Tag Archive for: Kyle Lowry

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over the Celtics

The Heat played a big one on Wednesday night against the Celtics in Boston, and they stood strong in many of the weaknesses they had attached to them.

Max Strus came up huge after shaky moments, Kyle Lowry took over, and the Heat stepped up big in clutch time.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Tyler Herro and Miami making adjustments to start.

As Miami walked into the locker room at halftime, it was clear a 1 point lead was a win for them. A second quarter run from Boston raised an eyebrow at Miami potentially bouncing back, but the adjustments for Tyler Herro were interesting to me in general. There’s still much less comfort against switching than drop, but lucky for him, it’s a pick your poison thing with this impressive Celtics defense. Herro was being swarmed a ton in his early minutes, mostly since he was running into easy switches with guys like Jimmy Butler or PJ Tucker screening. Simply, he needs Bam Adebayo to set him up. The reasoning was that he needed to gain a rhythm by going at Al Horford in that drop. He did climb up to 10 points at the half, and it leads to a takeaway that Spoelstra seems to feel most comfortable shifting Herro around offensively than anybody.

#2: The broad idea of pace fluctuations.

Speaking of that Boston run in the second quarter, it looked like Miami was rattled for a minute. Turnovers were peaking, they began to play faster as Boston had transition success, and the lead began to swing. Aside from this game in itself, I truly believe it’s something to keep an eye on. Why? Well, the person that controls the pace in a game that the Miami Heat are involved seems to be a bigger swing than it should be. When Miami starts trailing the play-style of the opponent, things don’t lean in their favor. It doesn’t matter if it’s that they need to slow it down or speed it up in a certain span, but just having that control is an important element of this basketball team.

#3: Bam Adebayo’s defensive importance: something you know already.

While many were probably screaming at their TV at times in the first half for Bam Adebayo to begin attacking Boston’s bigs, it must be reminded that there are two sides of the ball. And for a portion of the game, Adebayo was wrecking first options for the Celtics very often. Many times we see it through Miami’s game-plan of forcing Tucker and Adebayo to switch onto the respective guard and big on that team, but they went the Giannis Antetokounmpo route in this one. What I mean by that is he shifted to weak-side excellence in this one, and his help was pretty elite for what he had to deal with on the other side, in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. You may hear a lot about Smart and Williams on the ESPN broadcast for defensive player of the year, but the ability to move Bam around defensively will be Spoelstra’s key defensive card in the playoffs.

#4: Kyle Lowry’s “real season” coming alive?

When zooming in on the third quarter specifically, Kyle Lowry was the definition of their offense from start to finish. He kicked off with two pull-up triples out of the high pick and roll, which is one of the most important elements of this team. Yes, not just Lowry, but this team. Defenses worrying about that shot gives Lowry all of his powers to dissect coverages in the half-court with his passing. That led to an immediate zip to Bam Adebayo in the middle of the floor, and a perfect feed on a backdoor cut to Jimmy Butler to begin the 3rd. The one question that I had walking away from that quarter was this: what happens when Lowry exits? That’s how big he was in terms of total control, which ties into recent discussions about spacing. It’s clear that when the playoffs roll around, Lowry needs the ball in his hands. A lot.

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#5: Late-game offense evaluation time.

When heading into this game, I said on a Five Reasons Sports pregame show that the topic of the game would be late-game offense. For one it’s just that type of match-up, and second of all, there are two high level shot creators to create in clutch time during the Heat’s biggest time of weakness. As the score stayed close and the time trickled down, we saw Miami staying in base sets for a decent amount of time starting at the 6 minute mark. As Lowry checked back in the 4th, it was clear that the clutch time offense starts now in a game like this. But more importantly, the base sets were familiar since there was space to operate, as Butler stayed at the 4. Miami continued to spam one thing and one thing only: Lowry/Bam PnR, Strus/Herro spacing in each corner, Butler looming. That’s the formula to good looks in the clutch.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to the 76ers

The Miami Heat faced a short handed Philadelphia 76ers without Joel Embiid and James Harden, yet couldn’t slow them down.

Tyler Herro continued to get hunted late for all of Philly’s offensive possessions, and Tyrese Maxey couldn’t be stopped.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: So, about this group’s energy in this one…

We often talk about this Heat team in a bright light of high energy and not taking defensive possessions off. Yet, in this one, I couldn’t give this team those adjectives. We’ve seen a trend where less talented teams catch Miami off guard through playing with more energy or purpose, and that was the case in this one with no Joel Embiid or James Harden. The only guy on this roster that was playing with his usual energy was Caleb Martin, since his close-outs and off-ball sticking wasn’t down by any means. And speaking of those close-outs, that’s the easiest way to judge a team’s energy in the game of basketball. We saw that picture the last time against Philly where Embiid was surrounded by 3 Heat jerseys, which clearly means there’s a mental step back when reading that injury report.

#2: Jimmy Butler keeping Miami alive early offensively.

Jimmy Butler finished the first half with 15 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds, which seemed like he was the only guy able to efficiently dissect this Philly defense and keep Miami’s offense alive. A lot of that refers back to past points about rim pressure, since 7 of his 15 came from the free throw line. When guys like Tyrese Maxey would switch onto him, he would take advantage, which is the only thing you could ask. Big picture, this defense looks a lot different without Embiid, which changes up the usual Herro PnR dissection that we’re used to, but it kicks right back in Butler’s facor with constant switching and inside presence. In this one, he was it in that first half.

#3: For future reference, a key exploitable element against Philly in the post-season.

To zoom out a bit more, and away from the Butler dominance against switching, it should be mentioned that won’t be a Philly post-season wrinkle. Most lineups will consist of drop with the occasional blitz, which is why guys like Herro are mentioned often in this match-up. But along those same lines, Duncan Robinson is a big piece to this match-up. Looking at this game tonight, there’s been a trend whenever Philly faces him that they’re going to overplay him a ton. They will double out, push him away from the 3 point line, and have Mattisee Thybulle trail him all night. And that type of stuff opens up the back-side actions a ton. Miami wants that focus to be on him in that way, so others can counter, which happened in moments in this one, referring back to Butler’s first half attack. But if there’s a playoff match-up for Robinson, he can really open things up in a potential second round series against the 76ers.

#4: Kyle Lowry and Bam Adebayo: the need for consistency in shot profile.

As Philadelphia got in a rhythm defensively by stopping Miami’s primary attacks, something was noticed. It consisted of a lot of funneling inside the lane, which is usually a formula for big time rim protectors. In this case, it was just altering Miami’s looks. That blended into a Kyle Lowry realization, where he all of a sudden began pulling that three-ball as they would go under on screens. Nobody is worried about that shot dropping, but it’s just about taking it so Miami can open up their main sets. The other guy who works into the convo of shot profile consistency is Bam Adebayo. He got on a roll in the third quarter, and he did it in one simple way: using his body around the rim. When he takes contact, it gets him in a rhythm to go up and score, which gave him 10 points in half the quarter. But like I said, the ability to consistently go to it just wasn’t there. It’s situational.

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#5: A reference point to rotation questions.

If you want to know what the Heat’s nine man rotation may look like in the post-season, it felt like this game would be a great reference point. For starters, there are many advantages to playing with Markieff Morris as your back-up big, but it’s also not a consistent thing they’re going to lean toward. With that said, it fits perfectly with what’s been said about Dewayne Dedmon and him switching off as the back-up 5, not only series by series, but game by game. The reason we’re comparing Morris and Dedmon, and not Morris and Martin, is because that isn’t a conversation at this stage. Martin is a complete lock, and it’s for reasons that can go unsaid. The final evaluation includes the hot and cold nature of Max Strus. The reason I’ve been calling him a situation piece who can plug in when needing a boost, is due to the ups and downs that we’ve seen. When he’s cold, it’s hard to stick with that move, since it bleeds into defensive problems heavily. He will still be used, but not as a rotation lock in a series.

 

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What Does Kyle Lowry in the “Real Season” Look Like?

“I’m just getting prepared for the real season,” Kyle Lowry stated after the Heat’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.

It’s one of those things that you love to hear, but have to see before completely believing. Lowry has been huge all season in terms of team impact, just through the ways of both calming and setting up this Heat offense in a fashion this group hasn’t seen in recent years.

When projecting forward into that “real season,” the ceiling of this group seems to rely on one player much more than the rest. Of course certain match-ups can be discussed, but this team’s success is going to mirror the things that lie under Bam Adebayo’s offensive umbrella come playoff time.

But it’s up to those around him to elevate that element even further, which is exactly what would enter this group into that true championship tier.

And that elevation element has a lot to do with veteran point guard Kyle Lowry.

Many will focus on the shot attempts solely, because it’s the easiest thing to point to, but it’s more about where and when he’s taking specific shots. Looking in recent years, there’s never been a major jump in shot attempts from him when comparing the regular season to the playoffs.

For example here, when watching his 4 for 12 night against Minnesota on Saturday, this shot stood out from the rest. Part of it is that it’s there for him way too often not to take advantage of, and secondly, this is the shot that can change Miami’s half-court offensive attack in the post-season, specifically in that starting unit.

A simple Lowry-Bam PnR in the middle of the floor takes place against another form of drop coverage that we see so often. Duncan Robinson plants on that strong-side wing, which spectator mode from him is enough impact on the possession already. The reasoning is that spacing immediately eliminates any type of help at the nail on Lowry’s attack.

The defender dips off that corner shooter instead, in Gabe Vincent, which would usually be Jimmy Butler in a healthy lineup. Yet, the spacing would look quite similar.

All of that said, the way the defense is positioned basically enhances Lowry into that bounce back mid-range jumper, which is a shot he is surely comfortable in taking. Here, he buries it, but it’s much more about taking it whenever it’s sitting there in the “real season,” since that causes defenses to adjust quickly.

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But realistically, that specific shot will only be sitting there in certain scenarios, while the primary element of his shot profile is sitting right in front of our eyes each and every night.

Scoring off the attack.

When Lowry was brought to Miami, running pick and rolls next to Bam Adebayo was the immediate clip that played in every Heat fans head. Forcing 2-on-1’s and lobbing up the perfect lob pass to Adebayo with his insanely elite passing skill.

And well, that projected illustration has been seen quite frequently this season.

But is it crazy to say we’ve seen it too* frequently?

Lowry is averaging 7.8 drives per game so far this season. Yet among players averaging at least 7 drives per game, which includes 89 players, Lowry is dead last in shot attempts within those possessions at 2.2 field goal attempts.

When we talk about Lowry magically transitioning into the “real season,” that’s the wild shift that is coming. A 1 of 4 finish in a win against Cleveland may stand out, but the issue was that all 4 shots came from beyond the arc.

For this team to truly take that next offensive level once Lowry starts to increase his scoring aggression, the jump in paint touches and scoring at the rim is the key.

Back into the film, the way that this begins to change possessions is that it puts so much pressure on defenses to have multiple attackers/play-makers on the floor, which will lead to an uptick in outside shooting that ranks dead last in spot-up frequency at this point in time.

Evaluating the play above, this was a drawn up play from Erik Spoelstra after some free throws were taken by the Timberwolves on the other side. Max Strus and Duncan Robinson in the game together for this possession so they can camp out in each corner, simply daring the defense to dip off of them in the slightest.

Three-man game at the top between Lowry, Bam, and Herro.

Herro inserts to Lowry, flies off the Bam screen as Lowry hits him in stride, and the first downhill contact is seen.

Naz Reid, who is supposed to be guarding Adebayo on the roll, steps up onto Herro for the help. Anthony Edwards has to help down, Herro zips it back across court to Lowry, leading right back into a misdirection from Lowry into the lane as the defense is in a recovery frenzy.

Ends in a Lowry miss, but this is what attackers do in the half-court. More movement, better shots.

I asked Lowry about the need for rim pressure and trying to make up for it without Butler, which he responded, “We can’t duplicate what Jimmy does. We gotta go out there and do things that we can do to try and win the game…It’s just different. We can’t make up for what that guy brings.”

That stuff is all true, but Lowry’s attacking is going to be mostly predicated on nights that Butler is* on the floor and suiting up.

Lowry has been an elite offensive player for this Heat team without even scoring the basketball in crazy fashion, but change is coming. And as noted, those driving numbers potentially changing could shift the entire offense.

Not at the expense of anybody else. But just in bail out times where this team goes cold. His job is to get them out of the mud, and that specific part of his skill-set will do that.

 

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Solving the Miami Heat’s Clutch Time Mystery

As the Heat sit in the 1 seed at the All-Star break, many things are apparent about this group. They have great depth. They have a top tier defense all the way around. They have plenty of offensive options.

But the one thing that has shown a need for tweaking is their clutch time offense.

And if you want to know how the Heat should probably treat late-game situations, let’s take a look at this All-Star weekend for example.

As noted previously, they’re the first seed in the East, yet the only player representing them was Jimmy Butler. Part of that was due to many guys being in and out of the lineup, but it’s also a product that they don’t have a strong two than a major fall-off like other teams.

They have four guys who could potentially be in that All-Star game, and they have four guys who could potentially take that final shot late in a game. It’s just all about situation and opportunity.

With that said, I went through all of the Heat’s late-game offensive possessions this season, and some things stuck out. And of course, we must start off with Butler, in an obvious manner that many would want to harp on…

Most nights, the ball is in the hands of Butler as the clock trickles down and the Heat need a bucket. I’m going to highlight next how or when it’s most effective, but it’s been clear that the constant settling for three-point pull-ups, deep fade-aways, or step-back jumpers is the least efficient offense late in games.

For one, if you look at the clips above, there are many parallels across the board. Not only does Butler not look fluid on these specific attempts, but neither do those around him.

When he’s going through the motions of dribbling as the clock hits below five, the other four guys on the court are always standing still, which is the definition of stagnant offense.

Especially when we’re discussing a total movement offense who doesn’t revolve it around one guy or one go-to, isolations should never be the call, unless it’s a clear mismatch or you’re allowing Bam Adebayo to try and drive past his much slower defender.

But when addressing Butler in these positions, it doesn’t mean that final shot has to permanently be passed onto the next guy. It just means don’t shift out of your comfort zone…

And when talking about Butler’s comfort zone, it’s getting to the basket with the possibility of two outcomes: an attempted lay-up or a trip to the line.

We’ve seen that many times this season, as seen in the clips above, and man is that the way to go.

Looking at the first two clips initially against Sacramento, we see him tie the game off a solid drive, then miss the game tying lay-in shortly after, but that’s the shot you live with.

When addressing these plays under a microscope, did you notice any differences between the two? In the first one, we see Omer Yurtseven set a down screen for Butler to go 1-on-1 at the rim with a big, which is essentially what you want in that spot. In the other position, there’s no screen, which ultimately means they can freely send a double at him on the attack.

Big difference.

Then of course the final clip, he ices the game against the Atlanta Hawks with a strong drive and tough finish.

But why is a late-game Butler drive so important? Is it just solely because he has a better chance of knocking it down off a strong attack than a 3 point heave?

Absolutely not.

It’s actually about what follows these late-game drives, especially when that true downhill gravity begins to set in.

Up 3, 9 seconds on the shot clock. Butler refuses the screen, leaving his defender in the dust. Both wing/corner defenders from each side drop down, and it’s a wide open corner triple for PJ Tucker to eventually win them the game.

I feel like I’ve seen that Tucker corner three under a minute to go at least 10 times so far this season, but aside from that, it’s what ties my first two points together. The threes from Butler may be focused on him lacking that consistency at this point in his career, but it’s more about those around him that he impacts.

If they throw length on him where he can’t get to his downhill spots, defer to the next guy. When it’s a winnable match-up, get to the rim. When you can play for the double, hit the open corner shooter.

It sounds simple, but it’s just about eliminating the forceful possessions we’ve seen many times this year that end in a Butler deep heave.

Now, I mentioned earlier that guys have been in and out of the lineup constantly this season, and well, that was a signal to Kyle Lowry early on to enter takeover mode. It wasn’t that he was completely changing games in a scoring fashion, which he did against the Clippers in the 4th and the Hornets recently in OT, but he puts his guys in the right spots late.

Or more importantly, he hits his guys at the right time.

Most of Miami’s late possessions are those slowed down, half-court set-ups in playoff fashion, but Lowry has shown that he won’t roll that way if it’s up to him.

The first clip above is of course sped up because they’re trailing by two possessions with 30 seconds left, but that’s still always going to be his method. He isn’t worried about the clock ever. He wants to make a defense run back with the possibility of them being out of wack, while also setting up early in the clock.

He hits Adebayo against the Lakers, which ends in an and-1.

In the second clip against the Washington Wizards, the Heat are down 3, so he could slow it down to get a good shot, but yet again, that just isn’t Lowry’s style.

He races up the floor, and tracks down Adebayo once again in the middle of the floor as he draws the foul.

This stuff may not seem important, but it absolutely is. The changing of speed that can be utilized between Lowry and Butler is big time, but the issue up to this point is that it feels as if they’ve been taking turns in that way late in games.

If Butler’s slowing it down, Lowry goes possession after possession without being in the primary action. If Lowry speeds it up, he goes on a scoring and passing rampage with Butler playing off the ball, as his defender sags off of him.

If they can find a way to blend the two styles together on the same nights, that’s when they will become elite together when closing games.

Another element of Lowry having the ball in his hands late should depend heavily on specific match-ups. Not if Lowry is being defended by an elite defender, but if there’s an exploitable drop big on the floor that he can attack.

Since well, that’s exactly what he did against this Clippers team, or even the Nets about a week ago.

It’s usually a signal to spam Lowry-Adebayo pick and rolls in this position, but as seen in the first clip, the Clippers switched Zubac off of Adebayo and onto Tucker.

Lowry then has Tucker come set the screen, as he manipulates him from way out. He lets it fly from deep as Zubac closes out, and gets the and-1 three in the process.

Now, in the second clip, Zubac is back on Adebayo. They go with a very high pick and roll here, and that’s the best way to go. It leads to Lowry going 1-on-1 with Zubac on his heels, ending in another and-1 at the rim.

This stuff isn’t just coincidental in a one game sample size. It’s the reads that are made on a gamely basis. There are many reasons why Lowry should get them into their sets late, but when seeing that big to pick on, it should be a pick and roll immediate spam for Lowry to go to work.

He’s currently 15 of 27 this season in clutch time, and neither of those numbers are surprising. He takes what is given to him, so the attempts aren’t as high as Butler. Yet, he takes advantage when the opportunity comes up with a big to attack, leading to 56% shooting in those spots.

 

When I say Lowry can ‘get them into their sets late,’ this is what I mean.

Looking at this game early in the season against Philly, the guys closing next to Lowry are Duncan Robinson, Gabe Vincent, PJ Tucker, and Dewayne Dedmon.

Only one of those four will be on the floor late once the post-season arrives, yet he doesn’t get away from their base. It’s a Spain pick and roll, as Dedmon screens for Lowry and Vincent sets a down screen on Joel Embiid. He gets to the rim and takes a trip to the line.

Once again, many of this is situational. But it’s clear if you want things organized, find Lowry to put it together.

The other aspect of this is Tyler Herro. When walking away from many of these games recently with Herro out, it strikes me that he will be the one taking many of these shots.

So far this season, he’s 13 of 36 in crunch time. Yet still, I believe he’s their outlet when they need to make a play.

Looking at the clips above, these are two late-game plays from Herro this season which went in different directions. A wild right leaning triple when down 1 against the Pistons sums up Herro’s offense in these positions pretty well, and it feels like they need that type of guy many nights as the shot clock ticks down.

In the second clip, we see Herro miss a good looking floater on a very odd night in Miami against Toronto. The reason I show that isn’t because of the miss, but instead the trust that Erik Spoelstra puts in him to hit big shots. With Butler and Adebayo on the floor, he draws the play up for Herro to end the night early.

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There’s also another guy that I haven’t had a chance to discuss in this one, and he’s a pretty important piece I’d say: Bam Adebayo.

He’s currently 5 of 13 in clutch situations, and if you want some perspective, Duncan Robinson is 4 of 11 and Gabe Vincent is 5 of 10 in big moments so far this year.

With that said, we’ve seen Adebayo be exponentially more aggressive ever since we flipped into the month of February, which makes me think we could see more stuff run for him late, as he continues to have these 17,18,19 attempt nights.

He’s the piece that could change this entire topic all together. Not that he will be their undeniable closer every night, but as much as I discussed Lowry waiting to attack a mismatch in drop, Bam Adebayo seems to have a mismatch every single game.

No opposing 5 can defend him on a face-up, but it just comes down to him being comfortable enough to make that read and go for the blow-by in big moments.

If that begins to develop, then this team “weakness” becomes less and less of a worrisome topic.

Finally, we have to finish off this discussion of closing games out with Erik Spoelstra’s ATO genius ways.

Something that must be mentioned: there seems to be a major difference in the Heat’s comfort down 1 compared to up 2. When this group is leading coming out of a timeout, they always seem to be in a great spot.

For one, notice how I’ve labeled everything “late-game offense.” The reason is that this Heat defense has been absolutely elite down the stretch of games, and it’s allowed their poorly executed offense to still have chance after chance after chance.

They have the 5th best clutch time defense at the break, posting a 99 defensive rating.

And if they land themselves back on the offensive end with a 1 possession lead, Coach Spo can cook something up to seal it. We’ve seen his two big time ATO plays this season, as he ran the same exact play against Chicago and Charlotte.

Two guys all the way down the floor, one guy flares up to half-court, and the inbound goes to that close wing/corner. Either the guy guarding the inbound falls for the flare, or he doubles on the catch once inbounded. Both end in easy lay-ups to close the game.

As we look across this Heat roster, they could have more answers on the way if everything goes right. If Victor Oladipo comes back completely healthy, he’ll be quite the piece to work into that closing lineup when needing a stop with the 5 man defensive lineup.

But the truth is that there will probably be a revolving door in that 5th spot depending on what they need, and it feels like Herro will get the majority of those reps due to his high level shot making ability. But once they start to pick on him defensively, they’ll have that short stint alternative.

It’ll be interesting to see how they handle lineups, but offensive set-ups are the more important part right now. And as I portrayed in this piece, there isn’t just one single option when things start moving quickly down the strtech.

 

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Kyle Lowry has a Gift: Elevating Others

It’s one thing to elevate a young group of guys that need that a clear leader above them, as he did for guys like Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, Max Strus, etc.

But it’s another thing to elevate a proven player in this league who is a 6 time all star, in Jimmy Butler, and a young buck on the trajectory of an elite player in this league, in Bam Adebayo.

As the Heat were batting for a good chunk of time without Kyle Lowry, since he was away from the team, they were trying everything in their power to gather some type of a rhythm. A 3 game losing streak occurred right before he made his official return in San Antonio on February 3rd, and that’s when it hit people: this 35 year old point guard is pretty important.

Since his return, the Heat have won 5 games in a row, and let me preface that by saying it’s not a coincidence. He changes the offensive structure, and more importantly, he opens up the team’s two best players in a surprising fashion.

The trio of Lowry-Butler-Adebayo has played 19 games together so far this season, which they’re 14-5 in those games. When sharing the floor, they’re posting a 106 offensive rating and a 95 defensive rating.

I’d say that’s pretty impressive.

But when looking at the impact of Lowry, stats just simply don’t correlate to what he brings. It’s the spots he gets these guys into. It’s the pace that he provides as soon as the jump-ball goes up. It’s the fact that Miami’s first action usually begins with 21 seconds on the shot clock.

Looking at the clips above, that wild entry pass has become the two man combo with Lowry and one of Butler or Adebayo. He threw a unnecessary one late in the Heat-Nets game that could’ve been costly, but you’ll take that one risky, bad pass when all of this good comes with it as well.

The half-court post insertion pass to Adebayo is not only a signal to their centerpiece big man that he needs to go up and try to score, but it also eliminates weak-side defenders. Post-ups may not be Adebayo’s favorite, but a little game of one-on-one with the size advantage never hurt anybody.

We’re also seeing Adebayo begins to grow up in Lowry’s world, also known as transition offense, since he’s beginning to play a bit of bully ball when running at full speed, while also filling up the right spots on the floor on the break which wasn’t the case early on.

Butler, on the other hand, just changes sports when the ball comes off the rim and into the possession of Lowry. He streaks down the floor, Lowry throws it up, and Butler comes down with the Moss more times than not.

But with Butler, it isn’t about changing speeds like it is for Bam. It’s actually about the half-court insert more than the full-court one.

Over the past week and a half, we’ve seen a shift in the looks Butler is getting. And looking at the final clip above, that pretty much sums it up. Lowry-Butler PnR’s, or inverted PnR’s, are spammed to draw the mismatch. Lowry then retreats back, feeds Butler, and he takes the smaller defender to the clinic.

The two outcomes are either a good look at the rim for a layup, or a trip to the free throw line, which is exactly what Lowry is here to do.

He simplifies what used to be potentially 5 outcomes, down to only 2.

 

 

Number one on his list of elevating those around him is definitely setting their primary players up, but a close second is taking the burden off of them when he decides to turn it up. And that dial will be turned even further come playoff time.

Late in the fourth against the Brooklyn Nets, the Heat had no answer for Kyrie Irving on the offensive end. A player like Lowry, or any player at that, can’t match that type of offensive punch at that time, but he can do just enough to keep his group above water.

And that’s what he did mid-way through the 4th. He found the exploitable parts of this Nets defense, which began with the deep drop he was seeing. High pick and roll with Adebayo, Max Strus clears out to the weak-side next to Duncan Robinson to eliminate two help defenders, and now it’s Lowry time.

Only two defenders he has to worry about, and one of them he knows will have a tough time recovering. He takes it right into the dropping big, and flips it up like only Kyle Lowry would.

A few possessions later, we see an empty corner PnR with Adebayo once again, and now it’s just keying in on dead spots. Gets to the wide open free throw line pull-up to continually stretch out Miami’s lead.

He couldn’t match Kyrie Irving, but he could make it tougher on him with his smart basketball reads, and that’s the exact thing that Lowry provides.

We constantly talk about this Heat team as a defensive powerhouse. We begin by bringing up names like Adebayo, Butler, and PJ Tucker. Then we may blend into the young, gritty defenders like Vincent or Martin. But we sometimes pass over Lowry on that topic due to some believing he’s passed up that specific skill with age.

But when there’s 11 seconds left on the clock with the team needing just one stop, Lowry would be in my first sentence when discussing this Heat team. Looking at the play above, that is always Kyle Lowry at this point in the game.

He’s physical enough with Irving to not let the entry pass be easy, then makes a Butler like gamble to get the steal and go in the other direction.

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Stats aside. Film aside. Narratives aside. Kyle Lowry just makes those around him better.

Watching Bam Adebayo surge lately doesn’t just coincidentally align with the return of Lowry. Watching Jimmy Butler hysterically laughing on the court and bench since the game in San Antonio doesn’t just coincidentally align with the return of Lowry.

He changes things. In a good way.

He led a young group of inexperienced players to a winning record when Butler and Adebayo were out, alongside Tyler Herro, which just summed up the wide range of a role he can play at this stage of his career.

Lowry is a skilled passer. We know he can score the basketball. He has a history of defending at a high level. He’s a champion. But when asking the question: ‘what is his biggest skill?’

My answer would be elevating those around him.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Warriors

This was a bit of a weird one for the Miami Heat in this late start against the Golden State Warriors. Aside from Miami’s strong fight with a short-handed roster, they also may have just lost Jimmy Butler for some time after he went down and into the locker room in the third.

So, here are some takeaways from this one, as well as a bit of a look forward as well…

#1: Miami’s microscopic issues out the gate on both ends.

Aside from the repeated unnecessary turnovers from the Heat early on, there were some clear issues that led to a lopsided score in the first quarter. For starters on the defensive end, there were once again just some clear miscommunications that led to easy looks for Golden State, which they didn’t always capitalize on. But the main problem on that end was over-helping. Now that doesn’t count flying two to Stephen Curry at the head of the offense, but instead sending two to Draymond Green in the mid-post, while many other mismatches like Lowry on Wiggins were all over the floor. On the other side of the floor, it’s pretty clear this is a tough match-up in general with their switching ability, which is something that should be focused on. Spamming certain screeners who are being defended by Gary Payton ll just isn’t the right call, and they found that out quick.

#2: The Kyle Lowry second quarter run.

After Miami’s first quarter, I said on Twitter the only way their offense could be saved is if it turned into Jimmy Butler or Tyler Herro time. I was wrong. It turned into Kyle Lowry time. After trailing 28-40 in the 2nd, a 9-0 run quickly followed due to the excellence of Lowry. He began with some dribble penetration that was missed, mostly toying with a sticking big on the baseline before getting some good positioning for easy flip layups. He also got guys going with his usual passing, full-court touchdowns to Herro, and continued pick and roll connection with Omer Yurtseven, who looks most comfortable in that space with Lowry. He’s not the type of guy to flip the momentum in the same way Butler or Herro can, but guys just see him lead by example and others quickly follow. What I saw from Lowry tonight, almost foreshadows some playoff level expectations with him.

#3: Jimmy Butler’s first half flip.

Jimmy Butler wasn’t his usual self on the front-end of the back to back against the Sacramento Kings, and it slightly carried over into the beginning of this one. As I said early on, he almost looked like he was coasting yet again, flowing into offense with too much ease. But well, then things flip, like they usually seem to do. Late in the second quarter, Butler got into hunting/attacking mode, in a way that makes you wonder what took so long. Free throw line trips increasing, three-point attempts decreasing. Seeing him get to his usual spots on the floor from the mid-post to left or right box is a true tell, where he can survey and inevitably draw two almost every time. But the Butler conversation got much more complicated in the third quarter, as he limped off the floor with an apparent right leg injury. Achilles is the first thing that popped into my head when I first saw it, but that’s just speculation. A little bit later, the Heat listed it as a right ankle injury, which is much better in that sense.

#4: Caleb Martin making more of a rotational case, night after night.

I’ve spent so many of these post-game pieces touching on the Heat’s two-way find Caleb Martin this season, even dissecting his December stretch in a recent article. But he just continues to shine from a night to night basis, and more importantly, in a role to role basis. In this game alone, high flying put-back dunks, big time corner triples, Stephen Curry hounding. It was all on display, but we need to key in on that “role to role” point a bit more. They’re down a few bigs, put Martin at the 5 and it works. They need a power forward plug-in without PJ Tucker, just throw in Martin. And well, as Spoelstra has said in the past, when Butler goes out, he’s the lite version to jump into that spot. As much as this is a positive thing that he can continue to shine, the issue is the circumstances. As I said before, with the new injury for Butler, Martin’s spot opens up again in another area of the starting lineup.

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#5: The PJ Tucker reliance begins again.

On the positive side of things, PJ Tucker returned to play in this one off the bench as he worked his way back in, and we saw glimpses of what was missed. The biggest thing is defensively with his communication and overall deferring ability on and off the ball, but the offensive task rises again. Tonight we saw more of the usual Tucker role with corner spacing, some screen and rolls, and hand-offs. But with no Butler or Adebayo, the role I talked about before he was injured returns. We saw a play-making surge from him at that point, and they will begin to shift him back into that wing post three position, where he can trigger back-side actions. And the major part about that working is getting some shooters back. To maximize that role, you need weak-side killers which begins with Max Strus returning on Wednesday since he’s now out of the health and safety protocols.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Kings

The Miami Heat fell short against the Sacramento Kings after their recent hot stretch, and now the real tough slate lines up right in front of them.

Omer Yurtseven had another promising performance, but Miami just couldn’t control things ultimately on either end.

So, here are five takeaways from this one…

#1: A very ugly start for Miami.

The Heat had a pretty horrible start to this one, and it transcends poor shooting from the outside. While that jumped off the stat-sheet, and was heard every time the ball clanked off the rim, it began to blend into other things, like it usually does. For one, it always waters down defensive effort. But the issue early was that 10-day contracts were showing. It seemed like it was miscommunication after miscommunication, giving Sacramento easy threes and easy layups every time down the floor. And as shots continue to miss, you jump into an accidental offensive shift on the floor, almost repeating bad habits. The main one is something I’ve touched on a ton which is overusing bigs that aren’t Bam Adebayo. You can’t work offense through less skilled bigs even though that’s what you’re used to, which we saw at times with guys like Chris Silva.

#2: A Kyle Lowry-Omer Yurtseven 1-2 punch to finish the first half.

Although I touched on the things that went wrong for Miami offensively, something had to have gone right if they only trailed by 4 at halftime. And well, that started with Kyle Lowry and Omer Yurtseven. Tyler Herro finished strong after a patchy start to the half, and Kyle Guy contributed a decent bit on that end, but the Lowry-Yurtseven PnR’s were being spammed. And they were working well. Lowry was hitting that pull-up three when the defender went under, and surveyed the mid-range at a high level, either spinning into his coveted turn-around or dishing down low with 5 first half assists. But Yurtseven’s control down low really shined. Although defensive lapses occurred, he was needed as that roll/post presence, and he showed up in that area. He went from the least experienced guy on the floor to the second most real quick, as many of those lineups were surrounded by 3 10-days.

#3: Does open floor operation need to increase in this interesting period?

It’s hard to judge minor specifics during this stretch of games with only 5 roster guys available, but one simple element has jumped out to me. When the year began, the offensive topic that outweighed everything else is the pace increase Lowry would bring to this team, and as we’ve seen, Herro has loved it as well. But the more games played, the more things seem to slow down. Of course that will always be this team’s identity, but can a true identity be found when running a Haywood Highsmith-Chris Silva front-court pairing? I believe not. With that said, it feels like this team needs to open up the playbook a bit more, to maximize guys like Caleb Martin, Lowry, etc. We’ve seen it shine at moments, but the consistency is never there. A lot of it relies on high level defense, but pushing the pace feels like a necessity when playing with young legs who want an opportunity.

#4: Tyler Herro’s “battling” factor.

I talked about Tyler Herro a little in this sense last game, but ultimately in a different light. When shots aren’t falling, it doesn’t look like last season whatsoever. Last game, his outlet was his passing ability, where he controlled the game on the ball and set others up. Tonight, he just kept battling through. Yes, he battled through a couple times last season as well, but I don’t remember it working out as much as it has this year. He can turn games around within that same 48 minute frame, and that’s an important skill for a 21 year old pure scorer. As I said before, he had a nice finish to the first half, but he continued that in the second half as well when energy and rhythm picked up in that 3rd quarter. After talking about Yurtseven, how was he getting such good looks down low? Along with Butler looking for him, Herro kept feeding him.

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#5: An unsurprising, surprising loss by Miami.

Yeah, it definitely felt like Miami was in control of this one late and was there’s to win, but well, it slipped away. While that may surprise some, it just shouldn’t. The Miami Heat ran a 4th quarter lineup of Kyle Guy, Nik Stauskas, Haywood Highsmith, and Chris Silva, which gives us a ton of perspective. The Heat have still won 9 of their last 12, but now, real challenges strike. The upcoming stretch of this road trip is the toughest part, including Golden State and Phoenix to kick things off essentially. But the only good thing about it will be that this team is getting healthier. Quick. Guys like Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, and PJ Tucker could be exiting protocols real soon, Dewayne Dedmon should be close to healed up, Markieff Morris *should* be back soon, and clock is ticking on the hopeful return of Victor Oladipo and Bam Adebayo. Steal a couple coming up, and they’re in perfect shape.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to the Pistons

The Miami Heat dropped this one to the Detroit Pistons, as fatigue shines through as the leading factor. Short on jumpers, late on rotations, getting out-rebounded. All factors of a tired group at the end of a road trip.

Anyway, here are the five takeaways from this one…

#1: Duncan Robinson’s expanding bag creating more lineup flexibility, yet individual shot-making restricting.

Little by little, the fits surrounding Duncan Robinson are coming together. Robinson himself, on the other hand, is a completely different story tonight that I’ll have to wait to discuss. On paper, it’s one of these easiest combinations to make work. One of the league’s top 3 point specialists is a simple pair for any NBA player, but extra avenues are being explored. We’ve seen Robinson’s inside game more and more lately: the mid-range pull-up, pin-downs/back-cuts, and now dribble penetration. He drives down the lane, 3 Pistons collapse, and hits Max Strus in the corner off a hammer screen. That’s big time for Robinson, since as I said, it changes the equation for certain lineups to push a Strus and Robinson for longer minutes. Another example of flexibility is within the scheme. To start the game, he came up to screen for Kyle Lowry, Detroit blitzed, and well, that’s the last thing you want to do with Robinson as the screener. He hit that three, but none seemed to follow. And that’s tough when you’re without Butler, Adebayo, Herro, Morris, Martin, etc.

#2: The Max Strus conversation continues.

Max Strus happened again. 15 points at the half for Miami, while the second leading scorer in the entire game was Hamidou Diallo with 9 points. When talking about future lineups for this Heat team when fully healthy, it’s clear Max Strus has earned his stay. I don’t know if that means he will crack that rotation, but it should definitely take some strong consideration. On a team where the two best players don’t shoot the three-ball, Strus feels like the perfect bench piece at the back-end of the rotation. He’s consistent, he plays a simple game, and as we’ve seen over the last 2 years, his teammates are very comfortable with him on the floor, and even more importantly, highly confident in his abilities. Robinson’s degree of difficulty is unmatched, but in an open gym, Strus is evenly aligned with him. But adding the steady efficiency recently with the tougher looks he’s getting equals a rotation player on this team.

#3: Three-point attempts continue to skyrocket.

Erik Spoelstra in tonight’s pregame media availability made sure to note that it’s much more than just three-point shots rising. But in the big picture, it’s clear that is the only true outlet at this time. It’s not just about the correlation of no Butler or Bam meaning more threes, but it’s much more about being without those two leading to less rim pressure overall. Guys like Gabe Vincent and Kyle Lowry are still generating it at a high rate, but that downhill scoring presence hasn’t really been displayed. The team’s new paint touches are worked more through quick passes off back-cuts than pure drives, which leads to a higher rate of three-point shots and quick kick-outs off spiraling defensive rotations. And when the three isn’t falling, it’ll be a long night for Miami no matter who they’re facing.

#4: Does Miami act as if Bam Adebayo is on the floor too often?

When talking about losing a franchise player for a few months, it’s hard for a group of guys to fully adjust at the snap of a finger. But with some weeks lingering by, it feels like there continues to be a reliance on finding the big on the floor in an unorthodox way. It has been the case with Dewayne Dedmon as he’d lurk sideline to sideline for hand-offs, but now Omer Yurtseven turned into that guy. For an entirety of the third quarter, the ball just kept being worked into him, which is an area of his game he’s not comfortable with at this moment. Why have PJ Tucker-KZ Okpala lineups worked seamlessly in the past? Because the team knows there isn’t a big on the floor to overwork. That’s going to be key as they move forward, and much of that usage can flip when Tyler Herro and Jimmy Butler get back in the mix.

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#5: The importance of PJ Tucker shines.

I hinted at it slightly in the last takeaway, but this topic needs its own section. A Caleb Martin can pick up for Jimmy Butler some nights. A Max Strus can pick up for Tyler Herro some nights. But only PJ Tucker can pick up for Bam Adebayo. When Tucker went down to begin that third quarter, as I highlighted in the last section, an over-reliance on others occurred. Simply, I don’t see a way to overcome the loss of Adebayo and Tucker, even against teams like this. I can go through the catalog of guys they are missing, but everything seems to get flushed without that steady offensive rock who can get them into their sets. Without that “rock,” perimeter play is spammed, the one outlet of rim pressure with off-ball cuts is eliminated, and that three-point surge is put on display even more. I’d expect Tucker to be fine, but Miami wasn’t fine tonight.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Indiana

To kick off another game without Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, Miami came out hot this time around. Kyle Lowry, Duncan Robinson, and Tyler Herro getting it done early, and Omer Yurtseven getting it done late, led to Miami’s victory over this Pacers team.

So, let’s take a look through some pretty positive takeaways this time…

#1: Is that Duncan Robinson?

Well, the Duncan Robinson breakout finally occurred on Friday night against Indiana, which trickled down to Bally Sports’ technical difficulties shortly after. Clearly not a coincidence. It was nothing new for Robinson in terms of approach, except them just actually going in. His third triple of the night was the one to harp on: gets it on the wing, fires, and-1. Shortly after, he let out some frustration to himself, which seemed like the type of breakthrough he’s been waiting for. After they started to drop, the new Robinson that many predicted coming into the season was on display. Defenders flying right by him on the slightest of shot fakes led to clear driving lanes for him to attack. He was working that floater, forcing strong defensive rotations, and got to the free throw line in a way I haven’t seen him do his entire NBA career. He’s back.

#2: Kyle Lowry doing everything early on, providing a flash from the past.

Although Robinson had to be the starting point of this one, Kyle Lowry was the player of the first half. Not just because he scored 20 points in that span, but instead the way he was doing it. Knocking down the three is always a good thing to see, but his ability to attack mismatches was the true key. That’s the flash from the past. We saw it in that one fourth quarter against the Clippers, but without Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, it must be the starring act more often. He’s clearly been pacing himself to preserve his abilities as much as possible, but it’s obvious this is the time for it to be utilized. Tyler Herro can be the number one scoring option, but Lowry needs to be scoring Lowry for them to win these games. And as he did in this one, can blend right back into his strong play-making ways as defenses overplay.

#3: PJ Tucker doing the early dirty work.

PJ Tucker’s stat-line at the half consisted of 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block. That’s pretty much PJ Tucker on a nightly basis, but tonight was slightly different just because of what was needed. We talked a lot about the need for scorers the last few nights, but with the main guys stepping up, they needed that guy down low to provide extra opportunities for them, which led to Tucker diving on the floor any chance he got. We saw some Udonis Haslem and Omer Yurtseven early on, while Dewayne Dedmon continues to be productive in his starting role, but Tucker is the key to it all working. Even after getting late Yurtseven production, they needed strong play from Tucker to even get to that point where they feel comfortable going the Yurtseven route. He was big tonight, and he’ll be even bigger as they move forward.

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#4: Tyler Herro not that bottled up spark, but the calming hand.

Tyler Herro is always going to be a spark with the way he can score the basketball at the snap of a finger, but that’s not *all* that he is. Without Butler and Adebayo, while Lowry is lined up on his side with other seasoned veterans, they’re looking to him to be that steady hand on the offensive end to either speed them up or slow them down. Like I said before, he has the keys to the offense no matter who is in or out of the lineup, but the usage is rising in this scenario. The other thing that’s currently rising: trust levels. Even while Spoelstra has trusted him to finish games since his rookie year, this is totally different. Tucker, Dedmon, Lowry, and others were waiting for him to take them where they needed to go. The 21 year old.

#5: Omer Yurtseven is ready.

Omer Yurtseven has been a garbage time killer many nights, leaving many observers wanting him to get that opportunity. Well, he got that opportunity early in this one, and it was kinda rough. He looked a bit timid, his decision making was too predictable, and was just searching for his way out there. Just like any young guy would. Spoelstra still had confidence in him through that second half for some more playing time, and he delivered. He found a rhythm in the zone defensively by altering shots, rolled with a purpose as ball-handlers found him, and stayed on his toes in an experienced fashion. Miami needed one young buck to step up over this stretch, and we’ve seen some flashes from KZ Okpala and now Yurtseven in back to back games. It’ll come down to match-ups, but Yurtseven showed tonight that he just needs time. And time will be coming his way.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Nuggets

The Miami Heat were looking for some revenge against this Denver Nuggets team, but as Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro were ruled out close to game-time, it seemed less likely.

So, here are five takeaways from this Heat loss to Denver…

#1: Kyle Lowry only first half starter to provide a consistent personal strength early.

In a game without Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, all eyes are at the guys at the top of the roster. It’s not just about those guys plugging the holes of the guys missing, but them just bringing their elite skill out the gate. Kyle Lowry was the only guy who truly provided that among that group. Bam Adebayo’s shot attempts and scoring looking to skyrocket, but that didn’t seem to pop out through the initial 24 minutes of play. So many things can be addressed about that topic, but he just doesn’t look like his fully healthy self at the moment. Duncan Robinson needed to explode from beyond the arc, but the exact opposite seems to occur. Aside from Caleb Martin’s plug and play excellence, Lowry was the only one among the top 3 to sustain his biggest skill: passing. Five first quarter assists can tell part of the story, but he just looked like an energized version of himself in this one, which was absolutely needed.

#2: Miami’s defensive fun against Chicago to defensive struggles against Denver.

Miami had some fun on Saturday night against the Chicago Bulls. No Tyler Herro meant more Gabe Vincent, ultimately meaning more 2-2-1 press and 2-3 zone. In a similar rotational setting tonight, those defensive principles could not be carried over. The reasoning is that you just cannot survive in a zone defense against Nikola Jokic, and that’s for a multitude of reasons. The main one is that a 2-3 zone calls for the big to flash to the free throw line extended, which is when Jokic is at his best. Scoring options, play-making excellence, etc. So, as Miami stayed in man for long stretches, Jokic had some more fun by attacking the Heat’s small lineups, which came up a lot in an eight man rotation. And well, no Jimmy Butler clearly dips your defensive plan.

#3: Heat’s short-handed bench only source of production.

The Heat’s first half didn’t equate to many positive takeaways, but the one semi-positive thing to note was the team’s bench production. The reason I say it’s “semi-positive” is due to the chances of winning a tough game without two of your best players, while the two bench pieces are the biggest stand-outs. But yet, they were. As Bam Adebayo’s odd struggles continue, Dewayne Dedmon was inserted and he was ready. Snatching rebounds, scoring around the rim, and obtaining more touches than many of those around him. Max Strus also came out firing, starting the game 3 for 4 from three, giving Miami some life through the muddy issues. Leading scorers at the half being Dedmon and Strus just says more about the top dogs tonight than it does about themselves.

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#4: Duncan Robinson’s shooting continues. But now, we’re past the 20 game mark.

I’ve spent many of these post-game takeaway pieces discussing the shooting of Duncan Robinson, which has been in a completely different sense compared to last season. Simply, the positional stuff, the sets he finds himself in, and the semi-shifting role must be thrown out the window at this exact moment. It’s just about…making ‘open’ three-pointers. I don’t think Robinson has found himself this wide open in the corner like he has so often this season. But it just feels like he can’t shake the mental side of this contract and new-look year. In no way is that an excuse for poor play, but it’s just the truth. He didn’t forget how to shoot and the differentiating spots aren’t *that* dramatic. It’s just about overcoming the hardest part of the game as a shooter, which now past the 20 game mark, is speeding up that ticking clock.

#5: Miami still awaiting the 4 quarter Bam Adebayo offensive focus.

There have been many points in the season this year where Bam Adebayo comes out super strong, but as the game grows closer in the fourth, that same guy isn’t there. Well, the opposite seemed to have struck in this one, as opinions were flying across social media about Adebayo’s underwhelming start. In my opinion, he definitely doesn’t look 100% as I said earlier, but if he’s out there, he needs to play up to a certain standard. That standard was finally held as he scored 15 points in the third on 10 shot attempts, ultimately showing that he’s capable of being that aggressive placeholder. The issue is that although that’s all great, the inability to display it for two full halves puts Miami in such an awkward and difficult spot by the end of it. He had decent moments when already down, but they need a tone setter in games like this.

 

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