Tag Archive for: Jimmy Butler

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Lakers

A rather healthy Heat team, minus Kyle Lowry, faced off at home against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.

A strong night by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo offensively gave the Heat the offensive blueprint on the way to the win.

Some takeaways from this game…

#1: Jimmy Butler carrying the first half offensive shot distribution.

Isolation. An inside the arc burst to either side of the floor. A slow, methodical spin move back to the inside. Bucket. That was a simple way of describing how Jimmy Butler got to 19 first half points. Even after missing time by any means, he usually comes back in similar fashion. But instead of diving in that direction, there is definitely something to be said about the pure 1-on-1 ability of Butler. Simply, teams have shown they don’t really have an answer for that element of his game, nor do they want to display it. Opposing teams won’t send that double too often since they know what will happen next when combining Butler’s passing and Miami’s movement. Anyways, it’s always good to watch this version of Butler on the offensive end.

#2: The continued finger-prints of Victor Oladipo on the defensive end.

When talking about the Heat’s defense, we usually start in two completely different places. Either the point of attack issues, or to praise the defensive excellence of Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler. Well, Victor Oladipo would like a word in both areas. In terms of one-on-one ability, there aren’t many guards in this league with the natural ability that he possesses. His lateral quickness, even after multiple injuries, is something wild to see. He can cut off any ball-handler just by beating you to the spot. His instincts are also a major part of this, since he makes timely swipes to accumulate steals, as seen in the Eastern Conference Finals against Jaylen Brown. Those instincts blend into off-ball positioning leading into the charge surge. He has been great in that field, and feels necessary to note.

#3: Some X’s and O’s talk: the Heat’s recent spam of a certain action.

In the previous game against the Timberwolves, the Heat spammed one specific action for the final two minutes of the third quarter, which pretty much put them in a position to eventually win the game. Double drag: the Heat’s ball handler will come off a pair of screens, with the first one popping and the second one diving. It’s a simple action to basically spread the floor a bit and possibly force a switch. But we saw it a ton again tonight. It’s really heavy in the Duncan Robinson lineups since he’s always that initial screen to immediately slip, but this set is what got Tyler Herro going finally in that second quarter. That flowed him to the rim a bit more with added paint touches, basically turning into a Herro-Bam PnR, creating a very good shot diet. Like I said, it’s simple, but it’s also crucial.

#4: A change-up in game-plan for the Heat again? Yes.

Speaking of that last game vs Minnesota, I asked Kyle Lowry after the game about the uptick in pace, which he basically said you are forced into game-plan changes without Butler and Adebayo. That would be correct. But what about a game-plan shift when both of them are playing? We saw that tonight. Although Spo always preaches getting to 40 three-point attempts, while the Heat still did get up a bunch tonight, the goal was to have more going at the rim. That ties back to both the Butler and Herro points in this piece. They wanted to attack the Lakers lack of rim protection at the moment, and well, that’s not a hard thing to adjust to when that description fits your two best players exactly. This team simply cannot rely on three-point shooting, even if it gets hot for a month or two. Having this base will always be key.

#5: Wait, is Caleb Martin the three-point specialist now?

It’s been a running joke for a while that Caleb Martin essentially can’t miss when his foot is on the three-point line, and that held up in this game. To finish the third quarter, he had 13 points with three triples, but the only two 2 point field goals were with his foot on that line. So in theory, that should’ve been 5 triples. Jokes aside, this emergence has really been something to document. He’s super confident in that jumper following a size-up jab step, while also providing stuff off the catch a good bit. If the Heat were in a better spot this season in terms of winning, we would be discussing this jump much more. With all of the talk about a “four,” he has been outstanding this season in whatever role they’ve placed him in.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Pacers

The Heat fall to the Pacers…

Some takeaways…

#1: Tyrese Haliburton’s adjustment from last Heat game to now.

The last time the Heat faced the Pacers in Indiana, Tyrese Haliburton had a rough night. 0 for 9 shooting due to the Heat’s game-plan to switch Bam Adebayo out and fully eliminate him in the half-court. So, what was his adjustment? He had 5 threes at the half, and it was basically responding to the similar PnR coverage. His adjustment was to just immediately pull without waiting for the switch. When a player has the ability to shoot from farther out, it’s really the one and only thing that can stump that pure switch. A lot of the Pacers early shooting was just hitting most shots from their diet, but the Haliburton part of it was schemed.

#2: Jimmy Butler back, the Heat still reliant on him.

Jimmy Butler had 14 points at the half, as most of that contribution was made in that opening quarter. The first action following the tip-off was a Kyle Lowry cross screen for Butler, who caught the entry pass on the opposite side in the low post for the bucket. The Pacers are one of the only teams to place a smaller defender on Butler and live with it, as Andrew Nembhard has seen him primarily in both match-ups. We saw the pick-up in attempts going toward the rim, which all starts with Butler setting the tone in that way, as well as the trips to the line. This team needs Butler to be that type of force for the offense to function correctly, and I don’t know if that’s extremely a good thing.

#3: Bam Adebayo’s elbow spam into attack.

Aside from the early offensive plan to get Butler going toward the rim, the bigger point was to get Bam Adebayo some post splits and elbow touches. Not really to force him to operate as a play-maker continually, but to work that face-up in space. We saw things we are used to such as the pull-up fade and pure rim attacks following a few jab steps, but he worked in some foul drawing techniques. He was really initiating the contact off those drives to get Myles Turner in foul trouble, forcing him to the bench. Following him going to the bench, Jalen Smith enters. Adebayo throws three straight pump-fakes his way before he bit and Bam jumped into him. We often talk aggression, but these type of counters is something to keep an eye on.

#4: Orlando Robinson minutes with no Dewayne Dedmon.

The Heat’s rotation was pretty much back together in this one, except Dewayne Dedmon was out. That gave an even larger look into the potential of a full rotation, with another big man filling in for the non-Bam minutes. That guy was Orlando Robinson. He’s still very early on in his development, but I definitely didn’t mind those minutes at all. They utilized him defensively just like you would expect, if you watched what they did for developing bigs such as Omer Yurtseven last season. If you put him in an action, they’re just going to continually blitz you. He did a decent job at recovering at respectable speeds back into the lane, which is all you can really ask for in his minutes. He has limitations in certain aspects as expected, but it’s still worth a deeper look.

#5: The run happened again. Then a counter by Miami. Then the final punch by Haliburton.

Heading into the fourth quarter down two, we’ve seen this play-out too many times to know what was coming next. The offense begins to slip even further than we’ve recently seen throughout the season, as the opposing team breaks down the point of attack for easy opportunities. That came in the form of constant three-point shooting dominance from the Pacers guard room. Even though I touched on it early, it really begun and ended with Haliburton tonight who just couldn’t be slowed down. But ultimately this isn’t a Haliburton thing. It isn’t a Pacers thing. It’s a Heat thing at this point. The Heat found a counter punch late, though, led by…Haywood Highsmith? From short roll passes to dunker spot spacing to catch and drives, he gave them some very good minutes as Butler went out. Pacers cooled off for a bit as the Heat gained some energy, but still they had a large hole to dig themselves out of. Down 3 with 16 seconds left, they had to draw up a play, and they designed the perfect one. Strus off a pindown into a down-screen for Herro to receive with some momentum to the right wing. Tie game. But well, Haliburton happened again. A deep 3 wins them the game to finish it.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Spurs

The Heat faced the Spurs in Mexico City on Saturday afternoon, and it was another back and forth event.

Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro provided enough offensive pressure throughout, while Victor Oladipo and Duncan Robinson truly stood out.

Robinson forced the second half run, Oladipo gave Miami some point of attack push back 1-on-1.

Some takeaways…

#1: Tyler Herro’s passing/Bam Adebayo’s rolling.

Before things took a bit of a turn, there was a certain Heat offensive staple they were getting to often: Tyler Herro/Bam Adebayo PnR. With Kyle Lowry out, it meant more ball-handling/creating reps for Herro at point guard. While I enjoy the stuff in the half-court, the full-court creation allows us to appreciate the control of Lowry. Herro got to the floater immediately in this one, then followed that up with keeping Tre Jones on his back before drawing the foul. From there, the setting up took off, as the Adebayo roll was the weakness of the Spurs defense. Live on-ball pressure combined with rolling gravity is quite the combo. The only issue is that it feels like when it’s connecting often, don’t stray away for two or three possessions. Make that defense stop it, then adjust from there.

#2: The Spurs early run: putting a certain Heat player in every action.

With 4 minutes left in the first quarter, Bam Adebayo exited the game with a 20-12 lead. 3 minutes later, he was coming back into the game down 5 with a score of 20-25. How did that happen? Well, the Spurs made it pretty clear that they weren’t going to get away from their offensive game-plan: attack Dewayne Dedmon in drop. I don’t want to give him all the blame, since the point of attack defense was bending a decent amount, but the goal was simply to create 2-on-1’s with Dedmon containing. We’ve talked often about the back-up big man situation, and it almost felt like Orlando Robinson is worthy of more opportunity. It isn’t helping Dedmon either that his foot injury continues to linger. The non-Bam minutes need figuring out.

#3: My thoughts on the Jovic-Bam minutes.

On paper, that front-court screams versatility and creativity. Two big guys who have the ability to both run the floor, and create opportunities for others through their passing ability. A movement offense dream. But it doesn’t ever seem to be utilized in that fashion. As noted to begin this piece, the early offense was heavy in the PnR direction with Bam and Herro, meaning Nikola Jovic is used as a spot-up guy. Of course that is fine, but those 7 minutes of play in a half are basically wasted by that point. They have the upside for sure, but the utilization next to each other feels like it needs to be elevated.

#4: Jimmy Butler flips an offensive switch in the third quarter.

In a back and forth game, the Heat needed somebody to takeover as the offensive hub to open up the second half. That guy ended up being Jimmy Butler. While they couldn’t break away by any means due to the continued defensive bending, Butler allowed Miami to stay somewhat parallel in that third quarter. Side pick and rolls down that baseline began drawing Spurs’ big men out little by little, which pretty much set up his constant drives and finishes around the rim. His slow and methodical play-style gave Miami some half-court offensive hope, along with the constant trips to the line. On the positive side, Butler was the one to put the Heat in a decent position.

#5: Duncan Robinson providing boost for Heat…Heat providing sets for Duncan Robinson.

Aside from the Butler tone setting to kick off the second half, Robinson kept them alive for large pockets of that span. Was it just Robinson hitting open shots? Well sometimes, but it was more than that. They were running sets for him again. Herro walks down to the left wing, as Robinson and Bam set up for double drag. Two fly at Herro, Bam sets the second screen, and he throws a skip pass to a wide open Robinson for the open bucket. A little bit later, they run a version of Horns with Robinson and Bam at each elbow. Robinson slips the screen to the opposite wing by Bam, who then sets the down-screen. Big time three-point shot by Robinson is the result. The very next play, they run a curl for Robinson in the same area, who draws two. He hits Bam with a pocket pass as Bam skies for a dunk. We still need to see consistency in his shooting, but watching the team run these type of sets is great to see.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Rockets

A win for the Heat, a career night for Tyler Herro.

Some takeaways from this game, with a primary focus on the play and impact of Herro…

#1: Well, Tyler Herro happened again.

25 points. 6 of 8 from three. Oh wait, that wasn’t his game stats, those were just his numbers at the half. After a 35 point night 24 hours ago, he picked up right where he left off. As I described yesterday, he was responding to the blitzing coverages and shifted to more off the ball. Tonight was a variation of that, except there was no altering coverage. His first five triples of the game came from above the break, meaning he’s just working off slip screens for catch and shoot stuff, or pure pull-ups. The three-point shooting surging at the same time as he’s getting to the line is a true gem, since we know the mid-range pull-up will be there. His off-ball movement has been great as well, which is crucial with a healthy team out there.

#2: The need for movement on this team.

While I hinted at the Herro element of this, with his continued repositioning, this team found their rhythm early in this game off pure movement. The first way is with ball movement, as it was clear it wasn’t sticking: drive, paint touch, kick, swing, repeat. There was a lineup that Jimmy Butler headlined tonight that really took this to the next level, as he was surrounded by Max Strus, Duncan Robinson, Haywood Highsmith, and Orlando Robinson. Off first glance, he’s battling it out with four undrafted guys. On second glance, he’s the only viable play-maker/distributor. That takes us into the second element of movement, which is just players cutting and flying off screens. Looking at that lineup, that basically forces you into that style. But this shouldn’t be a role player blueprint, it’s a necessary Miami Heat blueprint.

#3: Orlando Robinson time…

With Dewayne Dedmon out on the second night of a back to back, it gave Orlando Robinson some run who has been killing it in the G-League. Plus with the Heat’s need for a viable back-up center, it’s good to get this look into his game. He had a very great first half, since he knows how to hit open slots when off the ball in the interior. He makes himself available on the roll, while never seeming to stall anything on either end. He rebounds well, and gives that second unit some energy. That in-between touch will develop as he goes, but the baseline for his game is there. Now it’s just about finding a role, which there’s a certain position that needs to be filled on this roster. After flipping two-ways with Dru Smith, he might stick now for good. Or better yet, find himself a roster spot.

#4: The Heat’s shooters struggling to…shoot?

Max Strus and Duncan Robinson have had similar paths. Undrafted to Heat two-way to starter. When one has struggled in the past, the other guy was ready to step up and capitalize. But right now, the Heat aren’t getting anything from either one of their sharpshooters, which after three quarters the stats included 1 for 9 for Robinson and 1 for 8 from Strus. After Robinson had a good game in OKC, he regressed yet again beyond the arc. Strus, on the other hand, had a very fast start to the season, yet has tailed off this past month. This happens with shooters, but he just can’t find any sort of rhythm at the moment, with many of his shots coming up short. Both will have the chance to be that guy for this Heat team, but this group needs a reliable perimeter threat not named Tyler Herro.

#5: I talked Tyler Herro earlier, but it was a career night: he changes this team’s dynamic.

A 40 ball. 19 threes in 24 hours. This isn’t just a hot streak, this is a turning point with sensational numbers to back it up. Aside from the X’s and O’s stuff I brought up to begin this piece, there’s an overarching point that makes these games even more important. This gives this Miami Heat team life. That is something this team has lacked immensely, since it felt like every game has consisted of looking around for a wake up call. Two things give a team extra life. The first one is a trade, since change of scenery can change the energy of a group, which is still necessary with certain holes on the roster. The second is a player emerging right in front of your eyes. Now I won’t say this is completely “emerging” since Herro’s on a max contract, but he’s hitting new strides in the half-court at the moment. When this team needed it most, Herro gave them the boost.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Spurs

Prior to the Spurs last win against Houston, they lost 11 games in a row.

Now walking into the Heat’s arena, a clutch game was almost too predictable.

Some takeaways from another bad loss…

#1: A different substitution pattern seen early in this one…

Substitution patterns have been all over the place this year, mostly since the roster has been all over the place. Now with a mostly healthy roster, the expectation is to mostly mirror Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo, then Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry. At least that was the usual focus. Yet tonight, we saw Herro and Caleb Martin exit early for Max Strus and Victor Oladipo, which pretty much meant there was a large portion of time shortly after where Lowry, Butler, and Bam were all on the bench simultaneously. Yeah, that’s a lot on Herro to try and make work, especially with the roller he has to work with. Just keeping track of this stuff along the way, but this is a trend that I don’t expect to stick by any means.

#2: Jimmy Butler channeling scorer Jimmy Butler early on, even when he doesn’t want to.

In games like this one against the Spurs, Butler usually loves to sit back and play play-maker. It’s what we saw in that Grizzlies game in Memphis, as he wasn’t aggressive at all and the Heat couldn’t keep up at all. Yet as the Heat began to tail off again in that second quarter, Butler began doing what he does best. Pick and roll, mid-range bucket. Pick and roll, hard drive. Pick and roll, foul. Rinse. Repeat. There’s no doubt at all that he can score with the best of them, but that’s just not his style (unless it’s playoff time). It’s always good to see Butler dominate in that inside the arc range just as a healthy reminder, but we seriously shouldn’t need to see that in a game like this against the Spurs.

#3: All eyes on the point of attack defense.

The Spurs led by 2 at the half, and there were a mixture of things that led to that result. But I’d say by far the biggest element was the way the Spurs were able to walk right into the paint, time and time again. They were up to 36 paint points at the half, while shooting 18 of 22 in that area. So, what’s leading to that? This takes me right to the point of attack, since this has been another one of those common trends that just can’t occur. It’s one of the reasons the Heat have sat in zone, since teams seem to burst right by that initial line of defense when in man. The Spurs were sending cross screens and curls at Miami the entire half, and the Heat just couldn’t keep up. It hurts even more when Bam is not on the floor covering it up down low, but that’s another issue in its own right. Needs to be patched.

#4: Tyler Herro gets hot from deep, but more important, he’s reactionary.

Herro had a great start to this game, since it seemed like his attacks were timely and on point, while providing a bit of the necessary pressure. Fast forward to the third quarter, he scored in a much different approach, which simply consisted of getting hot from three. The first two triples of the quarter came from Adebayo kicking out following a paint touch, as Herro capitalized. But shortly after, then it turned into stepping into the pull-up. But more importantly, it was a reactionary process. Defender goes under off a Butler screen, he pulls and knocks it down. Same thing a few possessions later, they go under and Herro knocks it down. Interesting choice when a guy gets hot like that, but a good sign to see Herro read that in real time.

#5: The back-up 5 convo.

We often hear about finding the perfect 4 or 5 next to Bam, but how about we direct our attention to the perfect 5 behind* Bam. We’ve talked before about how things plummet when Bam Adebayo exits, and the entire goal is to stay as close to neutral as possible. But well, the Dewayne Dedmon usage just continues to be more and more interesting. He was 1 for 8 in this game, while shooting up 3 triples, which just stalls out the offense for large pockets of the night. The Heat weren’t expecting this to be the front-court rotation entering the year, but the injury of Omer Yurtseven forced them into this. Just remember: when talking trades, an extra piece in the trade for back-up big will be a major addition.

Jimmy Butler-Bam Adebayo Two-Man Game: Finding a Base

After a much needed win at home against the Clippers, the Heat showed off the ultimate blueprint with Bam Adebayo leading the way as the offensive force, while Jimmy Butler closed it out late when most needed.

But more importantly, they did it together.

While these two top guys have showed they can make late playoff runs together as the primary threats, the two-man game just has never seemed to click.

Defenders go under on the Butler screen, playing a lot more 2-on-2, compared to the usual 2-on-1 seen within a pick and roll like Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo.

There also falls a lot of weight on the pull-up jumper of Jimmy Butler, which is never a regular season reliable factor.

But against the Clippers, it almost seemed like the Heat found a very minor trend that shifted the looks they would get out of that action. Yes, it helps that you were getting aggressive Adebayo. Yes, it helps that after Butler missed his first two shots of the game, he didn’t miss the rest of the night. But still, there was a moment of realization.

Take a look at this possession as an example. Marcus Morris fights over the screen and stays right at the hip of Butler in an empty corner PnR. As I stated before, they aren’t playing in space, since it’s a 2-on-2 match inside the arc at this point.

He hits Bam in the pocket for the contested floater, which bounces off the front of the rim.

What was the main problem? Well, go back and watch the speed that Bam slips out of that screen.

While it’s clear that the quick burst and speedy roll fits the style of a Herro or Lowry PnR, that is mst definitely not the case when Butler is head of the action. He’s more methodical, reactionary, and slow-paced.

Not holding that screen a second longer just throws off the entire two-man pairing on this possession. So, let me show what that actually looks like…

Same set-up. Bam gives the hand-off to Butler, who reverses back into an empty corner PnR. Paul George begins to fight over the screen in similar fashion, except Bam just holds positioning for that extra second.

That’s big time.

Butler loops around baseline, basically forcing Zubac to fly up at him which pulls him out of position. Gives a slight pump-fake, Bam dives down the right slot, and it’s an easy feed for the Bam dunk.

We can talk chemistry. We can talk skill-set. We can talk coverages. But I’m serious: it is all about the timing when it comes to this pairing.

While this is the blueprint against a deep drop, there are also new counters to switching. Going back to that recent game against the Celtics in Boston, both Adebayo and Butler found real comfort off those switches in different ways.

Butler spammed the Al Horford switch late in that game to close it out, but Adebayo was also sealing off the smaller wing player as seen in the clip above.

After the switch occurs, Butler immediately stops in his tracks to point at Bam to post-up for the entry pass. He catches it, faces up, and turns into a strong drive to draw the foul, which was a crucial play in that game under a minute to go in overtime.

But to further my point on the Butler-Bam connection rising, go back and watch that clip again. But don’t watch Bam this time on the catch, just keep your eyes on Butler.

As soon as Bam gets in position to burst down the lane, Butler sprints back out to clear-out Horford from providing weak-side help. These are the needed elements to make this Heat offense work so smoothly.

While we talk so often about how elite the Herro-Bam PnR has consistently been since the middle of the season last year, would you believe me if I told you the Butler-Bam PnR has been better statistically this year?

Of course the Herro-Bam pairing almost doubles the volume of Butler and Bam, but the point still stands: Herro-Bam PnR puts up 1.25 points per possession, while the Butler-Bam PnR is putting up 1.28 PPP.

This isn’t to overly analyze and compare these two, but it really showcases just how efficient these guys have been in that set. By far the best we’ve seen since Butler landed in Miami a few seasons ago.

Since we’re talking specifics, we’ve also seen a new set Miami has been getting to, trying to maximize Butler and Bam together when one of them is not in the action.

Let’s start with last night (looking at the clip above): Butler clears to the dunker spot as Herro and Bam ease into a normal PnR. Herro feeds it to Bam right in the pocket, which looks like his go-to jumper is making a return yet again, right?

Wrong.

Butler notices George overly-orchestrating on the weak-side, as he flips dunker spots and Bam hits him for the easy push shot at the rim.

You may be thinking: this isn’t a planned thing, that’s just a coincidental play with the defense falling asleep. So let’s back it up a game further:

Heat open the second half in Memphis with the need to create some positive offense. It was a night where Butler was no where near aggressive, so they run this immediately.

Ball in the hands of Bam, Butler sets a pin-down for Herro to fly off, as Lowry loops into a back-screen for Butler to drift baseline.

Bam is baiting the defense left already, as he hits Butler for the easy baseline fadeaway. Once again, this is all the intention to try and keep Bam in the action as much as possible, while forcing Butler into that dunker spot roaming mode.

But it doesn’t stop here, let’s go back even further:

Now we’re back to the Boston game. Under a minute to go in regulation, Lowry and Bam run a pick and roll. Butler yet again notices Grant Williams fall asleep as he stations in the dunker spot, before flipping his spot again for the easy floater at the rim.

The exact play from the Clippers game that I showed previously.

They’re finding ways to not only maximize Butler and Adebayo within the action, but also finding some actions that don’t simply leave one of the two stars in spot-up mode.

In terms of this Heat team as a whole right now, they need a lot more from their role players/bench to truly push forward into more wins in this regular season.

But the Heat’s top guys finding a way to balance each other in the half-court together: that’s a development that was not expected by any means.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss in Memphis

The Miami Heat faced a very different looking Grizzlies team in Memphis, and treated it like so.

After an early offensive punch, they never gained that rhythm back. Other than Tyler Herro and Caleb Martin, they weren’t getting much more on the roster.

So, here are some takeaways from this loss…

#1: Caleb Martin’s early hot streak.

That Heat first half went in a few different directions. An early 7-0 run for the Grizzlies transitioned into a 28-10 run for the Heat, then back to a Grizzlies hot streak the rest of the half. While I’m going to discuss the Grizzlies runs in a minute, I do have to mentioned Caleb Martin’s addition to that run. Miami began running a ton of drive and kicks, as Martin just took advantage of Memphis sagging off. He hit four triples early in the game, continually stepping into his jumper with complete rhythm. Plus it’s evident that he’s elite at reading the positioning of his individual defender. If that defenders’ body is turned, he’s attacking the front foot. If they bite on the jab, he’s immediately pulling. His reads just keep impressing.

#2: The Heat’s need for paint touches and paint points.

36 to 8. That was the deficit in paint points for the Miami Heat at the half, against a Grizzlies team who should be doing the exact opposite without their core guys. As Miami made their early run, paint touches were the trend. In games like this, Jimmy Butler always loves just sitting back and playing play-maker. So they spammed him as a post-split and screener hub, continually drawing defenders in under the basket into easy kicks. Fast forward to a bit later, we saw that all end. As the Heat went on an incredible three point run, they fell in love with it. That led to hand-off spams, constant flares without a ton of cutting, which just all equals one thing: not the Heat’s ultimate style. For this Heat team to thrive against any team, they need to dominate the paint on the ball.

#3: Back-up big man watch…

Looking at the bottom of the Heat’s rotation, we’ve been talking options. Duncan Robinson or Haywood Highsmith? Can Nikola Jovic get back in that mix? But the key is that word “options,” no matter the level they’re playing at. The issue is that they don’t have options at the center position. If it’s not Bam Adebayo, it’s Dewayne Dedmon. If it’s not Dedmon, it’s…Udonis Haslem? It’s just a quick fall-off in that room, especially when Dedmon struggles like he did in this one. There’s the eye popping aspect of missing easy ones around the rim, but the energy shift when teams begin going at him in actions just hurts Miami’s defense. The Grizzlies weren’t just running PnR at him, they were running isolations at him in their quicker lineups. He will have his moments about every 3 games where he goes on a run, but the consistency issue just keeps popping out. Who will be Bam’s back-up in April? That’s a very interesting question to monitor.

#4: The Heat’s Cam Payne game-plan vs Tyus Jones…different result.

Something I talked about extensively after the Suns game earlier in the year was Miami’s altered defensive game-plan. They’d close off the rim as much as possible, forcing that far floater from guys like Cam Payne possession after possession. Players in the Heat locker room voiced that to me as well, since it’s an inefficient look. They’ve done it a bunch of times this season, but there’s always that tip your cap moment. That’s what Tyus Jones was doing in this one, as he just kept knocking down that runner from a variety of different spots. It’s just a credit to him, since that’s still the wanted look from Miami’s perspective.

#5: Simply, Miami didn’t get enough from 3 core pieces.

What went wrong in this game, you may ask? Well, where should I start. At halftime, I tweeted that there were 3 elements of this game that went wrong early, and two of them needed to turn around for Miami to win. And well, that just didn’t happen. The first element was Jimmy Butler’s aggression, which happened for a few minutes to open the second half, since clearly it was the halftime focus entering the third. Yet it just wasn’t sustained or consistent enough. The second element was Bam Adebayo’s efficiency. Memphis kept sending two at Adebayo in that mid-post, which is a much different look for him, but there never was a developing counter throughout this one. And the last element is the bench. I talked about Dewayne Dedmon already, but what he know who he is already. Haywood Highsmith actually gave fantastic minutes on the defensive end. So a lot of focus is on Gabe Vincent and Max Strus. Both had great starts to the season, but have tailed off a bit recently. When you aren’t getting enough from your two best players, while simultaneously getting nothing from your only bench scorers, it puts you in a tough spot against anybody.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Celtics

The Miami Heat faced the Boston Celtics once again on Friday night, except this was a bit more exciting.

Boston pulled away, Heat answered, which led to it going down to the final seconds, with Jaylen Brown sending it to OT on an insane shot late in the 4th.

The Heat pulled it out in OT though, behind the starters high level play through and through.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Tyler Herro entering shot creation mode early.

With the full starting lineup back together, there were some questions on who would be made priority, and who would step back. But well, we saw them all find their moments at different times. Tyler Herro scored 18 points in that first half, but it was more about how he was getting those shots. Quick pulls off handoffs or pick and rolls beyond the arc, isolation step backs in the mid-range, and a broad showing of footwork. While the passing has been on display recently, he found his scoring rhythm. To finish the second quarter, though, he twisted his ankle when landing, running right into the locker room before the half, leaving many projecting how they could mirror that same creation in the second half. But he ended up being just fine. From a basketball perspective, that type of shot making is a great change of pace for Miami’s shot profile, as showcased in that fourth quarter.

#2: The need for Bam Adebayo defensively.

Early in the second quarter, Bam Adebayo got his third foul, which was pretty much a theme for the game. After the Heat’s switching found some rhythm with Jimmy Butler back, they had to revert right back to the zone when Dewayne Dedmon entered after that foul trouble mentioned. Right on queue, the Celtics when on a three-point shooting run. Shortly after that, Dedmon then picked up his third foul, which led to Spoelstra looking to his bench quickly. Nikola Jovic time? Nope, Udonis Haslem got the call again. So the Celtics kept putting him in the action as he sat in drop pretty much at the level. We know Bam Adebayo’s impact on the defensive end, but it’s just hard to contain teams like this when he’s on the sideline watching for long periods of time.

#3: Jimmy Butler back means rim pressure is back.

As I said before, the starting lineup being back was a big focus, and I won’t sit here and act like it all roamed smoothly. They were taking turns many possessions to begin the game, while Jimmy Butler wasn’t a huge part of that involvement. He had to dust off some rust, but that didn’t take too long. In the second quarter, the offense found itself behind Herro’s shooting, and well Butler’s downhill attack. While the whistle wasn’t too favorable, he still absorbed contact and finished through traffic consistently, tapping into that bully ball play-style that he loves. He had 15 points at half on 7 of 10 shooting, which just shows he was earning his buckets. The takeaway here: this Heat group needs his rim pressure to get them out of cold streaks, which was showed early in this one.

#4: The Heat’s scoring stoppages appear again.

In the third quarter, the Heat had 1 made field goal from the 9:30 mark to a little over 3 minutes to go. Against this type of Celtics team, that just can’t happen. That one made basket was a Jimmy Butler drive and dish to Caleb Martin for a big dunk, yet every other possession just kept coming up empty. On the schematic front on why it was happening, it seemed like Bam’s foul trouble hurt the offense actually. He was so worried on his screens about picking up another offensive foul, which threw off the flow at times. That was a minor part of the issues, since the main chunk is just missing shots that actually weren’t terrible looks. The big picture takeaway: consistency, consistency, consistency. Since good teams usually won’t let you bounce back from a cold stretch that long. Somehow after that six minute span of non-existent offense, the Heat only trailed six heading into the fourth. Which I’ll discuss next…

#5: The fourth quarter…then OT.

While I just portrayed all of Miami’s issues in the third, they had a massive turnaround into the 4th. About 3 minutes in while trailing by 6 still, Tyler Herro hits a transition pull-up three. Boston comes down the court, as Bam Adebayo does his best Jimmy Butler impression by doubling backside getting the steal, tying it up on the other end with an and-1. A few plays later, Herro fights for his shot off the hand-off and knocks down another three, before Miami generates another steal and fastbreak dunk in the process. 5 point game all of a sudden. Boston answered back with some offense of their own behind Jaylen Brown, causing some back and forth over the next few minutes. The Heat’s switching took Tatum out of his game, while Highsmith made some incredible plays on the defensive end, as he played most of the fourth. Lowry’s career staple with that turnaround jumper made a couple appearances late to give Miami a necessary jolt as well. Fast forward to a tie game with 2 minutes left, the Heat run a Herro-Bam PnR, leading to a feed and Bam dunk down low. Grant Williams answers back a few plays later with a three to take the lead by 1, followed by a Bam attack off the roll for a trip to the line. Up 1, Tatum draws the Herro switch again. Off the attack, an incredible double by Highsmith forces the miss, as Butler hits a baseline fade after flipping dunker spots late in the clock. Tatum drives and dunks to cut the lead to 1 back on the other side, putting pressure on Miami to close it out, as Miami calls timeout to draw something up. Butler tries to get to the rim, it’s cut off, and shoots a tough fade on the wrap around. Bucket. Up 3, that’s game right? Wrong. An insane fading 3 from way out from Brown ties the game and sends it to OT. Wild. More back and forth continued, but a Bam Adebayo face-up and attack stood out most under a minute to go, getting to the line to take lead by 2. But Butler closes it out with a tough jumper. Heat win a tough one.

Miami Heat X’s and O’s: The Defensive Shift

This hasn’t been the Miami Heat defense we’re accustomed to. Currently sitting 17th in defensive rating, they’re leaning heavily into the offensive side of things with this roster, which has essentially led them to a very strong 3 game win streak to get back to .500.

Yet while the box score would suggest it was all scoring, the film would tell you the opposite.

We often focus on the possessions where opposing teams draw a mismatch off a switch and get an easy bucket, making a total observation off a very small sample size. But in reality, they’re currently mixing up their scheme more than ever, and it’s giving me more hope that this team will be just fine for the time being.

We’ve seen them lean heavily into the 2-2-1 press and 2-3 zone, which off first glance makes you say: well they’re just doing that because they don’t have the personnel to guard straight up.

On some night’s that actually is the case, but the real reason for the heavy reliance is due to the Heat trying to find their defensive base in the meantime.

If you played basketball at any level from little league and up, there is always one primary principle taught when approaching a 2-3 zone: “flash middle.”

That essentially opens up and breaks the zone once the sides pinch in to the ball at the free throw line, leading to easy kick-outs for threes. But here’s the thing with the Heat defense: they don’t pinch in.

They stay home on shooters basically daring you to take that inefficient push shot in the middle of the floor time and time again. If you hit that enough to beat Miami, well then take the win.

I talked to Gabe Vincent for a bit after the Hornets game where we discussed the 2-3 zone, and I asked “is this your guys’ comfort zone now defensively?”

He responded, “Nah, everybody just struggles with it. I don’t think it’s our comfort zone, I think they just struggle with it.”

Bam Adebayo then joins in on my right: “If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.”

So I dug in a bit deeper. I asked him about that exact push shot that Miami keeps forcing within the 2-3 zone, and he said “that’s the stat guys upstairs.”

“For every organization, nobody likes that shot I guess,” he continued. “Percentage wise it’s a great shot for the defense, but for the offense it’s not as great of a shot.”

But the key point here to make is that this isn’t just a “2-3 zone” thing anymore. It’s becoming a man to man thing as well, as Miami has altered back into some of their drop coverage with Bam Adebayo. (Something I’ve been calling for a while now.)

Just take a look what Miami did to Cameron Payne in their win against the Suns:

They aren’t going to obtain this same coverage when a guy like Devin Booker is coming off a ball screen, but they will when it’s an inefficient shooter like Payne or Terry Rozier from the night’s prior.

This is a coverage that the Milwaukee Bucks have fully mastered. Since they have an elite rim protector in Brook Lopez, the ideal weak-side roamer in Giannis Antetokounmpo, and one of the best screen navigators in Jrue Holiday, they basically force one single shot as much as possible.

They shut the water off on threes and shots around the rim, forcing mid-range pull-ups all night.

And well, this is a variation of that.

Whoever is guarding the “Payne-like” handler will fight over the screen to force him downhill. Adebayo’s job is now to contain with a back-pedal, where he’s playing back to cut-off the pass or the full-out drive.

And as you saw when viewing that plethora of clips from last night, they just kept baiting them into the same shot.

You may be wondering, well what if they just begin attacking the rim relentless anyway? Well here’s what happens:

Now let me just reassure you that this isn’t a one game sample size thing. They did it in their two-game set against Charlotte as well, but we were just so focused on the fact that they almost blew the game on a night that flowed into OT.

That extra stuff disguised a major shift that we’re seeing at this moment in time. Just take a look at the shot profile in this two-game set as well:

Guys like Kelly Oubre and Terry Rozier were being forced to take shots they didn’t want to. But the bigger point here, Bam Adebayo in drop is just as elite as Bam Adebayo on switches.

Actually he may be more elite.

Yes it’s fun to watch clips of Adebayo clamping up your favorite guard or wing in isolation, but that’s not what makes him arguably the league’s best, and most versatile, defender.

The reason is because he can switch 1 through 5, back-pedal in drop, sit on the bottom box in a 2-3 zone, blitz and recover, or simply rotate at a very high level. Putting all of that stuff together is actually what gives him that label.

When I talked to Jimmy Butler post-game, he gave all of the credit to Bam “back there being an anchor on defense.” He’s the guy that they’re forming this all around, and as seen over the last three games, this shift could really be something that sticks long-term.

 

Video Version Here:

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Suns

Simply this game was insane. If you like scoring, this was the game for you.

The 4th quarter consisted of the Suns and Heat just matching buckets, but the Heat stayed the course with Butler, Bam, and Lowry all coming up big.

Here are some takeaways…

#1: The Heat getting good bench production early on.

This has been a season for Miami where bench production as a whole isn’t the hottest topic. Although guys like Max Strus have shined when entering and Gabe Vincent has vastly improved, we’re talking about a team that is currently rolling out an 8 man rotation. But well, those three bench guys tonight were heavily responsible for the early offensive push. Vincent had 8 points, 3 assists, and 4 boards in the first half, but the bigger point was his half-court control and paint touches. He was generating great looks against a top tier Suns defense. Duncan Robinson was the recipient of that, knocking down an immediate two triples, while mixing in an in-between floater. Lastly, Dewayne Dedmon even provided some serviceable minutes. They’re not looking for anything special from him, just be neutral before Bam walks back to the scorers table, and did that early on.

#2: A substitution change from Miami.

When documenting certain trends that we see from the Heat, the substitution pattern was one of them tonight. The main thing we’re used to is Jimmy Butler playing the entire first quarter after Bam Adebayo exited first, which just basically means those two are being staggered. Yet tonight, we saw a minor shift. Max Strus and Jimmy Butler exited at the 5 minute mark, as Adebayo anchored that first quarter lineup. Then after 3 minutes, he walked back to the scorers table with Dewayne Dedmon. The only main change there is Butler played 3 stretches in the half instead of the usual two. Will find out more on that adjustment, but stood out for now.

#3: I still believe defensive creativity should be coming.

When talking about the Heat defensively, we’ve seen them withhold the switching structure for years on end. But more importantly, they’ve always had the personnel to actually do it. Now that they lack the size, we continually see smart offensive teams punish Miami down low, as the Suns did with Kyle Lowry on Deandre Ayton. But more big picture, this defense needs to lose the predictability from night to night. They may lack size, but they do obtain versatility. We’re seeing them embrace some of that with the 2-3 zone, but we still need to see more drop coverage from Bam Adebayo than a possession here or there. They will lean offense, but still need to tinker in other piles once in a while. We saw a bit of that with Dewayne Dedmon blitzing in the second half, but Booker and Ayton picked that right apart. (Which had to do with Miami’s rotations for the most part.)

#4: Heat fighting through the random scrub Heat killer trend.

The Heat have this bit where random role players seem to dominate them, but it’s been quite some time since we’ve seen it last. Yet this one came in a massive wave. Duane Washington Jr, who I put out there could’ve been an undrafted option for Miami a season ago, came out on fire. 16 points in about 5 minutes of game-time in that first half. A lot of that can relate back to my last section of defensive lapses, but it’s also just a certain player getting hot at the wrong time. Chris Paul being out meant more playing time for him, while the Heat’s defensive game-plan to start was essentially very Devin Booker driven. Giving him the Joel Embiid treatment with doubles was a sign of respect, but Washington made them pay.

#5: The Heat embraced a certain offensive style in the 4th quarter.

The Suns began to takeover to begin the 4th quarter, appearing to fully pull away. Miami couldn’t get rebounds, stops, and were looking different offensively. By different I mean not slowing things down into the half-court. For a minute there that didn’t look like a good thing. Caleb Martin was forcing on the break, and it looked like Miami ran out of gas. But after a string of stops on the defensive end, Miami was getting out and running. More importantly, with Bam Adebayo having his hands on the steering wheel. He was attacking with purpose, including a big time and-1 to cut the lead to 3 halfway through the 4th. It just kept happening over and over: finally, the Heat were letting Bam just do what he does best. Operating in the open floor with the game in the balance.