his defensive structure.

Caleb Martin has been a steal of a pick-up on that two-way contract, but as many have noted, he won’t be stuck in that deal for long. With a 50 game limit, it’s clear Miami will need to eventually convert him over, since he can be used way more than 50 games this season.

And although Max Strus continues to impress in his rotational role this season, a 10th man spark will probably be his role by playoff time. If the guards aren’t giving them something on a specific night, I see Coach Spo bringing in Strus to start the second quarter without batting an eye.

The point is that the depth on this team may seem frail at times when they’re down a third of their rotation, but when everything is put together down the stretch of the season, even that will elevate.

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The depth topic is a funny one to have on a Heat team, just due to the fact we’ve seen them with a totally opposite team theme in recent years. They had a bunch of really sound players all the way down the roster, but in moments of truth, it was Butler and Adebayo looking around for who that next guy was.

Now, as I said earlier, they have a core four that can pretty much be relied on night in and night out.

Options over depth. It may seem like a pretty obvious thing to say, but something must be added to that: extra options create more depth.

How is that? When you have a 21 year old Herro taking over games while Butler is resting on the sidelines, that forms extra bodies by the end of the season. They don’t have to rush back the top dogs any time they get injured, which once again, is something new.

11-5 and first seed in the Eastern Conference during one of the toughest parts of their schedule is one thing. But giving both Butler and Adebayo 3 games off in that span, while Lowry has gotten 2 games off, puts their standing positioning into even more perspective.

The team’s pace on the floor is one thing. But Erik Spoelstra being able to pace his players off the floor is another thing.

 

Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

Visit them at EverythingTradeShows or call 954-791-8882

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over the Wizards

The Miami Heat beat the Washington Wizards on Thursday night, and it was another big night for Jimmy Butler. Even with Tyler Herro out due to a wrist injury, others stepped up off the bench.

So, here are five takeaways from another Heat win…

#1: Jimmy Butler playing his own game, with a different speed.

Scoring mode Jimmy Butler has taken the floor for most of Miami’s games this season. Much of that has to do with Kyle Lowry stripping some of the play-making duties from him, while it’s also just him taking advantage of match-ups and spots of the floor. Tonight, he was playing his usual offensive game, but it was at a different speed. Even when Lowry isn’t on the floor, Butler has made it a part of his routine to grab it and go, which really fits the supporting cast on this team, more specifically the bench. But if that mid-range jumper continues to fall, and he continues to draw that whistle and get to the line, MVP ladder Jimmy Butler isn’t going anywhere.

#2: Tyler Herro out. Gabe Vincent in. And he was ready for the offensive load.

With Tyler Herro out, it was clear they were going to need one or two scoring threats to step up off the bench. Gabe Vincent has been that guy before, but he hasn’t really been that at all recently. But there’s a difference between being inserted into Lowry’s role and Herro’s role. We saw the difference in that tonight. He actually saw quite some time next to Lowry, which enhances his scoring skill even more. He was driving with authority to eventually open up the jumper, and that looks to be the formula for success. If he has match-ups that are around his size and he can play his physical game, he’s in a good spot.

#3: The halftime takeaway: three-point shooting struggles, yet 7 point lead.

The three-point shooting watch has been much different for the Miami Heat this season than previous years. Previously, their percentage in that category could tell you if they were winning or losing at a certain point. Yet, this isn’t a “three-point shooting” team anymore. The Heat were up 47-40 at the half, while shooting 14% from three at that point. Like I said: different. The reason they’re able to still be in a winning spot is due to the efficiency of their two-point shots. Mid-ranges drop on this team, they can get to the rim, and frankly, they had 14 free throw attempts at the half to the Wizards’ 7. They can win in different ways, which is just simply something new.

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#4: Bam Adebayo picking his spots perfectly as an inside threat. An inside the 3 point line threat.

One thing was clear when this game started, and it was that Bam Adebayo was going to get shots up tonight. They weren’t really falling right out the gate, but that changed rather quickly. The main reason for that is he’s picking his spots at such a high level right now, and isn’t afraid to pull-up for that interior jumper. That exact type of play is how he creates gravity for his team. Once that occurred and Miami got a switch down low, the Wizards’ defense had to think twice. It’s not that they were full-out doubling him, but they dipped off the corner shooters just enough. That led to an absolute zip pass from Adebayo in the post one possession to an awaiting PJ Tucker in the corner. And that’s the whole story with Adebayo on the offensive end this season.

#5: Caleb Martin: a two-way steal, but not a two-way for long.

Speaking of guys stepping up off the bench with Tyler Herro out, Caleb Martin’s name must come up since he’s been doing that all season. A power forward goes down, here is Caleb Martin entering. Jimmy Butler goes down, here is Caleb Martin entering. Kyle Lowry goes down, here is Caleb Martin entering. The only knock that can be found against him right now is that he has a 50 game limit, and he could be used in many more. But well, that contract could always be tweaked, and it feels like we’re rapidly approaching that point. Swarming defense, effective offense, and tons and tons of athleticism is the type of guy you need to lock up with the thinness of this bench.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Pelicans

The Miami Heat were without Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo, and Markieff Morris on Wednesday night, but it didn’t matter. Even after falling behind early, Miami battled back to beat the Pelicans, which all begins with the returning Jimmy Butler.

So, here are five takeaways from this one…

#1: Pelicans come out hot. The Heat do not.

The Pelicans started out the game shooting 5 for 7 from three. To put that in perspective, they were shooting 5 for 7 from the field at that point as well. Not only were they letting it fly often, but they were dropping, giving them quite the amount of padding early on. Some of that was the lack of strong defensive rotations, but it was also just talented offensive players making shots. On the other side of the floor, Miami couldn’t get anything going out the gate. Jimmy Butler did his part with 10 first quarter points, which I’ll discuss next, while the rest of the Heat had 11 total first quarter points. When you’re down 2 starters, 1 strong bench piece, a struggling Tyler Herro to begin the game, and some foul trouble with PJ Tucker and Dewayne Dedmon, that’s usually not a formula for a “hot” start.

#2: Jimmy Butler returns, and he looks like Jimmy Butler.

Jimmy Butler missed the last 3 games and 3 quarters, but much like he usually does, he came back firing. A 21 point first half is the perfect starting point of how he was getting things going on the offensive end for Miami. But the interesting thing about that was it was done in a multitude of ways. For starters, while the rest of the league is doing anything they can to draw a foul, Butler continues to do it effortlessly. He drives so hard that it’s hard for a player one-on-one not to make contact with him. But that wasn’t where his points were coming from, since that mid-range turn-around was falling early. When he can use that drop-step and let it fly in that inner wing, it’s usually a good night for him, which it was.

#3: KZ Okpala’s offensive restrictions expanded even further tonight.

We pretty much know the story of KZ Okpala on this team: an athletic, defensive build with many restrictions on the offensive end. But the early part of this game took that to another level. As I said before, Tucker getting himself in early foul trouble meant an early insertion for KZ Okpala. And well, the Pelicans’ seemed ready for this moment. The plan was to sag off of him in a total disrespectful way, and they took the bait. Okpala came in shooting that open jumper right away, and it led to Miami’s offense plummeting even further. I’m not saying it was all his fault, but when the Heat offense is relying on Okpala making his threes, that usually means they’re in a tough spot. But ultimately, Butler’s unconsciousness to a double team on the attack negated that a bit.

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#4: A different type of game from Tyler Herro, but an important one.

As I mentioned early, the start of this game for Tyler Herro was simply awful. It started out with him playing a spot-up role right out the gate, but then the consensus was that he just wasn’t in any type of offensive groove. Not only could he not get a shot to drop, but he couldn’t keep the ball in his possession, as he kept getting it ripped. But then he got it going. The reason I say this game for him was so important is that we need to see him face this type of self imposed adversity. When the struggles of you’re biggest skill and pure talent is shining through, what’s next? And well, he showed that keeping it up and not getting away from his game is the way to go. Even if he has to shoot an accidental half-court shot in the meantime.

#5: Udonis Haslem. That’s it. That’s my takeaway.

Let me start by saying this: Udonis Haslem is the best big not in the Miami Heat’s rotation. They went the Okpala route early which didn’t work out, then transitioned into a single minute of Omer Yurtseven. But as a second half switch-up was needed, Udonis Haslem was the way to go after the continued foul trouble. And not only is he a step-up in terms of knowing where to be on the floor while being a much more trusted plug and play guy, but he’s also just more effective. Sliding into certain slots on the roll, rising up for blocks at the rim, and awaiting the incoming attacker for the usual charge. When Miami’s down this many bigs, it shouldn’t take this long to know Haslem is the right move. And I think we see him more frequently moving forward when needed.

 

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Losing Jimmy Butler Meant Losing the Fall-Back Plan

Coach Erik Spoelstra looks down the line to make his usual Jimmy Butler substitution in the second quarter, but there was one issue. Butler was back in the locker room with a sprained ankle, ruling him out for the rest of the game.

We’ve seen this Heat team without Kyle Lowry in Indiana. We’ve seen this Heat team without Bam Adebayo in Memphis. But after seeing them without Jimmy Butler, it’s clear he creates the biggest team gap.

Even though Miami really feel apart in Indiana without Lowry, that wasn’t just due to the lack of his presence. Nobody on Miami had it going that night, including Butler, which just meant it was “one of those nights.”

The main thing they did lose in that game without him was that increased speed in spurts to get out and run on the break. The current rank of this Heat team’s pace may surprise you with how low it is, but the Lowry minutes are clearly much different.

But, as much as that increased speed is important to this team with Lowry, the ability to slow it down with Jimmy Butler may hold even more importance.

Late in the fourth and overtime, the Heat seemed to be in a bit of a rush. Do we force the ball into the hands of Tyler Herro who is being blanketed by Avery Bradley? Do we await the Kyle Lowry scoring stretch that never ultimately came? Or do we ride it out with Bam Adebayo?

If Butler was playing, these questions wouldn’t be looming.

Lowry would still be creating a ton, but the initial action wouldn’t be the pocket pass to Adebayo for the defense to hone in on. It would be some off-ball actions which eventually lead to a Butler drive with an empty corner, giving Miami some diversity and change of speed.

Looking at the trajectory he was on in this game, the free throw line was going to have his foot print all night. Through that quick early stretch, he went 5 for 5 from the charity stripe, which was actually Miami’s only outlet before Tyler Herro really started rolling upon entering.

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Now, while Miami lost that specific game speed fall-back plan, they quickly looked to Bam Adebayo in a way they haven’t all season through a full quarter. And the fact that it was the first time we’ve seen that is slightly problematic.

Adebayo received one Lowry lob to kick off the third quarter, and exploded from there. As I said after the third, it was by far the best all-around quarter from him that I’ve seen all season. Scoring 14 points in a multitude of ways through self creation, hitting back-door cutters in space like it was nothing, and absolutely swarming Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook all night.

I’ve seen some scrutiny in his direction after this one, but it shouldn’t be. Obviously the evaluation of Duncan Robinson seems to be the total focus after this one, shooting 3 of 13 from beyond the arc, which is more aligned with this game than the Adebayo discussion.

Bam was the one who gave them something they missed without Butler. Not just through his usual scoring. Not just due to his 6 steal night in Butler fashion. But instead the way he put pressure on the rim, which they had none of without Butler.

Settling for perimeter ball swings and spot-up threes on a night where you shot 27% from three, and 17% excluding Herro, is quite the choice. But yet again, it’s the elimination of the fall-back plan without Butler.

Yes, Lowry is hugely important to this Miami Heat offense in terms of getting all of the other guys in their spots, but in a tight game down the stretch, it isn’t just about getting the defense back and crossing the half-court line with 22 seconds on the shot-clock.

Some Butler perimeter scanning with the ball in his hands is the usual late-game go-to, and as much as some criticize him settling for jumpers in many of those situations, it’s a much more trusted way to operate.

In a game where the opposing team didn’t have their best player as well, in LeBron James, means that this isn’t the reason they lost, but it’s something to truly keep in mind moving forward.

Tyler Herro can get you 27 points on 50% shooting. Bam Adebayo can get you 28 points, 10 rebounds, and hold the opposing team’s 2 best players to 2 of 11 shooting. But they still need their slow motion offensive threat.

And well, it’s a long season. So getting these Butler-less late game reps is crucial, but hopefully not long term. A sprained ankle may raise an eyebrow of the timetable, but just ask Lowry how he handled it a week ago.

He took a day off, not a game, and kept it moving. And Butler is the same exact way, so take that how you like.

 

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What Went Wrong for the Miami Heat in Denver?

Aside from cheap-shots, Jokic brothers, Morris brothers, and poor Twitter takes, the Miami Heat had a pretty uneventful night in Denver in terms of on-court production. Some may look at the odd officiating at times or offensive droughts, but the place to start is with your best players.

And their best *player* showed up big time. Jimmy Butler continues to dominate on both sides of the floor, really keeping Miami’s offense afloat when other things begin to breakdown. He finished with 31 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds.

Looking back to Miami’s other rough loss against Boston, a main takeaway of mine is that the Heat can’t survive poor offensive games from Butler. Against good teams, it’s hard to put the entire burden on guys like Tyler Herro and expect to walk away with a win.

But on the other side of things, Butler can’t do it by himself either. Miami simply outplayed the Utah Jazz on Saturday night due to the even scoring spread throughout their top 4 guys- Herro: 29 points, Butler: 27 points, Lowry: 20 points, Adebayo: 17 points.

They just won’t lose many games like that.

But when Lowry, Herro, and Adebayo shoot a combined 6 for 30 from the field, you might as well send Omer Yurtseven and KZ Okpala to the scorers table early.

Getting elite level Butler against really good teams means you need one of those other 3 to be elite. Just one. You get the usual Tyler Herro scoring and Miami’s in that game to the very end.

But well, that just wasn’t the case.

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Another point to make about this game is that the Heat can make runs to overcome big leads. Yet, while they can make a comeback down 14 in certain circumstances, they just can’t when the opposing team has 91 points at the end of the third.

If they’re trailing at the end of the third by double digits but the score is in the upper 60’s or lower 70’s, then you feel really good about it. But this team can only control the game when it is completely “in the mud.”

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Now, the Nuggets’ rolling offense was a bit different when looking over the stats after the game. Even while they dominated on that end, Denver finished the game shooting 29% from three, and if you subtract the hot night from Will Barton, they shot 16% from beyond the arc.

In all, a 12 for 41 three-point shooting night is on par with Miami’s defensive structure this season. Opposing teams are currently shooting 13 for 42 from three this year, as Miami continues to give up the most triples in the league, but the missing results lead to a pretty interesting scheme.

So, if that was the case, how did Miami find themselves in this defensive hole? Well, Nikola Jokic is a good place to start.

Opinions can fly around all day on his “dangerous, dirty play,” as Erik Spoelstra called it after the game, but he absolutely did whatever he wanted in those minutes prior. 25 points, 15, rebounds, and 10 assists is a pretty good day at the office.

On the downside, I don’t see a way Miami can counter anything Jokic does on that end, much like every team in the NBA.

On the bright-side, there is no other player like Nikola Jokic.

Miami only faces him one more time this season, and defensive schematics won’t be on their mind. A hard fought win, some physical plays, and hard fouls will be the theme of that game on November 29th, which I’m sure Jimmy Butler and crew have circled.

Yes, this game added an L to Miami’s record, but it definitely wasn’t the worst loss in the world.

It’s a wake up call, it’s the opening act of Miami’s new villain persona across the league, and there won’t be many nights where Herro, Lowry, and Adebayo are all simultaneously out of sync.

“Luckily we built different over here,” Markieff Morris proclaimed on twitter about that altercation that transpired. And yet, that’ll be tested toward the end of this road trip to see how Miami answers.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Utah

The Miami Heat took down the previously 7-1 Utah Jazz on Saturday night, following up an ugly loss to Boston. This wasn’t just one guy. Miami’s “big four” all contributed greatly on the offensive end, and they slipped away with a win after a wild ending.

So, here are five takeaways…

#1: Kyle Lowry setting the pace early…through scoring. 

The scoring at the half for Miami was pretty well spread out- Lowry: 12, Butler:10, Herro: 10, Adebayo: 10. But there’s no doubt that Lowry was the one to start Miami off. The three-ball was falling both off the dribble and off the catch, which is not something we saw early in the season. And in many ways, while the offense continues to trend in an upward spiral with post-ups and isolations, it’ll be needed for Lowry to mediate with the spot-up three. Another big offensive moment for him was waving off his teammates for a clear-out on the perimeter with Rudy Gobert switched onto him, and took him to school with an eventual mid-range following a smooth pull-back. If he can score to get Miami out of holes this season, it changes things, and I’m not just talking about transition pace.

#2: Yeah, in terms of foul calls, Jimmy Butler doesn’t ever need to play the flopping game.

I’m not bringing this point up because Jimmy Butler exploded at the free throw line, which he didn’t, but instead the ways he draws contact. That body contact initiation isn’t just because of shooting a couple from the charity stripe, but due to the fact it gets him into full shooting rhythm. There aren’t many players better at using the shoulder in the progress of his two steps to the basket, before pulling back for the mid-range. And well, it’s even better when they’re falling. It felt like that was the case for all 4 of Butler’s first half field goals. As Spoelstra said, it’s nothing to worry about because he isn’t a “flopper.” He’s just physical.

#3: This Heat team looks much more comfortable against drop.

I know this is a lot of offensive centric talk for two teams that are in the top 3 of defensive rating, but this jumped out. Tyler Herro is well known for his navigation against drop, and even more-so now that he’s added more to his bag in the mid-range. But in terms of middie navigation against drop, we know that already. But it doesn’t end there. Bam Adebayo had some miscues early upon where to go with the ball, but his best moments came as a roller. Slotting right in the correct spots for easy opportunities, leading to a confused Hassan Whiteside after a slam and timeout. To these points, it was a lot more inside basketball early on, as Utah doubled Miami’s first half three point attempts.

#4: A second half defensive adjustment from Miami.

This wasn’t really the defensive game that we expected from both teams, but there were interesting adjustments from both sides throughout. The main one was that Miami was switching a ton to start this game, leading to perfect perimeter ball movement from Utah before feeding it to the inside with a guard on a bigs’ back. Plus, I should mention, every one of those switches were coming from 1-5 pick and rolls. So, the adjustment from Miami’s side to start the second half was giving PJ Tucker the Mike Conley assignment, meaning the incoming switch would leave Bam Adebayo on Conley and Tucker on Gobert. Simply, no mismatch territory.

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#5: Tyler Herro’s mid-range specialty step aside. The three has arrived.

Tyler Herro’s scoring inside the arc has been the highlight of his year so far. Carving out the middle of the floor against drop, utilizing more than just his rookie year snake dribble. But tonight wasn’t just Herro letting the defense dictate the shots he would take. It was Herro dictating how to defend him late. Plenty of possessions the defender would go under the screen and Herro would make him pay. Catch and shoot threes aren’t going to be his role much more going forward. It’s the step-in pull after the defense picks their poison, and he took advantage of that tonight.

 

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