Well, this wasn’t pretty.
There were ups, and even more downs.
But some big shots from Tyler Herro and Jimmy Butler doing Jimmy Butler things led the way.
#1: Donovan Mitchell hot first half, eyeing the defensive plan…
Donovan Mitchell had a hot opening half on Friday night scoring a very efficient 25 points, along with 6 threes. In comparison to a game ago where the Cavaliers had Darius Garland, you would think the Heat would be able to focus more on the on-ball magic of Mitchell, right? Well nasty crossover after step back three gave a very different impression. The early problems weren’t that they weren’t focused on Mitchell, it was that they were *too* focused on him. By that I mean, they were getting lost off-ball time and time again, leaving them behind in rotations and giving Cleveland open slots to operate. From there, that’s when Mitchell got busy on his step back threes against single coverage. Felt like more blitzing and shading was necessary than he was being given, but this is the exact reason I’ve harped on leaning defense in this rotation by now.
#2: The turnover problems continue…and that’s a *big* problem.
There hasn’t been an extremely heavy diet of wins this season for the Heat, but do you know the common thread between most of them? The turnover battle. Before I get into the main slice of this from the game tonight, the Heat’s defense was elite for the sole reason of pressuring and forcing turnovers. More possessions, more fast-break opportunities, more of a chance to win with this uneven half-court offense. Now to the specifics of this game, they weren’t putting themselves in a position to win that battle with the amount of careless ones they were giving up. Part of this is the two primary offensive hubs aren’t guard creators, so the creation to your trigger is not a pass first guard. (I know what you’re thinking: that’s ideally Kyle Lowry) But it’s pretty simple that this Heat team isn’t good enough for Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo specifically to be that high volume in turnovers, just as the usage rises.
#3: My take on what’s needed from Bam Adebayo in a certain unit.
So the Heat changed things up a bit with the rotations recently, as Butler anchors the second unit late into the first quarter, while Adebayo and Herro exit early to re-enter with some of the role guys to begin the second quarter. But the usage of Bam in that lineup has stuck out to me heavily. They use him as a roller even more than usual, part of the Herro or Oladipo pick and roll sets, which ties back to the turnover conversation. Bam should not be a primary roller here. He needs to be a primary option off the attack on the ball. Cross screen into mid-post insertion. Pin-down into a curl at free throw line. The stuff that puts him in creation mode, instead of the reactionary base to the guards. This is something everybody wants to see in general, but it’s needed even more when Butler isn’t out there as well.
#4: Jimmy Butler doing Jimmy Butler things.
When it comes down to unwatchable stretches, this third quarter tonight was definitely up there. Heat came out and score a quick 10 points and seem to be rolling, yet things plummeted shortly after. Not able to get a stop on one end, with just an insanely bad offensive process on the other end, feeling like a full on grind every single time. With that said, late in the third, Jimmy Butler began resorting to a bit of a jumper display. He was hitting them, but that pretty much sums up the process of the offense. Even aside from the jumpers, he was the entire key to every Heat offensive run that was made in this game. Why is that? Well as I harp on repeatedly, his mid to low post touches are the savior to the Heat’s offense. He was getting whatever, whenever he wanted in this game, but the rough stretches for this team were just…rough.
#5: The fourth quarter…
Adebayo drives, kicks, and Herro finds just enough space to get off a leaning triple in the corner. 1 point game. Heat force a miss, Herro gets it into transition, pull-up three to take a 2 point lead. That was a stretch early in the fourth that shifted some energy back on Miami’s side. Heat force a turnover on an inbounds around the halfway mark of the fourth, leading to a Strus pass to Bam for the dunk. 3 point game. Butler began getting into some of that downhill juice shortly after. A tough lay-in into a bump and float jumper off glass into a strong drive down an open lane for the dunk. Heat up 7 now with Butler entering that mode. Some back and forth ensued with some triples falling in the Cavs favor, putting this game back at a 3 point lead for Miami. Another late shot clock jumper by Tyler Herro put Miami up 5, on an extremely tough step back. Mitchell responds again with a floater. A Mobley lob under a minute to go puts things at a 1 point game. 20 seconds left, Strus screens as Butler ends around, leading into yet another pull-up jumper. 3 point game again. Mitchell ends up getting fouled at the rim with 10 seconds left, putting Miami in a position I feel like I’ve seen them in 100 times this year. Martin knocked down 2 free throws, and Miami escaped with a win.