Tag Archive for: Miami Heat

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.”

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Series Clinching Win Over Bucks

With a 3-1 lead, the Heat headed right into Milwaukee for the potential closeout game.

Another Jimmy Butler/Heat comeback late in the fourth led to a wild finish.

Heat head to the second round…

Some takeaways…

#1: The early pull-up shooting from the PG crew: Gabe Vincent and Kyle Lowry.

Well, when it comes to the need for Jimmy Butler to get some help, it starts with pull-up shooting. Against this defense, a couple pull-ups can shift the profile for everyone. And well, Gabe Vincent and Kyle Lowry did that. On one hand you could point out Vincent having a higher usage and more shot attempts than Jimmy Butler at half, but he had 16 points on 50% shooting up to that point. It wasn’t even three point shooting dominance, it was finding gaps in those mid-range jumper pull-ups. As he exited and Kyle Lowry entered, he played a very similar game except he did it from beyond the arc. That put Miami in a pretty decent position offensively aside from the Butler bursts.

#2: The free throw shooting disparity.

24 to 8. That was the free throw shooting disparity at half between the Bucks and Heat, as Milwaukee tripled them up to that point. Luckily for Miami, the Bucks only knocked down 63% of those, but man was that whistle blowing often when it came to the attacks from the Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo flying down the lane is as tough of a spot to be in when it comes to being a defender on the Miami Heat. Even if he initiates contact, it’s tough to recover as the foul is already in the process of being called. This isn’t even a moment of referee complaining, it’s recognizing Miami’s position as they fight to find a defensive structure that works. It pretty much looked like this in simple terms: no Bam means double, Bam means allow single coverage. All jokes aside, it felt like a win for Miami to survive that disparity and walk into half with only a 6 point deficit.

#3: Bam Adebayo tough times continue, but shows up when it matters…

There’s no doubt in my mind that Bam Adebayo is slightly injured at the moment. His bottom half seems to restrict him at times for total burst, but with that I add: those limitations aren’t an excuse for his recent play. No Tyler Herro meant he would be the clear cut secondary offensive option in this series. Yet it hasn’t felt like a trusted source. A 1 for 7 shooting first half sums it up decently well, but he just continues to get great looks inside the lane. Short jumpers, timely drives to the basket. He just can’t seem to connect right now. I think we’re also past the point of the reasoning being the need for actions being run for him. The shots just need to fall. And that’s what happened late in the fourth into OT on his way to a triple double. The passing and defense was loud and needed, before he fouled out late in OT.

#4: Third quarter: hot shooting from Bucks, cold perimeter defense from Heat.

It took until the third quarter before I found a game 2 theme, when they were in this building last. They matched energy and shot making early, but I kept saying they needed to find a way to slow it down or muck things up, because once the water shuts off for a stretch, it could get dicey. And well, the Bucks made that run late in the third as the Heat’s half court offense hit a wall. But the bigger key about that run was the Heat’s perimeter defense was mirroring game 2. The shooting was just tough to deal with from deep at that point from Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, but man Miami wasn’t making it any easier on themselves. You know what I sensed at that point: fatigue. The defense began to look lazier and much more tired with much of the close-outs, and yeah, that’s just a tough thing to fight against.

#5: Late-game madness…

102-86. The Bucks late 3rd quarter push felt like just the beginning as they took over the energy and flow. Yet with Jimmy Butler taking a breather, the Heat made the push. Adebayo still struggling to find his shot gets a tough left handed hook to drop, leading into a Love three off the kick. 8:30 to go, and Miami has cut it to 8. Spoelstra tried to get away with giving Butler some extra time of rest, but it felt like they squeezed as much as they could out of that five. Butler entered, and a Jrue Holiday step back 3 later it’s a double digit lead again. For the next few minutes, the odd part about the Heat’s defense was the placement of Butler. A lot of off-ball corner sitting with others running the offense. But then the 5 minute mark hit. He knocks down a pull-up elbow jumper, Strus get a block at the rim on the other end, and Heat finish the stretch with a Bam-Butler high/low action for the Butler finish. 5 point game. With the flow shifting now, they send Love off the screen for the three, but it’s off the mark. On the other end, Matthews knocks down a similar look, pushing the lead to 8 for a major swing. The Heat’s response: high-low from Bam to Jimmy for floater, high-low from Bam to Jimmy for layup and-1, Butler three. What a run. Antetokounmpo answers with an and-1 layup, as Bam Adebayo comes back with the jumper. Tie game. Middleton was fouled and sent to the line with under 30 seconds left, as they take a 2 point lead. Timeout. Butler and the Heat go for the kill yet again, as a right wing triple is the look for Butler, but it’s off the mark. Two Bucks free throws and they’re down 4. Heat inbound quickly and a Vincent pull-up triple cuts it to 1. Bucks throw it in, ball was loose, Lowry and Middleton fight for it, and a foul was called. Heat challenge, was successful, and ends in a jump ball at mid-court. Holiday gets fouled, knocks down 1 of 2, and Heat trail by 2 with 2 seconds left. Wild inbound play sends Butler to the rim, Vincent lobs, Butler finishes while falling to send to OT. Insane. Some more Butler madness continued with tough buckets, as the Heat have a 5 point lead with 2 minutes left in OT. Miami takes control late with a foul on a Strus three, as the Heat head to the second round…

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Bucks

Let’s just say this:

Jimmy Butler is just insane.

Some takeaways…

#1: More incredible first quarter heroics from Jimmy Butler.

Well, 22 points on 9 of 10 shooting would be a pretty good game for somebody in this league. But try a quarter, as that was Jimmy Butler’s line after 12 minutes of play. The one stretch that turned it around included: a Love pick and pop with the expectation of an Antetokounmpo switch turning into a dive and dunk on Giannis, a pull-up 3 as Holiday sags off, takes Antetokounmpo in the low post before converting on a tough right hand scoop, and a transition elbow jumper. Oh, by the way, this was a minute and a half span. He completely took over in that opening quarter and couldn’t miss, with anything he touched turning to gold. I often detail his polished schematic reads, but if I can be honest: the dude was just hooping at the highest level.

#2: The beams pointing right at Bam Adebayo as Butler searches for help.

The first half stat-line: 2 points and 2 turnovers? A -11 in only 10 minutes of play? It was just bad, when it comes down to the level they needed from him. As I detailed before the game, they were intentional about running plays for him to start. Those first two possessions were a Adebayo elbow isolation into a turnover and a low box screen into a block at the rim by Brook Lopez. Just brutal results. He then picked up a pair of fouls and had to exit early, but that was far from the biggest problem. He just wasn’t acting as a primary offensive option, as that mid-range space wasn’t being utilized in that drop. This team simply won’t let him attack, and it seems to tap into the mental side for him. Just a bad first half, as Butler had to carry along his Minnesota third stringers.

#3: Role player evaluation: Duncan Robinson adding some offense, Haywood Highsmith bringing the defense.

As I detailed earlier, there wasn’t much help being thrown around from the Miami Heat early. But there were two guys that did their job. Duncan Robinson came out firing like birthday Duncan, as his shot just seems as confident as ever. First play of second quarter was a DHO for Robinson, blending into some high PnR stuff for pull-ups. He was doing the needed things as that spacer and filler for Tyler Herro. As for Haywood Highsmith, he entered after that Bam Adebayo foul trouble, and man was he doing the dirty-work. Hounding in the zone, defending post-ups, rebounding. He was playing a role that the Heat desperately need usually, but wasn’t as noticeable as the flashy scoring stuff just wasn’t there as a unit. But just two guys to keep some tabs on.

#4: The Bucks front-court….

The defensive front-court combo of Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the toughest to face in the league. Lopez just planted under the rim for rim protection as Antetokounmpo lurks weak-side for lengthy help. But well, they were even more noticeable offensively in this one. Should be noted that Antetokounmpo didn’t look to be favoring that back at all, aside from his sideline standing instead of sitting down with the potential of it locking up. His transition play was dominant, his half-court attacks put major pressure on Miami, and it opened up his big man partner. Lopez was the guy who really tore them up at all three levels. Efficiency from deep, activity around the rim offensively, and just a force for most match-ups. Each game has been a new story, but when those guys are that efficient, it’s tough to overcome…

#5: The fourth quarter…

As we sat back watching a Lowry-Vincent-Robinson-Martin-Zeller lineup to start the 4th, the feeling was in the air that this game had passed far from their grasp. But then you hear those words: “Jimmy Butler checks into the game.” A few floaters later, midway through the fourth, you kind of looked up saying to yourself: “how is this only a 9 point game?” With 6:30 left on the clock, Heat call timeout following Butler coming up with the fumble in the bottom of the pile. As Lowry throws it in with 2 seconds on the shot clock, he throws it right to a plethora of Bucks defenders who go in the other direction. Sums it up well. Even with that gut-punch, it’s somehow an 8 point after a Butler pull-up in transtion? Off a miss, he drives on Middleton to the cup: and-1. 5 point game. Just insanity. Back to defense, Lowry on Holiday strips it away, Martin grabs it, and gets fouled off a strong attack. 3 point game. Martin bangs a foot on the line jumper in the corner with the place going nuts, as Miami forces a turnover into a Butler dunk. Heat up 1. How? I have no clue. Antetokounmpo comes back with an and-1, as Martin swings right back with a triple. With energy shifting back and forth, a cold blooded three by Holiday puts them up 2. Fast forward to the Butler takeover: pull-up 3 after pull-up 3. Heat up 3 with 58 seconds left. And Butler closes it out. Heat up 3-1.



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

The Heat took care of business in game 3 behind Jimmy Butler’s leading play, but everybody followed behind for a leveled stat sheet across the board. High level shooting helps.

Before I talk about the game though, the air was sucked out of the building after Victor Oladipo had another incident.

His knee buckled, the stretcher came out which he declined, and the entire Heat bench was in pain.

Some takeaways…

#1: Jimmy Butler’s first quarter masterclass…

Jimmy Butler dropped 17 points in the opening 12 minutes of this game, but that base stat wasn’t the impressive part. It was how he was doing it. For one, he decided to form into Steph Curry mid-quarter which was a fun twist. Three triples in that span as the Bucks were basically daring him to take it. Screen comes, Jrue Holiday disrespectfully slips under staring, and Butler just kept capitalizing. But the true art of that quarter was that he scored 17 points with absolutely elite defense being played on him. When it comes down to players defending Jimmy Butler, not many do as good a job as Jrue Holiday does. Strength, quickness, and overall activity. Yet Butler didn’t care. It wasn’t even affecting him, which made that first quarter one of the best I’ve seen him play. (Which says A LOT)

#2: Happy Birthday, Duncan Robinson???

Who would be the 8th guy? That was a common question pregame around the arena after Kevin Love officially got the start. After Kyle Lowry and Caleb Martin, would they go big with Cody Zeller? Defense with Victor Oladipo or shooting with Duncan Robinson? Well, he actually went with both of those last two options. And before I get to the first guy, man was it good to see Robinson play like that. Early in the second quarter, he runs a pick and roll in an empty corner, finds space on the left wing, and knocks it down. Right after, he sprints toward Bam Adebayo for a hand-off on the short wing, hitting a tough fade-away to provide that spark. To cap off his run, a transition possession led by Oladipo leads to a toss to Robinson running full speed, who bangs another one. They need any role player fire they can get with Tyler Herro out, and that version of Duncan is a cool sight.

#3: From a game perspective, Victor Oladipo showed out. But an unfortunate end to the game…

I often express the two sides of the Victor Oladipo experience. As he sits outside the rotation looking in, the uneven shot selection seems to hold him back, while the perimeter defense is screaming to be utilized. As Coach Spo called on him to replace Jimmy Butler for the final 24 seconds of the first quarter, it was a loud 24 seconds. Inbound to Holiday as Oladipo presses, moving laterally off every burst Jrue tries to make. Ends in a miss at the rim as he hounded, leading into second quarter minutes. Did that short span win him his playing time tonight? I believe so. He continued to do some incredible on-ball things with his overall activity, which leaves you unable to keep your eyes off of it. Then the finish to the game ended in that scene I detailed earlier. Extremely sad stuff.

#4: Caleb Martin: the connector role to perfection.

There were some loud performances across the Heat’s roster tonight that deserved praise. Certain scorers, other defenders. But the most underrated and necessary of them all to me was Caleb Martin. The complete definition of a bridge on both ends. Defensively he didn’t have many 1-on-1 challenges with the Heat’s shaded help constantly, but his back-line consistency was big on that end. As for the offense, he was generating a lot of the good things that we were seeing. Pushing pace to get things brewing in the open court, but mostly his overall movement in the half-court. Quick slashes, hitting guys in the dunker spot on the move, and needed attacks. Wasn’t anything flashy, but I thought he was big in this one.

#5: It’s 2-1. Time to really pounce on this series.

We still don’t know the status of Giannis Antetokounmpo moving forward, but I’d guess he’s making a strong push to return Monday in game 4 as they have a chance to go down 3-1 in the series. But the issue is we have to monitor of everybody, as Jimmy Butler took a similar spill in this game that sent him to the locker room. Either way, the Bucks are going to be hungry. Yet the Heat need to be hungrier. We saw this play out in Milwaukee this week, as the Heat punched first then followed it up with a no energy performance in game 2. They should’ve learned their lesson though, now it’s time to take control of the series. Barring Jimmy Butler’s health, Monday is the true needle pusher.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Bucks in Game 2

Giannis Antetokounmpo missing, and the Bucks not missing should sum this game up pretty well.

An offensive explosion leaves the Heat in the dust as they tie up the series 1-1.

Heat head back to Miami to protect home court.

But first, some takeaways from game 2…

#1: The Bucks insanely dominant offensive first half, the Heat’s underwhelming perimeter defense.

When it comes to describing the ways that first half went aside from listing off 81 points scored, 12 of 21 from three, and the overall energy controlling for the Bucks, there honestly was a common denominator to all of their problems: perimeter defense. After the Heat planted Max Strus on Brook Lopez in game 1, the Bucks adjusted. He completely took over early in this game inside, as the Bucks hit the 40 point mark in paint points in the first half. We can blame lack of size or the guy fronting down low, but their issues didn’t lie there. Instead it was the entry passes being made with ease after strolling right into a paint touch. When looking at the lineups they’re running, it’s clear we shouldn’t be surprised, but that’s the way Miami has gotten by in this structure. If the ball pressure isn’t there, the defense isn’t there.

#2: The interchanging spot without Tyler Herro.

To quickly zoom out from all of the specifics for a second, the Heat have had some decisions to make regarding the replacement for Tyler Herro. The early stint went to Duncan Robinson as he stepped into his starting role, and the idea of it was much better than game two’s result. No actions involved, zero shot attempts, and a pair of quick fouls as one came on a triple that went down. Victor Oladipo rotated into the bunch, and he was much better than originally expected. The question is always about stepping back from constant on-ball reps, and if his pull-ups can fall against a team that blocks off the rim. And well, they were dropping early which was a good sign. But aside from those two, many Heat fans were calling for more Kevin Love next to Bam Adebayo as they were getting blitzed in the paint. This shooting performance was what it was, but they need to find the next move.

#4: A giant downgrade in the pace department.

Talk about a tale of two games. As I sat here in game 1 describing the things that went right, a big part of that was the Heat randomly increasing pace a large amount which shifted much of their offensive looks. Getting to their initial actions, letting Jimmy Butler loose a ton, and making that four verticals deep bomb to not have to operate against the Bucks’ set defense every time down. Well, that wasn’t the case in this one. Right from the jump, I said to myself, yeah they don’t have the same transition urgency as they did the other night. Walking it down the floor, back against the shot clock more often than they wanted, and less movement as a whole. I’m not saying I expected Miami to go from one of the lowest pace teams to top of the league, but it’s about a recognition of matchup and the need for energy. Game 1 it was noticed, game 2 it was left in the past.

#4: I have some matchup questions…

After already beating the drum of the Brook Lopez paint factor, it should be noted that I didn’t have a problem with stick with that matchup. Force Brook Lopez to beat you and get off the three point line was a trial run. But the two primary Bucks players saw a new individual matchup tonight, and both seemed to have their way. Jimmy Butler on Jrue Holiday, Gabe Vincent on Khris Middleton. Why? Yeah let me be upfront, I have no idea. Holiday had a 21 point first half himself, but that wasn’t due to a matchup problem, he just found open gaps off secondary attacks. Middleton, on the other hand, liked what he saw. A skilled 3 level scorer who can play with his back to the basket now has a 6 foot guard attached to him? Well okay. It wasn’t even an out of this world Middleton performance, but the point still stands. Switching up those matchups felt odd, and I definitely wouldn’t keep that going heading into game 3.

#5: Zoom out: time for the reset.

So now that we addressed this game enough and everything that went wrong, perspective is necessary. It’s only 1 win on the road to grabbing 4. And if we’re being honest, the Heat already did their job by stealing a game in Milwaukee’s building. The two issues with that is 1) they acted like a team in game 2 that already got what they needed and 2) the guy in MVP contention should be returning pretty soon. But either way, a total reset is needed, and all the focus lands on protecting home court. They get another two day break before they get back to business, as we should monitor that knee for Butler who was rubbing it on the bench late in the third. Reset, adjust the game-plan, and control the energy again back in your own building.