The Miami Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night, while Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Victor Oladipo were all out. Those guys were definitely missed, since the offense was missing for many stretches, but some extra defensive weapons against the Mavericks’ offensive shot creators would’ve been huge as well. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game…
#1: Trevor Ariza may be more than a 3 and D guy, but there was some emphasis on the three element tonight.
I’ve talked a lot recently about Trevor Ariza’s elite levels off the ball with his cutting, as well as his underrated passing and driving abilities, which Bam Adebayo echoed when I asked him about it. The reason this is important to note is that the three ball can still be his biggest offensive threat, as shown in tonight’s game in the first quarter specifically. Knocking down 4 straight threes early on in the first quarter, while three of them being consecutive in the first few minutes, was absolutely necessary due to the drop-off in scoring with the starting lineup. When looking at the way Ariza has shot the ball since joining the team, it’s pretty obvious that he is a rhythm shooter. And when talking about that spot in the starting lineup that Kelly Olynyk once filled, it’s important for Miami to have capable shooting, while sprinkling in the utmost disruption on the perimeter defensively.
#2: Some first half Luka Magic with….premier defenders on him.
Even without Jimmy Butler, it felt like a swarming rotation of Bam Adebayo, Andre Iguodala, and Ariza guarding Luka Doncic would be enough. But well, it didn’t seem to matter who was guarding him. There’s only a certain amount of disruption that can be caused against him, since he is able to create any type of separation on every spot of the floor. Miami began to throw some more of that press and zone at them when Doncic was off the floor, which worked for a long stretch, but then some more blitzing came into play. The Heat were blitzing two of their best defenders at Doncic in the half-court, which puts a lot of pressure on Miami’s weaker defenders to scramble into recovery mode. That led to Tim Hardaway Jr getting hot, which is what they had to live with many possessions to get the ball out of Doncic’s hands.
#3: Has Miami become too reliant on Kendrick Nunn?
Kendrick Nunn has been hitting major strides as of late, but he had a rough shooting first half tonight, and it seemed like that was a main reason Miami had the lead slip away. Once again, without Butler, the creation on the floor at all times is pretty scarce, which is why I discussed that Ariza run being so important. They needed that on-ball mid-range killer that they’ve seen recently, but when shots weren’t falling for him, the entire offense began to plummet. Goran Dragic stepped up as that type of player when he checked in, keeping Miami afloat for many spurts. Of course there are down games that occur for every player, but this kind of showcased this team’s overall reliance on Nunn every night, which leads to the continued watch of Victor Oladipo and Tyler Herro’s status. As much as the topic has become who is the odd man out, I truly believe those guys returning can take a ton of pressure off Nunn, and end up benefiting him majorly.
#4: The expected Bam Adebayo scoring breakout wasn’t the case.
Bam Adebayo has a tendency of reading the room when Butler is out, since he can elect to be much more aggressive offensively when they lack creators. There was a point in the third quarter when Adebayo only had two more points than Dewayne Dedmon in the single digit range, which just can’t be the case on nights like this. He filled up the box score in the assist and rebound category per usual, due to the fact that he’s such a high impact player, but the continued point will be that impact wasn’t the needed area tonight. They were in need of a young star who is capable of initiating offense at any moment, mostly since he’s more than capable of doing so, but that wasn’t the case. It’s the next step in his game that will continually be harped on, but once again, it comes down to self realization.
#5: So, Jimmy Butler gets 4 days off.
As mentioned a few times earlier, Butler didn’t play tonight after he had some flu-like symptoms, which was not Covid related. And Miami getting two nights off before their game on Friday means that he got a 4 day break, leading to a possible positive result in the long run. The hope for Miami is that they can get another week off by avoiding the play-in round, but that is all in question at the current stage. Either way, it’s important for him to get some extra rest before this final push with quite the layout of Eastern Conference talent, including Philadelphia, Milwuakee, and Boston twice. They’re going to need their leader and focal point well rested for those games, which looks like it will be the case now. Other than some individual takeaways tonight, there just isn’t much that can be looked at from a team perspective other than the lack of on-ball offensive weapons.