Tag Archive for: Miami Heat

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.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Grizzlies

The Miami Heat took care of business on Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Hot three point shooting, early Jimmy Butler cooking, and one of their best offensive games of the season.

Some takeaways….

#1: Another night of early Jimmy Butler dominance.

Jimmy Butler came out in the opening quarter and put up a quick 12 points as he played the entire first quarter. The thing about those 12 points: 8 of those were free throws. He was getting to any spot he wanted when flowing downhill, and did his usual barreling into defenders to get to the line. Even though Jimmy Butler said the other day “Playoff Jimmy” isn’t a thing, I’m going to very quickly deny that statement: it’s a thing. He’s been seeming to really ramp up over the last week or so offensively, since you can slowly notice the volume rising. The key to a lot of this, though, is that he’s doing it with such ease. It just simply never feels forced. The moment it crosses the line of forced is when things can get sticky, but he’s just playing incredibly good basketball right now.

#2: Kyle Lowry anchoring the offense in his new bench role?

I’m going to talk the new look rotation next, but the role for Kyle Lowry didn’t change at all. Actually the thing that has changed the most as of late for him is the quality of play. The first half of the season, the adjective I kept using to describe him was “uncomfortable,” but this new back-up role has flipped that. The bench lineups have been atrocious, and he really settled that group tonight. Generating great ball movement for the offensive process, getting some paint touches, and just playing in his ideal, calm manner. Of course some relief triples would be huge from him in his role, but the secondary attacks might be even more crucial. If he’s willing to put his head down once or twice when that ball is swinging, that group should be in a good spot.

#3: Let’s take a dive into this new look Heat rotation tonight…

As I’ve been hinting at for a while, there was going to be a shift coming soon from the 10 man rotation to a 9 man rotation. The question was just: who will be the odd man out? Well, that guy ended up being Victor Oladipo, which honestly isn’t too much of a surprise with his play as of late. The other role players are just too important within their role in comparison to the wide ranging outcomes that can come from Oladipo’s minutes. It’s just one game, but still something. The other part of this is that the Heat actually did go 10, but that’s because there was a short leash for a certain rotation guy. Omer Yurtseven checked in and picked up 2 quick fouls. A little bit after, the Grizzlies run double drag with Yurtseven in that drop, and the ball-handler somehow gets behind him for the lay-in. Spo was furious on the court, and ended up going to Haywood Highsmith shortly after. Those defensive limitations are a real thing…

#4: It’s always been about the shooting.

With 4 minutes left in the third quarter, Kevin Love knocks down his third triple of the night to extend the Heat’s three point shooting to 48% on the night. Well let’s be honest, this is new. It’s usually me talking about the Heat generating decent looks but shooting around 20% from deep. I wouldn’t say the looks were *that* much different from previous nights in this one, but it was pretty obvious that the ball movement was much more improved. Not to blame Oladipo by any means, but I do think the ball sticks way too much with him in that second unit. Lowry did a good job of forcing swing passes, and Martin just doesn’t stop moving ever. The Heat’s three point shooting surged early last season and collapsed in the playoffs. The overly positive takeaway could be they’re peaking at the right time this year instead.

#5: Wait, not a clutch game?

Watching the Heat lead by 20 for a long period of time in the second half might be more of a new look than the rise in three-point shooting, Somehow even when they would lead, that score would evaporate rather quickly. Well, that’s the result of a team that looks anything north of serviceable offensively. Usually when these games continue to be “in the mud,” that just equals close game down the stretch. Why do clutch games continue to make appearances? It honestly may be as simple as poor offensive play and defensive overcompensating. Aside from the shooting, also credit to the Heat’s main three guys for coming to play. Butler was dominant, Adebayo was active, Herro was efficient. This is the time to keep putting these wins together.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Jazz

The Miami Heat clearly needed this one…

Another clutch game down the stretch ends in a big Tyler Herro three with a minute to go.

Some takeaways…

#1: What’s been needed from Gabe Vincent the most showcased early on…

When it comes to early positives, Gabe Vincent came out played well early on. Why was that? Well that was the game-plan considering the Jazz were planting Lauri Markkanen on Vincent one-on-one. He clearly wasn’t afraid to attack that right out the gates, leading into 3 early triples off spot-up movement jumpers. But that isn’t even what’s been needed most from him. I’m going to talk about the defensive issues next, but he was everywhere defensively in that opening stint from an individual perspective, which is what we were used to last year. Point of attack hound who obtained a certain level of screen navigation that this team truly needed. We’ve seen less consistency with that this season it feels, which is why quick flashes showcase the real need from him heading down the stretch of the season.

#2: Heat defensive slippage coming from two Jazz areas in first half…

It feels like it’s the same thing every night when I illustrate the early first half defense for the Heat. Positional slippage is the main surprise for me, since it’s obvious the isolation defense won’t be superior when eyeing down this roster. But what has continually kept this Heat defense intact over recent seasons is the strong rotations, wise close-outs, and on-a-string type defense. Right now, that’s not the case, as this Heat team has been the 23rd best defense in first quarters post All Star break. To take it a step forward, the opposing formula this time around was even more odd, as two players combined for 41 points: Lauri Markkanen and Simone Fontecchio. The common thread still comes back to a drop-off in their specialty: Markkanen off secondary attacks and Fontecchio off spot-up movement threes. Two elements that reflect team defense and positional stuff. A weird, weird trend.

#3: The current rotation at (almost) full health.

Just to note what things looked like for the Heat roster wise, the one thing I was curious about was the rotation tonight. Erik Spoelstra said pregame that Gabe Vincent would continue to get the start, as he wants to ramp up the minutes for Kyle Lowry slowly, but the question became: Do they go 10? Will somebody be cut from the 9 man rotation? Duncan Robinson or Haywood Highsmith (who are the 11th and 12th looking in)? Well, the answer was that the Heat went 10. An early entrance for Omer Yurtseven, followed by Max Strus. Caleb Martin, Kyle Lowry, and Victor Oladipo came soon after, as we saw a very short stint of an all bench lineup. Way to take the non-Butler and Bam minutes up a notch (lol). For full-on rhythm purposes from both a coaching and player perspective, I’m not the biggest fan of 10, especially when depth hasn’t been your friend. My thing to watch is that if they inevitably bump down to 9, what group of guys does that consist of?

#4: Some Bam Adebayo slippage?

The hot topic over the recent stretch has been the back seat Bam Adebayo has taken along the way for Miami’s struggles. We keep saying Jimmy Butler is looking around an empty room at the moment, but Bam Adebayo was this group’s high level playing incredible basketball for the first 2 and a half quarters of the season. But lately, the effectiveness and comfort doesn’t seem to be there. The usual dotted line/ free throw line jumpers aren’t on high volume, as more stuff has included entry passes baseline and things going toward the rim. Why is that? Well that could have something to do with the spacing purposes in the new lineup with Kevin Love, as Caleb Martin used to be the baseline roamer and rim diver in those lineups. But it’s not about fit, he’s just flat at the moment. The defense hasn’t been as full force in your face either, which is the real element that makes you look twice. Late in the third they got him going on the break a bit in transition for easy ones into an eventual offensive board and put-back to finish the quarter, which is necessary when he’s pressing in the half-court. They need the pre All Star break Bam Adebayo again. Badly.

#5: Another late-game walk-through…

Around 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter of another close game to nobody’s surprise, the Heat were getting a decent stretch from Victor Oladipo. This came just after a couple of relief threes from Kyle Lowry that was much needed, but Oladipo hit a big spot-up three himself. Shortly after he caught his man sleeping and floated baseline off a cut for an easy lay-up. For this offense to flow correctly, that movement from him is needed immensely. Fast forward to 4 minutes to go, Jimmy Butler has a miscommunication with Bam Adebayo on a cut for a turnover, Jazz go in other direction for a lob to Walker Kessler. Jazz go up 2, Heat call timeout. What else would the play-call be? A Jimmy Butler triple on the left wing. A little over a minute to go, Talen Horton Tucker hits a tough turnaround to go up 1. The next possession, Tyler Herro does Tyler Herro things with a step back 3 to take the lead by 2. Gabe Vincent draws an offensive foul on the other end after review, but Heat come up short with a Herro tie up. Heat force a miss on other end, as Bam comes down with the rebound to ice the game with free throws.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Cavs

Well, this wasn’t pretty.

There were ups, and even more downs.

But some big shots from Tyler Herro and Jimmy Butler doing Jimmy Butler things led the way.

Some takeaways…

#1: Donovan Mitchell hot first half, eyeing the defensive plan…

Donovan Mitchell had a hot opening half on Friday night scoring a very efficient 25 points, along with 6 threes. In comparison to a game ago where the Cavaliers had Darius Garland, you would think the Heat would be able to focus more on the on-ball magic of Mitchell, right? Well nasty crossover after step back three gave a very different impression. The early problems weren’t that they weren’t focused on Mitchell, it was that they were *too* focused on him. By that I mean, they were getting lost off-ball time and time again, leaving them behind in rotations and giving Cleveland open slots to operate. From there, that’s when Mitchell got busy on his step back threes against single coverage. Felt like more blitzing and shading was necessary than he was being given, but this is the exact reason I’ve harped on leaning defense in this rotation by now.

#2: The turnover problems continue…and that’s a *big* problem.

There hasn’t been an extremely heavy diet of wins this season for the Heat, but do you know the common thread between most of them? The turnover battle. Before I get into the main slice of this from the game tonight, the Heat’s defense was elite for the sole reason of pressuring and forcing turnovers. More possessions, more fast-break opportunities, more of a chance to win with this uneven half-court offense. Now to the specifics of this game, they weren’t putting themselves in a position to win that battle with the amount of careless ones they were giving up. Part of this is the two primary offensive hubs aren’t guard creators, so the creation to your trigger is not a pass first guard. (I know what you’re thinking: that’s ideally Kyle Lowry) But it’s pretty simple that this Heat team isn’t good enough for Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo specifically to be that high volume in turnovers, just as the usage rises.

#3: My take on what’s needed from Bam Adebayo in a certain unit.

So the Heat changed things up a bit with the rotations recently, as Butler anchors the second unit late into the first quarter, while Adebayo and Herro exit early to re-enter with some of the role guys to begin the second quarter. But the usage of Bam in that lineup has stuck out to me heavily. They use him as a roller even more than usual, part of the Herro or Oladipo pick and roll sets, which ties back to the turnover conversation. Bam should not be a primary roller here. He needs to be a primary option off the attack on the ball. Cross screen into mid-post insertion. Pin-down into a curl at free throw line. The stuff that puts him in creation mode, instead of the reactionary base to the guards. This is something everybody wants to see in general, but it’s needed even more when Butler isn’t out there as well.

#4: Jimmy Butler doing Jimmy Butler things.

When it comes down to unwatchable stretches, this third quarter tonight was definitely up there. Heat came out and score a quick 10 points and seem to be rolling, yet things plummeted shortly after. Not able to get a stop on one end, with just an insanely bad offensive process on the other end, feeling like a full on grind every single time. With that said, late in the third, Jimmy Butler began resorting to a bit of a jumper display. He was hitting them, but that pretty much sums up the process of the offense. Even aside from the jumpers, he was the entire key to every Heat offensive run that was made in this game. Why is that? Well as I harp on repeatedly, his mid to low post touches are the savior to the Heat’s offense. He was getting whatever, whenever he wanted in this game, but the rough stretches for this team were just…rough.

#5: The fourth quarter…

Adebayo drives, kicks, and Herro finds just enough space to get off a leaning triple in the corner. 1 point game. Heat force a miss, Herro gets it into transition, pull-up three to take a 2 point lead. That was a stretch early in the fourth that shifted some energy back on Miami’s side. Heat force a turnover on an inbounds around the halfway mark of the fourth, leading to a Strus pass to Bam for the dunk. 3 point game. Butler began getting into some of that downhill juice shortly after. A tough lay-in into a bump and float jumper off glass into a strong drive down an open lane for the dunk. Heat up 7 now with Butler entering that mode. Some back and forth ensued with some triples falling in the Cavs favor, putting this game back at a 3 point lead for Miami. Another late shot clock jumper by Tyler Herro put Miami up 5, on an extremely tough step back. Mitchell responds again with a floater. A Mobley lob under a minute to go puts things at a 1 point game. 20 seconds left, Strus screens as Butler ends around, leading into yet another pull-up jumper. 3 point game again. Mitchell ends up getting fouled at the rim with 10 seconds left, putting Miami in a position I feel like I’ve seen them in 100 times this year. Martin knocked down 2 free throws, and Miami escaped with a win.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Cavs

Starting another two-game home set, the Heat faced the Cavaliers on Wednesday night.

They fell late after making a decent push, but let’s get right into the takeaways…

#1: Against the best paint protection team in the league, the Heat find success in the interior.

Matching up with the best defense in basketball, it should also be mentioned that this team formulated their scheme from the Milwaukee Bucks. Protect the paint, play with length, and force the opposing team into mid-range shots. So what did the Heat do in the opening quarter? Went right at their bigs in the paint. The Heat had 12 made field goals in the first quarter, and 9 of those came in the paint. They were also shooting 75% from the field in that range. Credit to Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler who were converting down there often, but it was also intentional schematically. The Heat drew up 2 early sets to get Love into some high-low actions for a lay-in. Miami usually counters this style with a ton of threes, but with their current roster state, they clearly can’t be relying on that element.

#2: Bam Adebayo in foul trouble means…literal trouble.

To start this game out, Bam Adebayo was guarding Donovan Mitchell on the far sideline who was tight roping it already. Adebayo gave a slight hand-check, leading into a very quick foul, and a pretty pour decision in the bigger picture. Shortly after, Adebayo picked up his second foul, which put Miami in a very awkward position when it comes to the troublesome no-Butler/Bam minutes. The Heat have been trying to get Adebayo back in to begin the second and altering those two guys’ time, yet they couldn’t do that with his two fouls. Instead the Cavs made a run in a long 3 minutes, before he came back in at the 10 minute mark. And there landed another quick foul, putting him at 3. He didn’t play the rest of the quarter, but it just displays the value of Bam, and the need to be smart with his hands.

#3: Jimmy Butler has been thrown his fair share of basketball related allegations, but I’d like to cross one off the list.

We had the “Jimmy Butler being doubled” conversation in the past. We’ve had the “Jimmy Butler against length” conversation even more often, since there have been a few nights where teams schematically place their bigger versatile defender on him to bother. But if I can confidently cross anything off the list, it would be facing length No question he wants smaller match-ups, it’s quite literally what he’s searching for all game, which was actually Max Strus screens to get Darius Garland in the action who kept hedging and recovering. But even with that, he was seeing a whole lot of both Mobley and Allen early on, yet still find ways to get them in the air and get to the line. Plus he had some buckets in the paint off secondary attacks. The point is that this shouldn’t be a benchmark of concern.

#4: The X’s and O’s action of the night…

When it comes to my schematic takeaway of the night, the Heat were getting to a pretty different three-man action in the half-court than we are accustomed to: Gabe Vincent, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love. Early in the game they used Love as the perimeter passing hub, as Vincent positioned himself for the back-screen for Butler. Butler dove, and so did 2 Cavalier defenders. Love swung to Vincent, who drove and dumped it off to Bam for the dunk. We saw this many times throughout the game, flashing once in the third quarter with the exact set-up. Except this time they weren’t prepared to double Butler on the roll, as Love lobbed it to him for the easy conversion. They’re going to need more from Vincent and Love as scoring threats to really make this hub a true success.

#5: The fourth quarter…

As the clock hit the 6 and a half minute mark, a timeout was called, as Heat fans hoped this was finally the stoppage to get their best player Jimmy Butler back into the game. Luckily they kept the deficit at only 7 in that span, since it’s just simply a risky game to play with them losing so many games in that 2 to 3 minutes this season. The offensive spacing was not looking too great for the first few minutes, as the Cavs were basically daring Oladipo to make plays off the catch. Around the 4 minute mark, a Bam elbow touch turned into a contact drive for the and-1. 5 point game. Heat had a good look off a turnover right after, but Herro came up just short on the three. After a timeout, the Heat drew up another elbow touch for Bam, as Butler got fouled off-ball and went to the free throw line. Heat force turnover on other end and run the break for a big time Martin dunk. Garland responds with a bucket and a 3 point lead, as a very odd possession ends in full Oladipo dribbling and a 3 point chuck. Cavs score on other side, and they’re up 5 again. After some trouble inbound in what felt like a game that was over, Heat force a 5 second violation. Miami draws up a nice set to hit Herro cross court, who rises up with full contest. Back at 2 point game. A potential Bam steal on the following inbound was collapsed upon when the ref called a foul, as Jarrett Allen went 1 for 2. Down 3, a pindown for Strus is the set and it’s off the rim. It felt like Herro should’ve been the call, but they got a decent look. Heat lose…

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Hawks

Heat beat the Hawks the second time in 3 days after a very strong showing from their bench.

Oladipo, Martin, Robinson come up big.

Some takeaways…

#1: Another horrendous defensive start for the Heat…

The Hawks were 2 points shy of handing the Heat their 3rd 70 point first half in the last 4 games. When it comes to expectations, did we think the early lineups they’ve been leaning into were going to be elite defensive units? I know I haven’t. But the issues have felt so simple when it comes to the schematics. The game-plan has been generally fine, yet the lack of resistance to stop the ball is the start of all their problems. This Hawks team wasn’t just killing them from deep, since they only collected 5 triples through the first 24 minutes. They were bursting by the point of attack with ease and making plays in the lane. 38 points in the paint in that first half, going 19 of 24 from the field in that range. Yeah, the shot profile was rather simple.

#2: In the meantime, Heat offense actually somewhat humming? But one constant downfall…

While the Heat were putting together an embarrassing defensive half, the Heat were quietly stringing together some of their best offense in some time. 7 of 12 from three and 54% shooting overall. A main key to that was the bench unit didn’t fully fall off a cliff, giving credit to Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin, who I will get into more extensively next. Like it usually is, all of their scores were heavy half court grinds and sets, but there is one downfall that keeps popping up: turnovers. If the Heat could find a way to wind that down a bit, the offense would be in such a better spot. Usually the second unit gets careless with Victor Oladipo leading the offense into some giveaways, but it’s the guard room in general. That screams discomfort. But either way, they were battling through that for positive scoring surprisingly.

#3: Caleb Martin finally thriving in his role.

Now when it comes to full on positives, Caleb Martin has been a major one over the last few games. As we’ve addressed all year, Martin needs to be in a role off the bench that fits him, as Bam described as “free,” while also pointing out the obvious of not having to play at the four. As for tonight, he saved the Heat’s offense. Not just because he had 16 points in that span, but the way he was getting it. Back-door cut, off-ball movement, simple slip. The consensus there, he was the only player for Miami that was moving in a way to support the hubs in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. He’s also athletic and skilled enough to make plays at the rim following the dime, leading to some early trips to the line. It’s pretty clear he looks extremely more comfortable at the moment.

#4: The two sides of Victor Oladipo on a night to night, play by play basis.

It’s been evident for a while when watching Victor Oladipo that it’s essentially a seesaw effect. There are the moments where he’s hitting shots, putting pressure on the rim, and forcing turnovers to get on the break. Yet there are other times where the turnovers are just way too much for the Heat to overcome. We saw both of these things tonight. In that first half, he was definitely loose with the ball much like the entire Heat roster, but he’s basically the man in control with that unit. Fast forward to the third, he really changed the outlook for them, beginning with a tough crossover and step back triple in the corner. He followed that up by just literally shifting the pace. Every rebound, every shot, while being on the ball or off, he was sprinting down the floor with clear momentum. It gave them a jolt, and that added pace is needed for this team, especially in that unit. Later to begin the fourth, a Duncan Robinson lob to Oladipo cemented that.

#5: Late-game finish…

Heat trailed by 1 with under seven minutes to go, and they were still searching for Duncan Robinson. Hand-off, denial, re-hand-off, three pointer. Trae Young responds with a three of his own, before Herro gets comfortable on a right wing three to put it back even at a tie game. 113-113. Out of the timeout, Heat get some offensive boards into an eventual kick-out to Caleb Martin for three, flowing back into a Jimmy Butler pick and roll who finds Herro in the same corner. That put Miami at 16 of 28 from three on the night. Hawks responded back to cut it to 3, before Butler hit a fading short jumper to put it back at 5. Heat muck up the play defensively, force a turnover, and Bam throws it down the floor to Herro. Up 7. Trae Young gets a floater to go, so Miami needs a bucket here. Heat keep going to the Butler-Herro PnR with Herro screening to get Young in the action: Butler floater. Another Young floater to counter, right before Herro turns it over on a blitz for a Murray lay-in. Heat up 125-122. Miami runs a Bam-Butler inverted PnR with 40 seconds left, and he hits the jumper. One problem: it was called a travel. Luckily Heat force a turnover on other end, and Butler gets fouled to ice it at the line.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Hawks

After some real crushing losses in this building for the Heat this week, they finally had a breakthrough against the Hawks.

Smooth offense, Bam Adebayo’s best game since the All Star break, and simply a needed win.

Some takeaways…

#1: The Heat changing up their offensive actions a bit, starting off with an uncommon two-man action.

When it comes to the Heat scoring 66 points in the first half, it’s obvious we don’t see that often. But we also saw something within their process that we don’t see often, and that began right out the gates when Miami noticed an interesting match-up. With Trae Young on Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler was searching for Tyler. They were running a heavy diet of two-man game, which usually ended in an easy pocket pass to Butler on the short roll, as he can search for the best option back-side within that 4-on-3. That was part of the reason Butler ended up with 5 assists at half, since they were over-committing when he got 2 feet in the lane. The other main adjustment surrounded the focus of Bam Adebayo, which I will get to later…

#2: There’s been a call for a shift in the substitution pattern, and the Heat seemed to have answered.

No Jimmy Butler, no Bam Adebayo. That’s been a lineup pattern that I’ve been tracking very closely over the last week, since it’s been so problematic night in and night out. The Heat changed things right off the bat, as Bam Adebayo got an early exit with Tyler Herro coming right behind him. There was about a 2 minute span to finish the first where neither were on the floor, but you can live with two. Just as the second quarter started up, Bam Adebayo was back out there. The entire goal is to give Butler the job with the second unit instead of Herro, since it can stabilize offense and control the turnover problems they’ve had in those units. It was clear the adjustment was coming, but good that the Heat didn’t wait on it.

#3: Bam Adebayo finding his flow, but it was intentional from Miami schematically.

As I said earlier in this piece, the Heat’s actions felt different in this game. The Butler-Herro combo was match-up based, but the Bam Adebayo sets were team/Bam based. Inverted PnR’s with Herro and Butler screening to get him downhill is always something that’s called for, and we saw that a good bit early. I’ve also been a big fan of running curls for him to operate off, since it’s essentially a living mismatch. Strus down-screened for him in the second quarter, he received it inside the elbow, jabbed, and flowed into a smooth jumper in his spot. A little bit later as Gabe Vincent walked the ball down the floor, Spo was punching his fist into an open hand, calling for a split action repeatedly. They got it to Bam, he waves Herro to fly off the screen, but it’s all a ploy to get Bam in space. Ends in a push shot for an and-1. My takeaway is as simple as this: run. actions. for. Bam. Adebayo.

#4: Cody Zeller time?

Only two players were in double figures as the game went into the half. Bam Adebayo and Cody Zeller. Yeah, that’s a new look for this Heat team. When it comes to his play, I keep coming back to one single word that stands out: activity. Jimmy Butler and Victor Oladipo are running in transition? Cody Zeller is sprinting a 40 yard dash into the play as a trailer. A shot goes up? Zeller is finding a body to potentially draw a foul or get his hand on the ball off a board. Heat searching for a decent look? Zeller is either screening in the action or off the ball. He is just in every play it feels, which brings me to that word activity. He looks fresh and he has played well.

#5: A needed win…

Aside from all of the schematic X’s and O’s stuff, the reality was a loss to this team would officially flush this season down the drain. I know you’re thinking: well, that’s been proclaimed multiple times already this season. But after those last two performances, they were in true total melt down territory. Also other than the morale side of things, this team specifically needed this against this Hawks team who are closely trailing them. A pair of wins in this set put you in a decent spot in that race within the standings. As I’ve been saying, the Heat’s new goal is the 6 seed. Avoid the play-in, avoid Milwaukee or Boston in the first round, and avoid total embarrassment to be brutally honest. Now you have to sweep this set on Monday.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Knicks

Talk about a tale of two halves. From pure disappointment in the first half to an energized group that actually looked like a basketball team in the second half.

Some takeaways…

#1: The defensive leakage continues in both half-court, and more importantly, transition…

Oh look at that, another 70+ point quarter for the opposing team in the Heat’s own building. As I’ve been noting, the Heat’s shooting is a major problem, but they were at least able to somewhat counter it early in the year by getting games in the mud on the defensive end. Well, that has fallen off completely over the last few weeks. A 20 point opening quarter for Julius Randle set the stage, mostly showcasing that they would find the open slots of Miami’s defense in the half-court following the heavy diet of showing and recovering to eliminate the simple switch. But the bigger issue is that the half-court defense doesn’t even feel like the main issue. Every grinded out Heat offensive possession ends in an extremely speedy Knicks team racing down the floor for layup after layup. No restriction for the Heat in that space whatsoever. The defense has been a problem.

#2: The Butler lineups vs the non-Butler lineups with a clear distinction.

The patterns for this Heat team have been odd as of late. Leaning into an early 5 minute stretch with no Butler or Bam is quite the choice, but Butler was also on pace to play a total of 28 minutes when we hit halftime. That’s an issue in itself, but the reason it’s a bigger problem is due to the fact this team has an insane shift when he’s on and off the floor. It’s one things to look at the lopsided numbers, but the eye test surpasses those stats even further. The Heat don’t have a base without Butler on the floor. They rely on a ton of guard play and pick and rolls, and that is getting them absolutely nowhere. Butler checks in with 6 minutes left in the second quarter, and there’s an immediate change on his way to 19 first half points. We’ve been saying he needs help, but this is looking worse by the day with him on a deserted island.

#3: Oh, is that what a bench looks like?

We can play the blame game on Tyler Herro or Kyle Lowry or Max Strus or Gabe Vincent on a night to night basis surrounding Butler, but let’s take a moment to zoom out for some perspective on a specific unit: the bench unit. Miami’s bench has been non-existent while the Knicks are possibly the most talented bunch in the league. Quickness and scoring from Quickley, solid 2-way play from Josh Hart, energy from Obi Toppin, and a perfect role big in Isaiah Hartenstein. Compared to the Heat’s second unit, they looked like a superteam, as Heat fans count down the seconds until Erik Spoelstra looks down his bench to rotate the core guys back in. This is nothing new since it’s an obvious statement, but seeing this measuring stick up close is definitely eye opening.

#4: A third quarter pick-up: Adebayo, Herro, Butler leading.

Now after all of the negative that I discussed, the Heat made a run of their own to open up the second half, playing with a lot more energy and flow on the offensive end. It began with playing through Bam Adebayo on the break, as he got some easy ones in transition as he started to play much more freely. Some of those short jumpers began to fall as well, getting him and the Heat offense in a flow. Tyler Herro played off of that with some tough pull-ups and movement threes to really spark Miami’s scoring punch. Through all of this, Jimmy Butler was the one creating much of the offense following the over-helping. Playing through their main guys is needed, and the Butler-Herro-Bam grouping showed up in the third.

#5: The fourth quarter…

Jimmy Butler checks in with under 8 minutes to go, Heat down 8. He immediately gets a low block and-1 to cut the deficit back to 5. Shortly after, Victor Oladipo hits his second big shot of the fourth quarter with Butler kicking it out for a top of the key triple. 6 minutes left, 2 point game. A big time Caleb Martin leaning three on the left wing officially put Miami up 1, right before the Heat and Knicks threw some counter punches back and forth. Under 3 minutes to go, a tough Randle fadeaway put the Knicks up 2, followed by a Brunson floater to put at a 4 point game with two minutes to go. Heat respond with a lob to Bam for the dunk, back at a 2 point game. With the crowd getting louder, Bam comes up short on a jumper, rebounded by Butler, and put back in. Simply out working them. Tie game. Another turnaround from Randle is the response, this time being an and-1. Fast forward to a Herro steal and incredible lay-in to put the Heat up 1, followed by a game winning Randle fading three. Tough way to finish that.