Tag Archive for: Miami Heat

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Game 3 Win Over Boston

The Miami Heat are 1 win away from another trip to the NBA Finals.

They now lead 3-0, and man did they capitalize on that in game 3 in strong fashion.

Some takeaways…

#1: It’s 2020 again! The Adebayo-Robinson connection lives on…

As we saw in game 2 in Boston, the Heat’s adjustment to make Bam Adebayo the primary play-maker at the elbow shifted the game. Duncan Robinson and company kept figuring out the over-plays, and found back door cuts by the hand-full which Bam kept finding them on. Fast forward to game 3, it was elevated. Start things out with that simple back-door cut and feed, but then the layers were added. Hand-off, 2-on-1, Robinson holds for an extra second, and it’s a lob to a soaring Bam Adebayo. Out of the timeout, the set is a Robinson-Bam high PnR, which draws an immediate switch. Robinson feeds it to Bam with Brown on his back, who throws in a nasty spin and slam. Turnover on the other end, Heat run the floor, ball finds Bam in the lane, who swings to the corner for a Duncan 3. All of these play descriptions to say this: that duo is as pure as it gets. And this offense is as pure as it gets when they are equally clicking.

#2: Stop with the “undrafted” label. Now.

Everywhere I look on TV, or certain covergae outlets that we haven’t seen all year analyze this Heat team, has the same exact takeaway when watching this Heat team. Undrafted, undrafted, undrafted. It was a fun story the first year, but come on, it’s legitimately been 4 years. Get over it. Toward the end of the second quarter, the trio of Vincent-Robinson-Martin combined for 31 points on 12 of 16 shooting, so what’s the instant takeaway? You guessed it. It’s time to just point out these are just high level basketball players who keep performing on the largest stage. It’s not just that it’s approaching disrespect for many of these guys, it’s just a lazy, lazy way to analyze any team over years and years. Once again, get over it.

#3: Some adjustments to note…

Just for a section to type out some of the X’s and O’s shifts we saw, let’s start with right out the gates for the Heat. Miami started the game throwing Bam Adebayo at Marcus Smart. Obviously not to shut him down, but to put him in a position to just be the ultimate over-helper. That didn’t last long because Kevin Love’s injury sent Caleb Martin in to throw off match-ups, but still something. The other defensive note was the way they just mixed up the defenders for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Every time down many possessions Martin and Butler would take their turn on 1 of the 2. Doesn’t let them get comfortable. As for Boston, they just mainly sent a lot more help at Butler than in TD Garden. Shading over in mid-post and on his drives can get him out of a rhythm at times, but ultimately he will just keep making the right read. And when the Heat are hitting shots like in that first half…..

#4: One team needed to be absolutely desperate in game 3. And one team was.

The Miami Heat walked right into that Boston Celtics building in games 1 and 2, and completely took care of business in true surprising fashion. Not that they couldn’t do it, but it was the way that they did it. Totally ripping the soul out of that team in two completely different ways. Now heading back down to Miami, the Celtics need to play desperate. Real desperate. And something the Miami Heat just keep doing is playing each and every game like they’re down 3-0. That’s what they did in the first round, second round, TD Garden, and well, now in game 3. The Heat just came out firing from start to finish, which definitely helps, but they scrapped like a team that absolutely needed this win. This team went from a regular season group with zero identity to a playoff group with many identities. And stability, no matter the series lead, has definitely been high up on that list.

#5: My last takeaway: Jimmy Butler controlling a series without even talking basketball.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Celtics in Game 2

The Miami Heat walk into game 2 in TD Garden, and steal yet another one.

Grant Williams pokes the bear, in Jimmy Butler, and it all went downhill from there.

Heat up 2-0.

My takeaways:

#1: Caleb Martin continues his “close-out reading masterclass” in that first half.

I went into it deeply after game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but the role of Caleb Martin has been cut to as simple as can be. When Butler and Adebayo get doubled, be ready to pull as you are the guy they will help off of. If there’s a strong close-out, make the read and utilize your rim pressure. He’s been doing both at an incredibly high level. Looking at the first half of this game, the offense for the Heat was far from pretty, yet Martin actually stabilized it in that second quarter. Celtics give their big punch, and Martin starts getting comfortable: baseline jumper, spot-up, pump-fake and lay-in. Rinse and repeat. Let me just say, once he hits one early like he did tonight, he has you right where he wants you. He can play to his two biggest strengths against a close-out: his quick first step and attacking the high foot of his defender.

#2: Early offense: Duncan Robinson’s movement and cutting.

When dissecting some of the outer areas of the Heat’s first half, Duncan Robinson was a big part of it. The minutes distribution for Robinson and Max Strus was much different than usual, as each shooter essentially had their own quarter. Strus had a good start, but Robinson made an impact in a very unconventional way. For the first 3 minutes or so, he only had 1 field goal attempt and no actions were being run for him. On the film side, the matchup isn’t the greatest for him with the way they can flatten him with switches. So on those expected switches, he started playing the back slots with slick cuts and quick decisions. Bam Adebayo found him multiple times in that range, as the defender who is top locking his incoming hand-off, now tries to recover on his back with a layup on the way. That’s when the handoffs and pick and rolls began to work. Sometimes it’s not an adjustment, it’s just shifting a defender around a bit. Robinson did that in the second quarter.

#3: Taming the turnovers and pace watch.

I’ve heard some conversations on the national stage hinting at Miami’s game 1 win having a lot to do with pace. That could partly be true, but we also can’t mix up fast pace with early clock shots. We saw more of the latter with Miami in these playoffs, but I’m not so sure the formal consistently fits them. For example, when Boston made that second quarter 19-2 run, my main takeaway from a Heat perspective was that Kyle Lowry needed to settle them. The Celtics buckets were feeding off the crowd, running the break, and waiting for unfortunate Miami turnovers. Butler ended up coming in early, the game was slowed down, and the Heat gained back control. Pace can be increased for the obvious reasons like 2-on-1’s, Butler, Martin, or Bam using their athleticism, or Love full court dimes, but this series feels to be much more reliant on playing in the half-court and out of the Celtics game. Also the reason I said Lowry was my series X-Factor. Not just due to the scoring openings from game 1, but for the traditional point guard play.

#4: Jayson Tatum finding his 1-on-1 rhythm, so what does Miami do next?

Pretty much when Jayson Tatum had the ball in his hands, good shots were the result as he found a major isolation rhythm on both his attacks and swift step backs. As for the stretches where he slots off the ball, you could tell that Miami loves it. No more movement while the Heat can mix up more changes in their usual coverages. But as on-ball Tatum made a more frequent appearance, what do the Heat do next? Either allow him to cook and cut off the other outlets, which I never enjoy, or find a counter to throw things out of rhythm. Sort of like the way they went at Jalen Brunson, except it’s a dangerous game to play with the major difference between the Knicks and Celtics when comparing the rest of the roster. Rely on rotations and try to get the ball out of Tatum’s hands early would be a good idea, especially since if he falls in love with tough shots from deep, you live with it. Defensive adjustments are coming, since game 3 is usually when we see the biggest shift for Spoelstra.

#5: Down the stretch…

As the Celtics held a double digit lead throughout the starts of the fourth, Caleb Martin kept doing his thing: any time Boston made a run, he would swing things right back. The other guy I discussed in this piece, Duncan Robinson, held things down before Butler re-entered in the fourth. A couple of threes put Miami in a much more comfortable situation. 6 point game, 7:40 to go. Jimmy Butler and Grant Williams get into it following a Butler and-1, which felt like an interesting choice. Butler isn’t afraid to talk when he’s down. Next possession down, Butler takes Williams to the cup, easy floater. The Heat also kept leaning into their 3 man actions with Adebayo at the helm. Adebayo’s high assist number in game 2 would tell you that alone, but they kept getting great looks out of a simply back-screen or pindown for either a lay-in or three. The late game offense then turned into Jimmy Butler taking Williams one-on-one like clockwork, back to back possessions and the Heat are up 2. Under a minute to go in a 3 point game, Adebayo gets an offensive rebound for a putback to put the lead at 5. Tatum gets fouled on a three on the other end immediately after, dropping the deficit right back. So who does Miami put the ball in the hands of with the game on the line? Butler, right? Wrong, Vincent holds it, flows into a step back for the most important bucket of the night. A couple free throws later, the Heat take a 2-0 lead…

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Celtics

The Miami Heat steal game 1…again.

Jimmy Butler and crew walks into TD Garden and takes care of business.

Here’s how they did it…

#1: Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo come out aggressive.

All the focus was on Jimmy Butler entering that first quarter, but not fully for basketball reasons: everybody just wanted to know about that ankle. He answered that call early as he didn’t seem to be held back whatsoever. Celtics throw length at him, he responds with PnR’s with Bam Adebayo for tough jumpers. He was connecting, and more importantly aggressive early. Bam Adebayo was right there with him though in the aggression department. Flowing into mid range pull-ups, connecting below the rim, and just going to the basket off some screening actions really mirrored pre-All Star break production. If you looked at the early three point attempts, that would’ve told you the Heat are leaning on their stars. More in their hands means less chucks from three.

#2: Kyle Lowry coming alive.

To finish up on the early positives, a giant one was the play of Kyle Lowry. As I said before the series, I thought he was this team’s X-Factor. An action they relied on more than any other against this Celtics team has always seemed to be the Lowry-Bam PnR. They just find good offense there, and that’s exactly what Lowry did right out the gates. Three first half triples would tell you that, but it was the way he was generating them. Pull-ups in the form to replicate the loss of Tyler Herro, but more importantly they were extremely early in the shot clock. Lowry likes taking those quick transition ones, but not a frequent spot-up shooter with over 20 seconds on the shot clock. He was playing in a flow, and had that ultimate green light. Interesting to see his usage throughout the series.

#3: Celtics give their second quarter punch…

While the Heat were generating good things to start this game, they also began falling into some bad habits. The first half turnover problems would be a good place to start, since they were just extremely careless at times with the basketball. The efficiency was there, but the control was not. And well, a lot of that bled into the defense, which is where their issues were created. The Celtics were generating the shots that they wanted, and seemed much more comfortable than I expected them to look. The Heat weren’t making it tough on their creators, which is the start of a bad defensive possession. Guys like Marcus Smart can’t be destroying the point of attack defense, since Bam playing “over-helper” to Smart when Brown and Tatum on the floor is not where they want to be. The biggest surprise to me was that Haywood Highsmith wasn’t seeing any floor time, as I believed he would be needed in this matchup.

#4: Heat now give their third quarter punch…

Before I even get to the specifics of the Heat’s punch, it should be noted that they went on a 27-9 run at one point. So clearly they flipped a switch. That switch began with Bam Adebayo, who set a tone early in the third by continuing to attack and get to his pull-ups. That kept Miami in range, as Kevin Love was at the forefront of switching some momentum. He started getting into this full court touchdown passes to create some flow for Max Strus and himself, and man did that come into fruition. Strus hits an off the dribble right wing three, as Love knocks down a transition pull-up 3 in a matter of seconds. In the blink of an eye, it’s a one possession game. Now Butler was also calming things for Miami offensively as well by getting to his inside the arc slots, but the key was the turnover element. After those early turnover issues I mentioned, they completely cut them out in that third quarter. They ate Boston’s punch, and threw a haymaker right back.

#5: The fourth quarter:

With 7 and a half minutes to go, the Celtics hit a 3 to cut the lead to 5. Energy shifting, crowd getting into it, Heat need a bucket. So what do the Heat rely on? A Butler-Bam PnR. Who knew? Butler loops baseline and finds Bam in the middle of the floor for the score. Shortly after, Butler gets the Derrick White matchup that he likes, pivots until he can’t rotate again, and knocks down a tough turnaround. Back at a 9 point game. A couple Celtics possessions later, the Heat call a timeout to settle things as Boston cut it to 5 following some Jayson Tatum free throws. For the next 2 minutes, both teams felt good about the looks they were getting, but just couldn’t convert. Butler kept coming up huge with interception after interception, yet they still couldn’t score. Finally with over 2 minutes to go, Butler gets doubled, he kicks to Martin, and he hits the 3. Lead now at 7. Finally, a Butler pull-up 3 with the shot clock running out puts Miami in ultimate comfort. Recreates the game 7 pull-up 3 while he’s at it. Heat steal game 1.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Series Clinching Win Over Knicks

It wasn’t the prettiest basketball game of all time, but it was pretty typical Heat-Knicks.

They come up with the win, and the Heat are off to yet another Eastern Conference Finals.

Some takeaways from game 6…

#1: Bam Adebayo steps up in a major way.

Walking into this game 6, the Heat knew they needed an early punch in this game offensively from somebody, mostly focusing on that guy being no other than Jimmy Butler. He had a decent first quarter, but the true X-Factor was Bam Adebayo who came out absolutely firing. A 17 point first half, and it came in a multitude of ways. Elbow catches and jumpers, rim runs for crafty dunks, and pure strength in the low post. That last one is what set the tone, since he wasn’t afraid to use some body against both Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein. The energy shifted from there, as he made highlight plays on both ends to spark the group who went down 14 in that first quarter. He stepped up in a major way tonight, and saved it from slipping.

#2: Dealing with Jalen Brunson..

As much as I talked about Adebayo’s hot first half, Jalen Brunson was the guy who really took individual control in the opening 24 minutes. He had a 22 point first half, but the bigger key was the way Miami didn’t really seem to have an answer to his early punches. The Heat were actually switching up match-ups by possession, flipping his time with Gabe Vincent and Jimmy Butler to start. The only issue was that he was mostly operating against one of them at a team, meaning that Miami probably needed to send more doubles his way. He got comfortable, got off some good shots, and the Heat pretty much said they would just hold everybody else off for the remainder of the half. That somehow clawed them to a 1 point lead at the midway point.

#3: Three-point shooting still reflecting regular season.

As we watched that Milwaukee Bucks series and kept an eye on the Heat’s playoff three point shooting landing them in the 1 spot of that category, it was clear things were odd in the department of logical trends. We’ve seen the Heat decline back down to 31% across this series, and found themselves below 17% at half. Yet while it’s a great addition to their offensive blend that they most certainly need, they don’t seem as reliant on it as they once were during the regular season. That’s probably the most crucial part of it that makes them somewhat confident in the offense moving forward. High usage Butler and Bam obviously leans in that direction already, but it’s just been one of the oddest things to monitor throughout this season.

#4: Jimmy Butler watch: the ankle and the doubles.

All eyes have been on Jimmy Butler after that game 5, mostly since there’s been curiosity looming on how his ankle is feeling at the moment. Part of it is Quentin Grimes doing a good job on him, and the other part is he lacks that continued push in that post to overpower his opponent. That screams some soreness on the ankle, but hey that’s not up to me to guess. The part I do know about is the doubles Butler is seeing on a consistent basis. Mid-post, he’s seeing that second guy. Low-post, he’s possibly seeing a third guy. Catch on either wing, a Knicks big is aggressive sprinting to make him give it up. The respect levels were at an insane high, but the Heat’s primary option was going to be needed. The usual counter: middle PnR eliminates as strong of doubles. But now things loop back to the ankle, since those restrictions may hold that back.

#5: The fourth quarter…

The first 4 minutes of this quarter was ugly. Scott Foster made more highlight plays than the Knicks and Heat combined. Looking a little physical on one end down low, and a screeching whistle reoccurring on the opposing baseline. With over 7 minutes to go, Adebayo hits a needed elbow jumper off the inbound to extend it to 3. The next time down, Butler sees another double, ball moves to the opposite corner, Vincent drives and kicks, Strus top of the key triple. 82-76, 6:56 to go. The free throw frenzy continued throughout the quarter for the Knicks, really cutting any momentum Miami tried to hold. Butler and-1’s, Lowry flip shots, and more. The Heat’s clutch time file from the regular season felt like it was building up to this point. Knicks call timeout with 3:24 left, trailing by 6. Right away, Brunson hits the pull-up triple. Butler comes back with a pull-up jumper, Lowry strips it on other end, and Strus gets fouled at the rim as they push some pace. 2:20 left, Heat up 6. A Vincent flagrant foul put things right back on New York’s plate, as they had a chance to tie with 20 seconds left, only down 2. Heat force the turnover, and Butler goes to the line. 2 for 2. Miami’s on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Knicks

Heat heading back to Miami to play in a game 6.

Shooting issues, free throw shooting disparity, and Jimmy Butler looking bothered.

Some takeaways…

#1: The Heat’s first quarter defense…

The Knicks first quarter included 14 points and 7 turnovers, as everything just looked absolutely atrocious. Heat forcing them to make spot-ups, and Erik Spoelstra deploying Jimmy Butler into his most comfortable role. Bam Adebayo is the continued anchor, but Butler is the moving chess piece that can strictly wreck most actions an opposing team tries to run. For example, the Heat have stayed with that adjustment to plug Butler onto RJ Barrett. That basically means he will place 2 feet in the paint as an action is being run, ready to muck things up. Barrett missed some early shots that Butler wanted, but that gameplan didn’t stop there. Barrett foul trouble meant Josh Hart entered for him, yet Miami kept things the same. Now Butler helping down even more often. Jalen Brunson found his way in the second quarter, but the way Butler controlled that first quarter on that end was loud.

#2: Some ugly offense to start for Miami…

As the Heat walked into the half only trailing by 3, it felt like a decent spot considering some of the offensive numbers. 16% shooting from three, Butler wasn’t in that takeover mode yet, and 2 starters were a combined 3 for 14. It definitely wasn’t pretty, yet it took a big punch to start the second quarter to even put them in that position. I’ve talked often about that five man bench unit that keeps winning their minutes, but I guess you can’t go to the well too many times. They couldn’t score, and the Knicks found a high pace groove to open things up for their offense. From there, that’s when Brunson entered his scoring mode. But those are the stretches where the Heat just simply miss Tyler Herro. Somebody to create their own shot a bit, and get a unique wrinkle in the offense instead of just reacting to pick and roll coverages. Even with that, they stayed afloat.

#3: Guarding Max Strus…

I’ve been keeping some tabs on Max Strus in this series, mostly since I haven’t understood the way they’ve guarded him. He’s not a guy like Duncan Robinson who is going to run off 2 screens into a handoff before shooting. His game is to quickly pull off the catch and find gaps to put up a comfortable look. Yet the Knicks have given him more air-space than I ever imagined he would see this time of year. Game after game, his looks have felt extremely clean to me. Now when they start to crash the close-outs, he’s been willing to really attack the rim well. In his last 3 games, he has 10 two-pointers. In all of April, including regular season, play-in, and playoffs, he had 9 total two-pointers. Part of this is without Herro it’s needed, but man has that been an important thing to see from both him and this offense.

#4: Jimmy Butler not finding his Playoff Jimmy flow.

So far in these playoffs, there haven’t been many moments where Jimmy Butler looks anything close to ineffective. As the Heat’s shooting plummeted and the Knicks help peeled closer, Butler looked more out of sorts than I’ve seen in quite some time. He had trouble getting to his spots, and even more trouble finding ways to assert himself on a consistent basis. He kept making the “right basketball play” by finding the open shooter most plays, but man it didn’t feel like the correct decision with the same result coming up. Don’t know if I would blame the shooting, the ankle, or just an off night, but either way it was a necessary thing to note as the Heat had some true issues scoring cleanly. They finally found a flow to finish the third, cutting it to 10, but that wasn’t even on-ball Butler. Just an interesting game for him…

#5: The fourth quarter…

As I said before, the Heat cut it to 10 heading into the fourth, looking to make that official offensive punch. Duncan Robinson led that for a bit, as he knocked down a tough corner triple, contained on the opposite end, and flowed back down the floor into a drive and kick for the Lowry three. 7 point game, 8:30 to go. To continue that Robinson run, out of the timeout, he gets a steal as Lowry ends up in a late shot clock triple to cut it to 4. Brunson answers on the other end, and Robinson comes right back. An incredible run by him to energize Miami. Mitchell Robinson with an open dunk extended their lead back to 6 with under 6 minutes to go. The next stretch including the Heat leaning in the “hack-a-Robinson” direction, which is uncharacteristic for Spoelstra it feels. With 3:30 left, the Heat found themselves in a 5 point game as they call timeout to draw something up. Butler comes off a double drag screen, right into a pull-up. For the next few possessions, the Heat were running that same play over and over: Butler on-ball, Robinson popping for gravity, and Adebayo rolling. It got them decent looks to clear that right side of the floor, which was the idea. They force a 5 second violation with a minute to go, as Bam gets a dunk on the other end to cut it to 4. Heat foul on other end, back at 6. And well, a few free throws later, the Heat are heading back to Miami to play in game 6.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Knicks in Game 4

The Miami Heat go up 3-1 in the series, now 1 win away from the Eastern conference Finals.

Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo lead the way.

Some takeaways….

#1: Early game offense for Bam Adebayo to kick things off.

For all of the stat sheet watchers out there, Bam Adebayo is probably getting your nod of approval. On top of the usual dirty work stuff and being a defensive anchor, the Heat’s early offense included a heavy dosage of Bam down low. He kept finding slots where he would have a mismatch on his back, yet kept converting. Why is that interesting? Well, there are normally two issues with that: 1) Adebayo actually backing down his mismatch before looking to score and 2) his teammates actually getting him the ball down there with the correct spacing and enough time on the clock. Both were clicking. All of the guards kept feeding him perfectly, and he was playing extremely strong on the offensive end. Plus his isolation play in the middle of the floor was looking good. A crucial start from him and the Heat.

#2: With all of the adjustment talk, the Heat “run it back.”

If you’ve been keeping track of some of my content, you would know I’ve been tracking the adjustments from the Heat so far. (And well, Spo would know that too). The question was what the next adjustment would be. Game 1 they came out looking for RJ Barrett to beat them, as Butler took Brunson and Vincent took Barrett. They liked their chances, and it worked out. Game 2 with no Butler was a simple outlook: zone, zone, and oh wait, more zone. Fast-forward to game 3 on Saturday night, that was the big change. They stalled New York by flipping the game 1 assignments: now as Butler guarded Barrett with Vincent on Brunson. And well, the Heat came out the exact same way as game 3. The only different was Grimes inserting in for Hart meant Strus couldn’t play his help role as much. Either way, they forced good looks.

#3: I’m still monitoring the weird-ness of the Heat’s bench five.

Not only did the Heat’s bench have trouble scoring this season, they had even more trouble scoring together when they shared the floor. Non-Butler/Adebayo minutes were dreaded, yet add Tyler Herro into that fold and that’s the group that starts second quarters in the playoffs. The Kyle Lowry-Duncan Robinson-Caleb Martin-Haywood Highsmith-Cody Zeller unit walked into the game after the first quarter with only a 1 point lead. Two minutes later, Adebayo was entering for Zeller, who had a tough opening stint, and the Heat were holding onto a 4 point lead. They just keep finding ways to be positive in that time period, which anything we’ve previously learned tells you the complete opposite. Credit to Lowry mostly for keeping everything organized and taking the necessary shots.

#4: The Max Strus impact continues.

Max Strus has been having some strong starts to games as of late, as the natural reaction to the Heat’s early offense is to shade help at Jimmy Butler. He consequently found some gaps, but that’s not the only reason. This team gives him air space in a way that not many teams do, which has allowed him to get into a rhythm. The other part of his game today is the way he has been attacking these close-outs, since that’s what is opening everything else up. Lastly, he just hits the timely shots when it seems the Heat need it most. As the Knicks cut it to 4 late in the third, the tide was sort of turning. Butler comes down, runs a handoff with Strus, who confidently rises up for 3 to extend it to 7. That quickly, momentum gone. He’s even holding up on the defensive end and keeps making plays, mostly since they’ve simplified his role on that end. His production has been big.

#5: Heat playing the Knicks game late.

A primary chunk of the Knicks offense has solely been owning the offensive boards. They may not be super efficient, but they will get extra possessions for their group to capitalize on. Yet when looking at the Heat to start the fourth quarter, that exact description fits. They could not buy a bucket in the half-court, yet they kept getting saved by the energy. Caleb Martin spearheaded it with some crucial offensive boards, but everybody was fighting down there. Just a scrappy bunch of guys truly inheriting that label. The Knicks made a run back with 7 and a half to go, cutting it to 6, mostly due to that continued run of shots not dropping. Out of that timeout, Butler answers with an up and under inside to pull momentum again. The point is that when it felt like the Knicks could make a true run to an even margin, the Heat played New York’s game to hold them off.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Knicks in Game 3

The Miami Heat completely took care of business in game 3 from start to finish.

Jimmy Butler looked as healthy as ever, Bam Adebayo held a major impact on the outer lines, and Erik Spoelstra just out-coached the Knicks in this one.

Some takeaways…

#1: Erik Spoelstra opens things up with the adjustments…

The Heat put up a 58 point first half in game 3, and we can walk up and down the roster to talk individual players and how they were utilized. But nothing shined more to me than the Erik Spoelstra game-plan. For starters, we saw a defensive shift in match-ups with Jimmy Butler now on RJ Barrett and Gabe Vincent on Jalen Brunson. They cut off the Knicks early game-plan and fed off their stops. As for the offense in that first quarter, they just simply abandoned the three ball. They shot 1 for 5, but it just felt like a focus to attack the paint more. It wasn’t even just Butler: Adebayo was decisive and Max Strus was rushing the paint. Things were just clicking. As they shrunk the court a bit, that set up some early second quarter success from deep. A blitz on Lowry found Robinson an open three, into a Highsmith triple the following play. Spoelstra didn’t sit back and react: he pressed up.

#2: Kyle Lowry just keeps stabilizing.

As I talk about some of that first half offense from the Heat, it felt like there was somebody that needed to be discussed a bit more: Kyle Lowry. It was clear in game 2 that they needed more, and man did he come out with some burst in this game 3. Getting to the basket, reading the defense, and really setting up others in the process. The more intriguing part of that was the lineup he was in: Lowry-Robinson-Martin-Highsmith-Zeller. That five man unit was getting extended run in a conference semis playoff game, and it looked good. Zeller deserves some credit for his solid minutes of rebounding and rim diving, but it just comes back to Lowry with the way he was setting him up. That version of him makes them look different. A good different.

#3: Jimmy Butler’s ankle looking good, his game looking great.

The big question heading into this game was how Jimmy Butler would look following that ankle injury. Getting almost a week off felt like a big deal in his recovery process, but would he be moving in pre-injury form? Some may argue he looked even better after he decided to go up for a double clutch reverse dunk after the whistle. But all jokes aside, he just kept getting to his spots yet again. The only thing he wasn’t getting was the usual foul calls on many of his contact drives. For some reason, they were letting them play a bit, which is fine once it’s consistent. But as I said after game 2, the biggest change would be on the defensive end. Not only the shifting match-ups, but some of the plays he was making on-ball with contests. There’s also the helping element at the nail that they missed to counter Brunson. Either way, his ankle looked good and he looked great.

#4: Bam Adebayo stepping up in a different way: doing the dirty work.

Bam Adebayo has been a hot topic in these playoffs for the Heat, mostly in the opposite manner of Jimmy Butler. Adebayo’s name keeps coming up due to his offensive production tailing off to start this post-season. With back to back similar defensive looks to start the playoffs, his shots are essentially coming from the same spot on the floor every night. So aside from his high level defensive impact, where can he make his mark? He answered that in game 3. Doing the dirty work, scrapping down low, and absolutely fighting on the boards for extra possessions. When talking impact, he was just flying around out there wherever the ball bounced. As the offense isn’t flowing as smoothly as it once was for him, finding ways to really create positive scoring opportunities is huge. He did that in this one.

#5: Oh, so they don’t need 3 point shooting?

As the Heat hold a 20 point lead early in the fourth quarter with the offense still clicking, one stat would jump off the page while scanning it: the Heat’s 3 point shooting. They were at 27% shooting from deep at that point, and not once did that seem problematic. They had some timely open threes that were created off the constant paint attacks, but this shot profile simply doesn’t make much sense. The one way to add some context is the Knicks on the other end were just taking some horrible shots. That blended into the defense at times, but Heat were dictating at all times no matter the offensive creator. Game 3 can be a big swing in these situations, and man did Miami come with the necessary fire. Onto game 4.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Knicks

No Jimmy Butler, no Tyler Herro. Tough task ahead for the Heat in game 2.

But the Heat show major fight all the way through, but the lack of that fourth quarter closer leaves them short.

1-1, heading back to Miami.

#1: Heat adjusting back to that 2-3 zone.

As there was some potential that the Heat could be playing without Jimmy Butler in game 2, that left me with one adjustment in mind that Spoelstra would lean to heavily: the 2-3 zone. It puts your role player bunch in a much more settling scheme, as you also want to force a team who barely shot 20% from three in game 1 into those exact looks. So the Heat’s first half of game 2 consisted of a heavy dosage of it, while the Knicks knocked down 35% of them. Better than game 1, but the Heat dictated the shots for New York. Win for Miami. The only issue at times with that adjustment is that it can hurt the rebounding, but it was only a 6 board deficit at half and didn’t feel overwhelming at any point. But Love was doings this positionally, Highsmith swarmed, Adebayo anchored, and the guards played their role enough. It was a win for the defense in the first 24 minutes.

#2: Who replicates Jimmy Butler’s rim pressure? We got that answer.

When it came to the offensive side of things, the blueprint was clear: Bam Adebayo and shooting. The one question I had was if they could get decent enough looks without having much rim pressure on the roster tonight, but man did one guy emerge in that range. Caleb Martin not only slotted into Butler’s starting role, but he was slashing with a purpose and getting to the rim consistently. That was the turning point for the offense early. They also had him playing much more of a ball-handling role to free up Vincent at times and pull certain defenders away from the play. His usage was absolutely perfect to start this game, and he was also capitalizing on his looks. We shouldn’t be surprised, since he has been filling in for whatever is needed all year, but this was big time stuff.

#3: Haywood Highsmith minutes…

As Martin got a nightly promotion, so did Haywood Highsmith right behind him. He’s a player that can do his job on the defensive end when you need him to, and man did he do that early. Getting into the body of Julius Randle, even as he hit tough shots, but the point was that he was making him at least semi-uncomfortable. Then as I talked about the zone earlier, that seems to be his happy place. When he can just run around and disrupt, it’s when he looks his best. But his impact didn’t stop with the defensive side of the ball. They were actually using him as an offensive hub early in this game. Setting up handoffs, flipping dunker spots, filling that corner. One play stood out: screen for Robinson into a Adebayo hand-off, both defenders job at Robinson, Highsmith slips down the right slot as Bam hits him. 3-on-2 and they get a score out of it. His minutes are always situational, but man does he impact in that short stint. He still needs to tame the turnovers and rushed on-ball reps, but that’s in due time. Not everything at once…

#4: Outcome aside, one thing is clear: this Heat team is extremely confident.

As I walked out of the Heat’s practice an hour before they got on their flight to New York before game 1, one thing struck me: this team is confident from top to bottom. An 8 seed? With top of the roster injuries? Yes. After taking out the Bucks in that first round, they have this mentality that they can beat anybody, which you simply need to have in this league. Fast forward to the day of game 2, my main thought process to playing without Butler was that this is house money. It’s a trap game potentially for the Knicks that they absolutely need to get, and well, the Heat’s guys can go out there and play freely. An overly confident team getting to play free? That’s always a fun combo. And as the Heat walked out of the third with a 1 point lead, there’s no doubt this team’s role guys are as confident in their individual abilities as ever. The only issue was they don’t have that pure closing ability that Butler, or even Herro, have to put things away late.

#5: The fourth quarter…

As the Heat lead by 1 heading into the fourth, it was clear they were going to need a go-to scorer to settle this group. Hello, Gabe Vincent. Vincent went into a semi-Butler mode over a 3 possession stretch: spot-up three, insanely contested pull-up 3, tough flip shot in the lane. He was channeling an insane version of himself. Now with extra attention the next time down, he finds Martin weak-side for the triple. Past two-way contracts, current playoff saviors. But yet, the Knicks make their run right back into a tie game, behind some favorable calls that they got along the way to extend some plays. Either way, it was 93-93 with 6 minutes left. Vincent answered with another possession of drawing attention, right into a pull-up 3 where he gets fouled. Three free throws. The longest play of all time follows that with Hartenstein’s rebounding, finally into a Hart 3 in the corner. Energy shifting, Heat miss, Brunson pulls up for 3, and the Garden goes nuts. Knicks now up 3. Another missed call doesn’t go Miami’s way as the ball grazes the rim before a Vincent put-back, but called a shot clock violation. Lowry hits a floater, then finds Bam on the roll for a tough lay. 1 point game. But the Knicks respond with a Hart corner triple. Back to four. And well, they ran away from there as they fed off the energy on offense. But it wasn’t completely over yet. They still fought, Vincent lays it in, and Randle commits an over the line violation. Inbound, Robinson catch, Robinson 3. Somehow a 3 point game again with 22 seconds left. Knicks make 2 free throws, Heat miss on other end, and that’ll do it.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Knicks

The Miami Heat walk into the Garden and take care of business yet again.

Battling through more and more injuries, getting big time contributions down the roster, and a Kyle Lowry fourth quarter masterclass.

Some takeaways as the Heat go up 1-0 in the series.

#1: Taking a look at the Heat’s matchups, and defensive structure.

As I was hinting at before the series, Jalen Brunson is the head of the snake, so they need to try and cut him off early. That means Jimmy Butler should get the assignment, especially since Erik Spoelstra always dares RJ Barrett to beat them with Gabe Vincent defending. With all of that said, the Knicks were having their way on the interior pretty much the whole first half. How? Brunson was doing Brunson type things by getting to his spots in that mid-range and play-making from there. While I mentioned Butler defending him, it didn’t matter since the Heat were giving up switches all over the place. Attacking Max Strus or Duncan Robinson, sliding by Kyle Lowry to get inside. It may not be an individual assignment. It’s about loading up with extra help most likely. We will see the adjustments to come.

#2: So, the bench points?

If there was a positive for the Heat heading into halftime, it was that they only trailed by 5 in a game that felt like a grind on both ends. One of the main reasons for that aside from Gabe Vincent’s shot making? The Heat’s bench coming to play. When I asked Duncan Robinson about that total flip from regular season to playoffs, he told me it’s “rising to the occasion.” Kyle Lowry felt important in that first half to control things on-ball a good bit when Butler went to the bench or when he needed to get the insert pass in the low post. Caleb Martin was their source of instant energy and perimeter defense, but he also did a good job of trying to attack off the help that got sent away from him and onto Butler. Miami had 16 bench points to the Knicks’ 10, which felt like a battle that was going in the opposite direction.

#3: The Knicks eyeing down Jimmy Butler.

While both teams do play a similar base in drop coverage, the defensive structure of the Bucks and Knicks is completely different. The Knicks play higher up to the level, they load up on-ball, and well, they’ll adjust to send more help at the main threat, which in this case is Jimmy Butler. He opened the game 1 for 4, and credit to Josh Hart for digging into him down low in a way he honestly didn’t feel in the first round. But as I said, this was more team wide. Every drive to the basket was met by his defender, the roller’s defender, and the corner shooter’s defender. He was seeing three guys around him consistently, which forced him to play that play-making role with the reliance on shooting. Clearly, that’s what you want as a defense. He still found ways to work through that in his own ways, but this just sets the blueprint for the series. He’s going to be working through some shifting adjustments this time around.

#4: Kevin Love’s timely moments, making the outlet pass.

When it comes to third quarter takeaways as the Heat made a bit of a run, there wasn’t one bigger than the energy shift from Kevin Love. He got things started with a pick and pop with Butler as both defenders flew down, yet Love knocked down the open left wing three to make them pay. Timely. Shortly after, the Heat got in a defensive flow by getting some stops and securing the boards, and Love took things upon himself to make plays. Flings it down the floor to Strus for the layup. A few plays later, overhead pass down the floor to Butler over the top: layup. Then capitalizes on one final one to Butler in stride to force a Knicks timeout. The half-court offense was a grind with the Butler doubles, but Love getting the outlet passes going and playing into the open floor was a game changer. He’s been crucial in this post-season so far.

#5: Kyle Lowry’s fourth quarter masterclass.

As the Heat led by 6 walking into the fourth quarter with Jimmy Butler ready to stay on the floor the entire second half, they needed to find ways to close it out. Kyle Lowry did a good job of settling the offense with the necessary pull-ups that they’re missing without Tyler Herro. He found his shot multiple times at the head of the offense, keeping the Knicks on-ball defense honest to a degree, for somebody not named Jimmy Butler. With 6 and a half minutes left, the Knicks call timeout to settle their group as they trail 93-86. The Knicks made a run, but that’s not why things got dark. Butler drove to the basket, turned his ankle, and went down. He was in clear pain, but eventually got up to shoot his free throws. Better yet, he stayed in the game. Lowry decided to make a pair of game changing plays, making a swiping steal to force an extra possession then forcing a jump ball in the lane. Shortly after, he takes a baseline pull-up out of the timeout and knocks it down yet again. Full Kyle Lowry masterclass on both ends.



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Caleb Martin, Duncan Robinson on some Heat-Knicks schematics, Playoff Jimmy, and more

From any Heat fan’s perspective following the Heat’s game 4 and 5 wins to close out the Bucks, you would usually get the same answer when thinking about the all time performances from Jimmy Butler.

When asking his teammates that same question 60 hours after it’s past by, you get the same exact response.

Simply, amazement.

When I rehashed his play to Caleb Martin, he looks at me and laughs, saying: “That was very new to me bro.”

“Obviously one of the best performances I’ve seen in the league in the four years I’ve been here,” he continued. “It was pretty dope to see.”

Duncan Robinson’s take was very similar, as he starts off saying: “That was crazy. That was 1 of 1. That was a special performance.”

Everybody’s minds are on New York, but everybody’s hearts are still in that Milwaukee series just a tad. It’s human nature, following a series of events that just simply are tough to just “wear off.”

To continue on the Butler subject, after his 56 point night in game 4, I asked him a rather simple question: “Is Playoff Jimmy a thing?”

It’s something he has denied in the past, and he flowed right back into the sentiment telling me, “It’s not a thing. It’s not. I just be hoopin.” The latter portion is definitely true as he was giving every Bucks defender buckets in that series, but it’s hard to eye down this production from him in April and May every year and say there isn’t a trend.

So, I talked to multiple teammates and brought up the “Playoff Butler” label that he’s gotten.

Robinson quickly cuts in with “If he says it’s not a thing, it’s not a thing. He’s a great player regardless of the time of year. When the competition is at its highest, I think that’s when he’s probably his best.”

That last part is the answer I’ve gotten from anybody I’ve brought it up to. Martin told me, “That’s just Jimmy. I don’t think it’s Playoff Jimmy, I think that’s just Jimmy, it’s who he is.”

“He’s a competitor and it just comes around that time of year with the highest level of competition, so it just comes out,” he adds.

All of this Butler propaganda leads us into the true story 24 hours before game 1 of the second round between the Heat and Knicks: we know Butler is playing at an incredible level right now, and so do the Knicks who are being directed by somebody Butler knows well, Tom Thibodeau.

To that point, Butler is not going to see anywhere close to the same amount of single coverage that he saw in the Milwaukee Bucks series. The Knicks are going to send doubles his way, so a major way to open things up is by the guy being helped off of makes them pay.

Many times this season, that guy is Caleb Martin.

“I get to come in knowing how I’ll get those open looks,” Martin said about reacting to his defender being a helper. “I just gotta be ready to knock them down.”

As for Robinson, he won’t be as lucky to be dipped off of on the perimeter. “He’ll (Jimmy) probably see different coverages throughout the course of it. They’ll mix up a few different things. For us, it’s just about being ready to make a play and be aggressive. Not just reactive, but proactive and try to make something happen.”

The other main element about this series for Martin is going to be the baseline roaming aspect. Why in this series compared to the first round? Well, while both series involve a heavy amount of drop coverage, it’s a total different scheme.

Robinson even detailed some of the obvious differences, “They guard it very differently. With the way Milwaukee was guarding, really not giving away a lot of air space, especially on like kick-outs and stuff like that. It’s different schemes, but you just gotta find a way to attack it.”

The Bucks use their dropping big to completely protect the rim with helpers on the side, while the Knicks run Mitchell Robinson much higher up to the level. When bringing up the schematics favoring Martin in that realm, he felt the same way by operating corner to corner.

“Definitely get on the baseline and those slides will be very important for spacing. Obviously for our rollers, for Bam to get open against those taller, longer guys. Mitchell Robinson is a guy we have to try and get him out of position a lot, and that’s going to do a lot with our drives and our slides.”

Out of all the conversations I had today on the schematic side of things, that was by far my biggest takeaway. The Heat are heavily focused on moving Mitchell Robinson into different spots to find offensive openings. The Knicks can do some intriguing things defensively, but Miami can bend certain things in a way that they just couldn’t against the Bucks.

With Milwaukee staying in that base and not adjusting, Miami walked in knowing what shots they were getting every night.

On that same Mitchell Robinson topic, they’re trying to move him in ways to force easier looks for Bam Adebayo. As I mentioned here, it’s about getting him behind the second line defense more often to get to the rim.

Now that Tyler Herro won’t be involved in this series again, it puts more pressure on some of the other guards to shine as pocket passers in that PnR or other Heat sets. And in my opinion, Duncan Robinson could be the best pocket passer on the squad.

I brought up the focus to get Bam to the rim in this series with that higher drop, which he responded, “It’s an important aspect for sure, just getting the ball back to Bam really regardless of what the coverage is. Just try to get it back to him so he can play-make and be aggressive, so definitely a component for sure.”

Just as the Heat are going to try to move Mitchell Robinson around defensively for openings, Jalen Brunson is going to try and shift things for the Heat defensively. I personally believe Butler starts on Brunson, but Martin is going to see a good amount of time on him as well when there’s not a switch.

What makes guarding Brunson different than some of the guards in the Bucks series?

“He’s very patient, very crafty,” Martin starts to note. “He knows what he wants to do, very poised, not very sped up at all. So that’s going to be the biggest thing: staying down on shot fakes and being disciplined.”

It’s going to be a series of on-court counters, and the Heat seem prepared. Let Jimmy Butler off his leash, see the reaction to him, then react to the reaction.

Should be a good one.

(Extra content)

One last thing away from the court, that Caleb Martin shot in the corner on Giannis Antetokounmpo right before an amazing celebration just keeps gaining attention for obvious reasons.

Is it going to make an appearance in the garden?

“It might come out again.”

Where did it come from?

“It just came to me in the moment.”