Well, the Miami Heat get handed an unexpected loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who currently hold the worst record in the league. All of the issues that are continually mentioned can be thrown around again, but after a loss like this, it’s truly tough to pinpoint the small stuff. Anyway, let’s take a look at five takeaways from this game specifically…
#1: An inconsistent first half strikes again.
There’s been a common theme for the Miami Heat over this past stretch, which is a super explosive first quarter, followed by a tough start to the second quarter. Now, they did turn it around to finish the second quarter, but the defense just never seems to turn it on at that point. A big reason for that is the personnel being so one sided in the rotation, due to the bench having some defensive liabilities, which is noticed even more with Andre Iguodala out. But they also need offensive consistency, which falls on the back-up back-court with Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro. One seems to be getting held back due to lack of burst, while the other is just holding himself back. When they aren’t being selfish with the ball in their hands, no offense is generated, while the starters get into their offense much quicker.
#2: The evolving offensive fit of Trevor Ariza.
Trevor Ariza has been one of the five takeaways over the past three games, and everyone of these quick evaluations are getting better and better. The first time just talked about his continued defensive fit, since he was effective on that end immediately with instinctive doubles and ability to hit passing lanes at an elite level. He led the way for Miami at the half with 16 points, showcasing that 3 and D label in an advanced way. Although we’ve basically expected that shot to fall eventually, the part that must be harped on is his growing fit in the scheme. That was headlined tonight by the off-ball cutting throughout, leading to easy layups or open kick-outs. They’ve missed that ability at the four spot for some time, but now they have somebody who can give them just about everything.
#3: Max Strus in, Max Strus producing.
Well, Max Strus got some run tonight, which may have had something to do with Iguodala being out, or possibly to spark the offense. And that’s the part that I’ve been harping on for some time, since if nobody can spark offense, why not throw in that type of shooting who produces every time he gets an opportunity? When I say immediately produce, I mean just that, since he knocked down a corner three in a matter of seconds of being checked in. They’re getting to a point where he must be utilized more, and possibly in a variety of ways. When having a shooter like Duncan Robinson on the roster, it’s not just about interchanging the two, but more importantly using them together to possibly generate more looks for Robinson, or get even more looks for Strus due to the amount of attention Robinson gets.
#4: Stating the obvious: Jimmy Butler the continued engine.
Not mentioning Jimmy Butler following this game would be offensive to post-game analysis. He is the engine of this team on both ends of the floor, which is an obvious statement, but the fact that he is the sole reason they stayed in a game against the worst team in the league is an interesting statement. For starters, the continued discussion with this team is that he is their only downhill threat, but he’s a pretty good one to have. He can collapse the entire defense by just one slight decline in his shoulder, which is quite the ability to have. He also becomes the forever moving defender when Adebayo is on the sideline, as he doubles, picks up bigs in the post, and wrecks havoc on the perimeter to clog passing lanes and create transition offense. And when discussing transition offense, Butler is the only guy who can consistently take it up strong on the fast-break.
#5: Another rough night for Tyler Herro, so what is next?
Tyler Herro struggled once again tonight, with a low point performance, but more importantly a low efficiency night. As I’ve discussed many times, this team can’t afford this type of production from Herro, since the bench drop-off has shown to be quite the issue up until this point. This refers back to guys like Max Strus and Gabe Vincent being inserted, due to the continued search for any type of spark. But what is next for Herro? Well, a Miami Heat coach/player answer will be that it will fall into place eventually, just like the Duncan Robinson slump, but I’m not so sure it’s that simple. They moved him to the bench so he can thrive in a comfortable role, but the issue is that he hasn’t looked comfortable at all lately. It doesn’t mean his role in the rotation should change, but I do believe there can be certain places to insert him in the offense to push him back in the right direction.