Tag Archive for: Miami Heat

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.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Bucks

Well, that was a game.

Heat steal game 1 in Milwaukee. Wild Jimmy Butler performance, unfortunate injuries, and a major win by Miami.

Some takeaways…

#1: My early primary takeaway: the Heat’s defense and shot forcing stands out.

Well, the Miami Heat came out swinging offensively. And that wasn’t even the main thing that stuck out to me: it was the defense. Erik Spoelstra stayed with the usual starting lineup as Max Strus was guarding Brook Lopez to start, and man were they getting the shots that they wanted. Lopez wouldn’t even walk past the three point line, falling right into the Heat’s hand. When it came to their helping, Miami was helping over off corners and the Bucks just weren’t hitting consistently from deep. The Bucks still found ways to score inside, but they needed to add layers. Kevin Love showcased one of those layers, which is positional defense. He was active, taking charges, and the Heat’s rotations were crisp. Lean offense all you want, the defense is the bigger factor.

#2: Playoff Jimmy Butler.

He says it’s not a thing, but I disagree with Jimmy Butler himself: playoff Jimmy is real. All of the talk is about the schematics of Milwaukee’s defense not meshing with the skill-set of Butler, but I have news: Butler doesn’t care about your scheme. He still finds ways to get to his usual spots all across the floor. Bursting by the league’s best perimeter defender in Jrue Holiday, taking it strong on Brook Lopez, and hitting all the in-between jumpers he found. 24 points on 11 of 17 shooting in that first half. Pure control and dominance. Once he gets into that mode, it’s hard to get him out of it. The next step late in the second quarter was the Bucks’ added help, which led to kick outs with some Heat 3 balls falling. Just reacting and capitalizing.

#3: 84 games later, the Heat pushing pace?

When it comes to Miami Heat themes, transition play and pace pushing is not one of them. For one, it’s not an Erik Spoelstra thing, and secondly, this Heat team usually has no clue *how* to do it. Yet to open this game 1, everybody was running. Four vertical plays calls to Butler, Caleb Martin playing on-ball for some transition control, and operating in the early clock. Like I said, yes they were getting in transition, but the key is not playing with your back against the clock time and time again. They had control, which usually means more of a rhythm to take those quick shots within the possession.

#4: Battle of injuries…

How quickly a series can change. Early in the game, Giannis Antetokounmpo flies down the lane for a layup with Kevin Love ready to take the charge right underneath. He hits the floor hard on his back, and he kept going back and forth from the locker room to the game. Finally he took one final trip to the locker room before being ruled out, which is just an absolute killer. Fast forward to the final minutes of the second quarter, the Heat took a shot of their own. Tyler Herro dove on the floor for the loose ball, coming up clearly in pain. He was holding his right hand, gameplay still going, the ball finds him in the corner, and he takes a shot with a broken hand. Yes you read that correctly, a broken hand was the official diagnosis. Once again, how quickly a series can change. Twice.

#5: The fourth:

Let’s be honest: this was a must win. We didn’t say that heading in, but we did say that heading into halftime. Antetokounmpo out, the Heat in a rhythm: this is the one to get. Heat up 108-100 with 8 minutes left, but Bucks keep fighting back. Adebayo looks for a handoff, Vincent finds him, and pulls it for a three to extend it to 11. Needed shot. Fast forward to a 9 point lead with 6 minutes left, the offense was burning out. Butler-Bam run a high PnR, Butler hits the elbow, and knocks down a pure pull-up jumper. The next possession, we see a Strus-Bam PnR, Holidays stays glued to Strus, hits Bam in the pocket, and another pull-up middy is the result. 115-102. Bucks cut it to 10 with just under 4 minutes to go, and Heat in need of another score. Brook Lopez camped under the rim, Bam handling, finally building the courage to flow into a pull-up. Book it. The Bucks answer with an and-1, as Heat counter with a Caleb Martin corner triple. Heat walk out after stealing a game in Milwaukee.


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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Bulls

Do or die game. Backs against the wall. Either pack it up and head home, or put up a fight to face the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday evening.

Max Strus chose his side of that equation, and so did Jimmy Butler.

Heat head to Milwaukee to face the Bucks…

Some takeaways…

#1: Max Strus’ night.

In a do or die game for a fighting chance in the playoffs, it has to be a Jimmy Butler explosion? Bam Adebayo? Tyler Herro? Nah it was just Max Strus who saw one drop, and wouldn’t stop from there. Heat open the game spamming the same action over and over: Herro-Bam PnR. It allows both to operate against that drop, which led into heavy helping from the wings and corners. Max Strus was the beneficiary of that, as his defender kept sagging. Catch and shoot three after catch and shoot three landed him at 6 triples at half. It actually should’ve been 7, but he literally got “Max Strused.” The PA announcer comes across the arena to announce his earlier 3 had been ruled out of bounds and taken away. Again? Yes, again. Either way, he was scorching, and kept capitalizing.

#2: Heat rotation change? Or not?

When it comes to switching things up, you never see it coming with Erik Spoelstra. When you least expect it, he will hit you with two new starters or rotation players on a random night late in the regular season, or to kick off the playoffs. So we should’ve known when he told the media on Thursday changes were coming. It was almost too predictable. On a night where it felt like Caleb Martin was needed to slow down DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, Spoelstra stuck with the usual lineup with Gabe Vincent and Max Strus. But hey, I’d say the Strus call was a pretty decent one. The funny part was he didn’t even change up the back-end. I figured Cody Zeller would slip in for Kevin Love, but nope. They ran it back….

#3: Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo pushed out of their spots early.

It’s playoff season, which also means it’s evaluation season. When it comes to the Miami Heat, those evaluations are for Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro. And well, they accumulated for a 3 of 12 first half between the both of them. The weird part was that it wasn’t their usual shot diet again, but that wasn’t on them. That was more of a credit to Chicago. Pat Beverly and Alex Caruso were hounding Herro around screens to make his in-between shots extremely uncomfortable, and Bam’s shots were just in traffic every time. And that’s exactly why Strus was getting the looks that he was. On the other side of things, they were still impacting: Adebayo with 10 first half boards, Herro with 5 boards and 5 assists. But finding ways to consistently be comfortable is the thing to watch for.

#4: Some ugly, ugly offense.

As you would expect after that first half, the third quarter decline was coming. Some extremely ugly offense pursued for both teams, but there’s a major difference within the ugly results. The Heat give the Bulls open 3’s by helping down on their shot creators, which means their ugly percentages are just missing shots from their role players. Yet within that gameplan, Chicago can still just get into LaVine or DeRozan isolations, which can work at any given moment. Same thing went for the Heat in terms of giving open shots, yet Max Strus’ hot shooting just made it look unproblematic. But once that died down, the Heat didn’t have an iso outlet. It’s more mid-post insertions with flying defenders at Jimmy Butler, or Bam Adebayo floating down the lane. Bulls led 68-67 at the end of the third, but the profiles felt extremely different from the naked eye.

#5: Clutch time…

Down 6, 7:30 left on the clock. A game that feels like it’s washing away slowly, as Bam Adebayo fights to the rim for a foul. First free throw, swish. Second free throw, clank. Summing up the evening. Jimmy Butler ends up getting to the rim for a layup, cutting it to 4. Falling back on defense, he jumps the play, gets the steal, and lays it in for a 2 point game. Energy rises in the building, as the Heat give up an unnecessary switch, leading to over-helping and an open three. Bulls up 85-80. Fast forward to 5:30 left, Butler takes Caruso again, goes up strong, and-1. 2 point game. LaVine misses, the crowd gets into it, Butler drives baseline, and Strus saves the day. An outstanding cut by Strus to save Butler for the lay-in, tying the game. On defense, Bam and Herro have a miscommunication to give up a DeRozan jumper, feeling like the tide turned. Yet Butler got fouled on a rebound, while in the bonus, as he sinks 2 free throws at the line. 87-87. And shortly after, Coby White answers again with another three. And well, Butler entered that mode. Mid-post insert, clear out, goes to work, and-1 at the rim. Under 2 minutes to go, he dumped it off to Bam who got fouled, knocking down 2 free throws. Heat lead 93-90. DeRozan free throw makes it a 2 point game, yet Butler hits Strus flowing downhill, and he hits the biggest shot of the night. Up 5. Now under a minute to go, Strus gets fouled in the corner for three. What a night for him. Heat head to the playoffs to face the Bucks.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Hawks

Well, the Heat found themselves in an awkward position in the play-in, and it just got much more awkward.

After losing to this Hawks team, it’s officially win and you’re in, or lose and you’re out.

The problem is that even if they are in, the Bucks are standing there waiting.

But we will get to that soon. For now, let’s talk about this game…

#1: The Hawks punched first…and second…and third.

Well, that was quite the first half. Energy was going to be the key with this Heat team, and they lacked that even more than you can imagine. The offense was an awful watch by all means, but the defense was just sad to watch honestly. Easy switches, simple swing, bucket. Trae Young finding Tyler Herro or Max Strus, and going to work. Paint touch, kick-out, three. Repeat, repeat, repeat. That first half was an absolute route from the Hawks on offense, as they were just reacting to any coverage the Heat ran and knocking down the open shots. But like I said, the offense doesn’t deserve a break. 5 of 19 shooting at half from Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo is tough to look past. The reason it’s important is because it represented the amount of bunnies they missed. A surprising, yet not surprising, half of basketball for the Heat.

#2: Hello, Kyle Lowry?

There wasn’t many positives from the Heat across the first 24 minutes of basketball, but Kyle Lowry would definitely be the one. Somehow clawed his way to 19 points in the first half, and did it in an extremely smooth manner. He looked like he was playing in his Toronto days with the paint touches he was generating from possession to possession, and actually attempting shots at the rim. Also got to the line 5 times and knocked down a couple triples. He was the team’s best player in that first half by far. Now if I was to present this information prior to tip-off, I already know everybody’s response: “oh, the Heat are winning by 20.” Except with that level of play, they were actually the ones down 20. Just an odd profile.

#3: Okay, the transition offense needs some words.

We often joke about the Tyler Herro transition pull-up triples. You never know when they’re coming, and Erik Spoelstra only can’t say anything when they drop, as Herro noted to me recently. But in reality, this team’s fast-break play is exactly what I just said: a joke. We got one of those Herro transition 3’s early in the game as Miami had a 2-on-1, while Bam Adebayo parked under the basket. Missed opportunity. Another time rolling down the floor with some momentum, the ball found Caleb Martin on the right wing. Instead of running with numbers, he took that jumper that gave Atlanta the ball right back. Missed opportunity. Then to cap it all off, Herro circulating the floor and snakes into the lane in transition, yet he doesn’t meet a defender. He meets Caleb Martin who clobbers into him for another turnover. It’s one thing to not run in transition, and it’s another thing to not know how.

#4: The Heat’s third quarter counter punch: Tyler Herro going at Trae Young.

The start of the second half was the counter punch the Heat needed. As I detailed before this game, this isn’t last year anymore with how Atlanta is guarding Tyler Herro. No more Delon Wright hounding, instead it’s Trae Young baiting. Basically daring him: “Hey, takeover.” So the Heat said to kick off the third: “Hey Tyler, just go at him.” So he did, and cooked him 3 straight possessions into mid-range jumpers before the Hawks called time-out. And then the Heat caught a flow. Hitting shots, defending much better, role players stepping up. All of a sudden it was a 5 point game and Herro no longer had Young on him. They already adjusted, since they were just waiting to see if he’d do it. I can talk about the things that went right in that third quarter to make it a game, but the credit really goes to Herro for opening up the menu.

#5: The fourth quarter:

Hello, Kyle Lowry…again. One Kyle Lowry section wasn’t enough after his start to the fourth quarter. Down 13, entering the Jimmy Butler minutes. The Heat just needed something, and well Lowry answered again. Tough lay-ins, wild passes, and two massive pull-up 3’s before Butler re-entered with under 8 minutes to go. Heat winning the non-Butler minutes through their back-up PG? Well, they were only down 6 at that point, yet it fluctuated right back up to 11 after the Heat just couldn’t finish defensive possessions with the offensive rebounding disparity. Down 102-91 with 6 minutes left. Yet Lowry just kept fighting back by himself. Pindown, handoff, 3. Pindown, handoff, 3. Best game in a Heat uniform for him. Yet it never seemed to make a mark on the responding Hawks. Heat blitz, Hawks swing and shoot, and another rebound they would find for a dunk. The same formula was getting the same result.



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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over 76ers

The Miami Heat walked into Philadelphia for a game they always get up for, especially as they continue to fight for positioning, and came away with a healthy win.

Hot shooting, strong coaching, and high level play from their main guys.

Some takeaways from this big night….

#1: The Heat’s hot start: pace, pace, pace.

A 67 point first half is far from normal when it comes to the Miami Heat. But aside from overall confidence, ball movement, and high level shooting, there was a clear common denominator as to why the Heat came out zooming: the pace was higher than ever. As we know, the Heat almost never run the break, since even when they do it, it’s super ineffective. But the Philadelphia 76ers are also slow paced, and consistently have trouble getting back off both makes and misses. The Heat were ready for that, clearly at the top of the scouting report. Jimmy Butler was headlining the 40 yard dash club, sprinting down the floor for early clock buckets and feeds. This team hasn’t been elite in any one category all year, but there’s one thing they can always capitalize on: opposing weaknesses. And it always feels weaknesses are put on blast when Erik Spoelstra and Doc Rivers matchup.

#2: Why Tyler Herro was so impressive tonight…

Tyler Herro has put up 16 point first halves before, so what made the first 24 minutes tonight special for him? Well, it’s the process. He was being physical right out the gate, starting with a strong right slot attack where PJ Tucker was flying over for the help. Usually the formula equals an in-between type floater to settle, but he didn’t do that here. He took it right at Tucker who clobbered him, but it got him two free throws. Nothing is better than Herro play a strong offensive game. He wasn’t setting for jumpers either, since his primary focus was paint touches and rim attacks. Aside from that, I thought his defense was much better than usual with his overall activity. His task in this matchup is to be a constant helper as he starts on Tucker, but he also is forced into a ton of scramble switches on guys like James Harden. He was clicking, and the Heat need it.

#3: The battle of the 2-3 zone:

One of the loudest X’s and O’s battles when these two teams match up always seems to be the zone defense. The 76ers have a base between their primary guys, and a 2-3 zone forces much more reliance on their role players to be active. Something I’ve been calling for the Heat to do is run a constant 2-3 zone when Bam Adebayo goes to the bench. Kevin Love in the bottom of the zone relying on positional defense is maximizing your roster. We finally saw the Heat go to it, and man was it stumping this 76ers roster. Philadelphia immediately came up with a very original thought of their own, and decided to throw out the 2-3 zone themselves. The Heat stalled for quite a bit late in the second quarter, as they weren’t getting to their zone base. As I noted on Twitter, Jimmy Butler shouldn’t be initiating against it, he needs to be flashing middle. Out of the timeout, they set up a stagger screen with Bam Adebayo, Butler got it in the middle of the floor, and hit a tough bucket. It’s chess. And Spo loves to play chess.

#4: Jimmy Butler still rolling in playoff (in) mode.

Jimmy Butler in April and beyond: there’s just nothing like it. As we’ve been monitoring, Butler’s been playing at an insane level since the All Star break which he always tends to do. But looking at tonight specifically, we got a nice mixture of playoff Jimmy and Jimmy in the Philadelphia building, which is a deadly combo. As I noted early in this piece, he played a major role in the original run to kick off this game with the transition play, but don’t let that fool you: he was cooking against their set defense as well. Mid-range pull-ups and fades, getting to the basket against switches of all kinds (smalls in the mid-post or bigs on the perimeter), plus the usual controlling off the incoming doubles. And it may sound cliche, but things really transcend X’s and O’s when talking Butler this time of year. He just has a switch that can be flipped on when he chooses, and that thing has been taped on for weeks.

#5: Really as simple as last year’s shooting formula.

I can sit here and talk Jimmy Butler in playoff mode. I can talk about Tyler Herro being effective and physical. I can talk about Bam Adebayo being himself and attacking. But that formula didn’t always equal a win last year or this season. The primary equation always pointed toward role players shooting the three ball at a high level. Halfway through the 4th quarter, they stood stationary at 46% shooting from deep at high volume. It wasn’t one guy either, it was everybody. Tyler Herro and Max Strus headlined, but even the bench contributions from guys like Kevin Love and Kyle Lowry from deep. Sometimes over an 82 game season, it’s about peaking at the right time. Last season, even with Miami falling one shot away from the Finals, the shooting fell off at the worst time and it took Butler heroics to get to that point. Could this story be coming full circle with the shooting peaking at the right time? Only time will tell.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Mavs

The Heat needed one big time, but so did the Mavericks. Two desperate ball clubs facing off, except the Heat were without Bam Adebayo.

Jimmy Butler came out firing, and the buyout acquisitions came to play, in Kevin Love and Cody Zeller.

To nobody’s surprise, the Mavs made it a clutch game, but Miami escaped.

Some takeaways…

#1: Jimmy Butler entering that mode right out the gate.

As I was discussing before the game, we will know how this thing will go right out the gate. How will we judge it? The energy and body language of Jimmy Butler. And he came out in that playoff-esque mode. Getting the switch he wanted with guard screening, meeting Kyrie Irving at the rim once or twice. We saw a heavier pick and roll dosage without the Bam Adebayo hub, and that was flowing at a great level. That Butler-Cody Zeller pick and roll was looking as comfortable as ever between the two, which is not surprising at all. Butler is a slow paced PnR ball handler, which means he excels with slow paced rollers. More openings on the roll were found in that first half. But ultimately it just came down to Butler making his mind up on his aggression and spirit. If you want to know his confidence, he shot another mid-range jumper in the second quarter and turned around before it went in. Yeah, he’s feeling it.

#2: Kevin Love new role meets a new look Kevin Love.

No Bam Adebayo meant a shifted starting lineup, but it shuffled even more than expected. Both front-court spots were changed with Cody Zeller starting for Bam and Max Strus starting at the four for Kevin Love. That essentially meant Love got the back-up 5 focused role, which is something I’ve been wanting for some time. And man did he look like a different player. He looked like a comfortable player. Shots were falling, taking advantage of mid-post switches more often with more room to operate, and by far his best defensive half I’ve seen. Taking charges off rotations, staying with the Mavericks’ primary ball-handlers in that in-between game, and contesting shots at the rim. Kevin Love is not a starting four, but I do believe he can be a solid back-up 5. And the fact that they shifted it tonight felt like a slow transition into that when Bam returns.

#3: Dealing with Luka Doncic.

It’s no secret that dealing with Luka Doncic is an experience. Take away his scoring, he finds passing lanes. Don’t send help to eliminate his play-making, he can craft his way to the basket with ease for buckets. And when you don’t have your defensive anchor in the middle who spends plenty of time switching out onto him, it makes things interesting. Although the Heat put up a ton of points, they were also giving them up on the other end as Doncic scored 23 points on 10 of 14 shooting in the first half. The Heat’s usual scheme against him went out the window, since the primary switching was immediately all drop and hedging/recovering. Neither of those coverages are a shock to Doncic. Just as Butler was doing on the other end, sometimes you just have to live with the tough shots from superstar players. To Miami’s credit, they did force 10 first half turnovers in this game to counter that, but the Luka Doncic experience just is what it is at this stage it seems.

#4: Oh hey, Cody Zeller…

As I said before, Zeller slotted into the starting five spot without Adebayo. The thing I didn’t mention was the fact he was scoring at will on the roll. Halfway through the third quarter he was up to 20 points on the night, along with 9 for 11 shooting. Well, 7 of those 9 field goals were assisted by Jimmy Butler. Yes you read that correctly. I mentioned it to start this piece but I’m going to go right back to it. There’s a continuity to speed and play-style in the pick and roll. It’s the reason Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo had such a good rhythm together in that fast paced, reactionary style. When it comes down to Butler, he moves slowly and scouts every move of the defense. He knows Zeller will be since his role is simple: screen, seal, dive. The worry of Butler’s scoring blends into a wide open roll for him every time. Those meshing styles is an interesting thing to monitor.

#5: The fourth quarter…

Six point lead entering the fourth, as Heat fans worry if it’ll be too late once Butler walked to the scorers table down the line in the quarter. They needed to survive that first stretch. And well, Kevin Love grabbed some of the facilitating reigns as a mid-post hub and the Heat’s shooting followed with 10 points in 3 minutes, taking a 112-101 lead with 9 minutes left. Fast forward to the 6 minute mark, Luka Doncic hits his specialty step back 3 to cut the lead to 9 at 119-110, Heat simply trying to hold on. A Heat basket is needed as they come out of timeout up 121-115, and Butler hits a tough hanging middy. As they flow into the defensive end, he hits the passing lane for a steal and transition dunk. Yet Heat still grasping for another stop on other end, as they continue to knock down looks. But a Butler pump fake gets Doncic in the air and to the line, followed by another trip off a physical drive. Trying to pull them to the finish line, and he did just that.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Knicks

The Miami Heat fall to the Knicks in the Garden. A tight game all the way through, yet falling apart late.

It was a flipped script for the Heat, as Miami’s role players showed up, as Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo quietly coasted.

Some takeaways…

#1: First quarter: two completely different stories to begin this game.

The Knicks come out with an abrupt 8 points to start this game, as the Heat couldn’t buy a field goal on the other end. After some of these previous performances, you could almost sense this team folding. But they didn’t. The next 14 points were scored by the Heat, giving a lot of the credit to their defensive principles. As I say often, this team was a top 5 defense early in the season for one reason only: forcing turnovers. That’s what they did in that opening quarter, forcing 7. Gabe Vincent was the main reason for that, which brings me to an even bigger takeaway: they need defensive Vincent much more often. His ‘in your grill’ type of style that we saw last year needs to be consistent, since that hasn’t been the case this year. He had a quick 3 steals, but he was just battling and contesting. This group needs a reliable point of attack defender in that guard room.

#2: Duncan Robinson in, Max Strus foul trouble.

Max Strus entered halfway through the first quarter as he usually does, but he exited a lot quicker than usual. After picking up 3 immediate fouls with the Knicks going right at him, Duncan Robinson had his number called. And well, he came in absolutely firing. Hit a quick corner 3 to kick off his stretch, but the next play is what stood out. Catches on the right wing, pump fake and attack for a paint touch, kick-out to Victor Oladipo, relocates to the short corner, and another 3 is the result. Why is that important? That movement is much needed in this Heat offense right now, and simply shot making is a good way to characterize a current Heat need. At halftime, he had 9 points on 3 of 3 shooting. It was a good boost to a constant uphill battle of an offense.

#3: Further lineup change needs to be coming…

Let’s talk specifics. When it comes down to evaluating this Heat roster, it’s clear that certain guys just aren’t cutting it. Actually a plethora of guys haven’t been cutting it, but only a few have the option to actually be shifted. Looking at the halftime stat sheet, you would see 0 of 8 shooting from Kevin Love and Victor Oladipo. All threes and 0 of 4 shooting a piece. When talking about Love, I think this experiment is coming to a close. The defense is bending to favor him, and the shooting is nowhere near the level they need it to be. I don’t think they have an option as they head into an inevitable playoff game. As for Oladipo, he subbed into the rotation again due to Kyle Lowry being out, but he’s not making his individual case any better. He just falls in love with that three ball way too often, and doesn’t really have an off switch even after rough starts. The rotation will be shrinking soon, but these two performances specifically is much more than a one half sample size.

#4: The Heat playing into an old blueprint.

As Erik Spoelstra would talk about in many postgame press conferences last season and even early this year, the team had a statistical goal on a night to night basis. Get 40 threes up. As the season went on and the three point percentages dropped lower, they pretty much got away from that style of offense since the team’s two best players don’t shoot threes and the role players are struggling. Tying this to tonight, a few minutes into the 4th the Heat were already edging up on the 40 three point attempt mark. They were hovering around 33% for most of that time, but that was pretty much all Gabe Vincent and Duncan Robinson. If it wasn’t for them, the Heat would somehow be below their usual mark. Don’t like them falling into this trap, but it’s just interesting to monitor.

#5: Late-game walkthrough…

Under 6 minutes to go, Quentin Grimes gets fouled and goes to the line, followed by Josh Hart going coast to coast for the dunk, quickly into a Heat turnover and Knicks run-out with Erik Spoelstra strolling onto the court for a timeout as they go down 9. Out of the timeout, we flowed right into the usual instant replay madness in today’s NBA. Josh Hart strips the ball from Jimmy Butler, who dribbles into a turnaround jumper that banks in, yet the official calls for a double dribble. They talk it over, give the Heat the ball back with no bucket, and Miami folds on a 4 second shot clock. Under 4 minutes to go, a Jimmy Butler tip-in and Tyler Herro mid-range pull-up add to the flow, but the Knicks kept answering. I often discuss consistency with this Heat team, but it feels even the energy operates in waves. With a tie game entering the 4th, the Heat needed a big quarter with the hole they’ve put themselves in this year, but they couldn’t respond yet again.