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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Dallas

The Miami Heat got off to a slow start, but finished it off against the Dallas Mavericks to improve to 6-1 on the season. Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro were active offensively early on, but Kyle Lowry was the story of the night.

It was his scoring debut.

Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Tyler Herro continues to do Tyler Herro things.

The beginning of this game had Jimmy Butler on an island written all over it. He was the only one generating points in the starting lineup, leading to them falling behind early. But then, here comes Tyler Herro as he stands at the scorers table. 17 minutes later and he had 17 points in the scoring column at the half. The guy is just a bottle of energy and production on the offensive end, pretty much matching the scoring dominance of Luka Doncic in the second quarter. Doncic buries a three, and the camera couldn’t even pan back out before Herro’s laying the ball in on the other end. That play just defines Herro, which was quickly followed by back-to-back pull up threes off the dribble. Simply: Tyler Herro is doing Tyler Herro things.

#2: Kyle Lowry picking his moments offensively, which is a fun twist.

As I noted before, the first half of this game was summarized by Butler scoring out the gate and Herro dominating in the second quarter. But don’t overlook Kyle Lowry once again. He was doing his usual offensive things by flinging the ball down the floor and hitting others in their spots in the half-court, but the outside shooting was back. And he’s not just letting it fly all of a sudden, he’s waiting for empty spots of the game. Transition pull-up three, late shot clock chuck, etc. They don’t need the full-out scoring Lowry every night, but awaiting for those needed moments is going to be key, and his IQ of the game allows him to do that so well. If Lowry can shoot like that more and more from the outside, with expanded catch and shoot opportunities, then something really is brewing.

#3: Dewayne Dedmon’s impact even bigger than originally expected.

We knew what Dewayne Dedmon was going to be upon arriving. They got a back-up big who can grab you some rebounds off the bench, provide a certain level of physicality and toughness, and score on the inside when needed. Yet the latter has stood out more than the others. For one, let me just put it to you straight: Dedmon just doesn’t miss around the rim. Yes, that may sound weird, but the guy combines a mixture of Kareem sky hooks, awkward finger rolls, and simple bank shots, while they always seem to drop. His impact has been huge to begin the year, and not just focusing on him stepping up into the starting lineup last game. He was a big reason Miami beat Brooklyn earlier in the year, and he made tough bucket after tough bucket again tonight with 10 first half points.

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#4: The three-point shooting night arrives.

As Miami takes an eleven point lead halfway through the third, I decide to take a look at their three-point shooting up to that point: 65% shooting on 17 attempts. Yeah, that’s a bit different than what we’ve seen so far this season. Part of that tonight was Herro rolling and role players hitting the shots available to them, but Lowry deserves most of the credit. As I mentioned earlier in this piece, the outside shot was falling for Lowry in a multitude of ways, which will be his primary scoring role in the regular season. This Heat team has totally shifted their offensive structure. More post-up reps and less spot-up shooting opportunities. But making the most of those catch and shoot jumpers can truly capitalize on the updated diversity of this offensive scheme.

#5: Could it be time for Duncan Robinson to take a step back? Not in role, but literally backing up.

This wasn’t another night where Duncan Robinson struggles to make shots, but instead he struggled to attempt shots, which might be worse. Yes, teams do fly out at him at an outstanding level, but the one-dribble mid-range pull up doesn’t seem to be the outlet right now. Stepping back, though, feels like it’s arriving soon. One of Robinson’s three-point makes included a deep heave early in the game which dropped through. I’m not basing this off of one make, but finding a spot on the floor where he can release freely feels like it should be utilized. Focusing on the production of Robinson night after night isn’t the reason I bring this up, but if he’s going to play extended minutes down the stretch, the attempts have to be higher. I wasn’t worried in earlier games when they weren’t dropping, but the lack of getting them up draws my attention.

 

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Heat’s Bench/Role Player Production Continuing to Win Them Games

It’s one thing to have your top guys like Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo rolling right out the gate, and it’s another thing to keep it sustainable throughout an 82 game season.

The first part of that has a lot to do with Kyle Lowry. As many have highlighted nonstop since the season began, Lowry has allowed guys like Butler and Adebayo to become those true scorers and not have to worry about the facilitating side of things as much.

The second part of that regarding sustainability has less to do with Lowry or Butler/Adebayo themselves, but instead the slack the role players are picking up to start the season.

For one, it definitely helps when you have a specific bench guy who is on track for the sixth man of the year award 6 games into the season, especially when that player is a 21 year old Tyler Herro.

Herro is the guy who can pace some of the star veterans the most, just due to the scoring burst he can provide night in and night out. Plus, unlike some others, he is actually capable of running lineups himself with the bench group around him. Erik Spoelstra has done a good job of keeping one of Butler, Lowry, or Adebayo on the floor next to him, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

Shifting into the front-court off the bench, I think we all pretty much knew what Dewayne Dedmon is as a player. He’s not up and down at all, is extremely efficient around the rim, and adds some physicality and toughness which translates to the results on the boards.

Comparing that to the back-up big last season, it was quite the opposite. Nothing against Precious Achiuwa, but he was a rookie without a true off-season and had to do so many things on the floor in that role. He’s undersized so rebounding wasn’t great, and he indeed was up and down on the offensive end due to those limitations.

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Markieff Morris was an interesting addition to this squad, and as I noted when he was acquired, the one way to maximize his play is to limit three-point attempts as much as possible.

So far, Miami has done that.

He’s actually pretty effective when he gets in that mid-range, and it’s not just due to the shots falling so far this season. Placing him in the middle of the floor in the non-Adebayo minutes gives the Heat’s offense a release valve to find him and allow him to make the next decision from there.

And finally, Max Strus capped off that nine-man rotation so far this season, and after an awkward fall on Saturday night against Memphis, he received good news this afternoon that the MRI came back negative.

Strus just had one of his better games of the season against Memphis, really shooting the ball well due to the fact that his reluctant ways didn’t kick back in. No matter the situation, no matter the contest, he was pulling it.

The best way to utilize him is the way they did in that last game. Less standing around in the corner, and more top of the key actions by slipping screens into pin-downs on the wing. That should be his homebase.

Now, he still will miss some time, but the severity of the injury was the focus. I’d expect two-way standout Caleb Martin to step right in, and play the picture perfect “plug and play” role that we know he can. Decent shooting, strong attacking, and hounding defense, which was a surprise to me to this extent.

The point is that this Heat team’s bench has really stepped up so far, and more specifically, role players have won them games multiple times this season.

That wasn’t the case last year.

The Heat currently lead the league in bench points at 47.2 PPG, while the Detroit Pistons are second with 42.2 PPG.

Huge gap.

To put that in perspective, the Heat were 22nd last season in that category. Once again, this is a small sample size, but the trends we’re seeing so far have been quite intriguing.

And well, this bench group isn’t done growing yet. Victor Oladipo will be on his way into that 9 man rotation at some point this season, and that’s when things will get scary.

Some may point to the necessity of a back-up point guard, but the correct term may be that they need a third string point guard. The reason for that is I can’t really see a point guard cracking their playoff rotation once acquired.

If they decide to hit the buyout market later this season, like I’d expect, they should try and grab some Kyle Lowry insurance, but other than that, it’ll be interesting to see how they go about it.

“I found that interesting already this year that people on the outside have sometimes questioned the depth,” Coach Spoelstra said. “We’ve always felt the depth was one of our biggest strengths.”

And that has shown to be true.

To refer back to an earlier point, the way these bench guys are helping Butler, Lowry, and others is due to the elimination of the rushing substitution that occurred so much last season.

With Butler on the bench, he’d look up at the scoreboard and see it getting worse and worse and worse. This season, on the other hand, there’s been points when he takes a couple more minutes rest since the bench is just “rolling.”

A pure point guard changes things, the emergence of young players changes things, MVP level play from Jimmy Butler changes things. But don’t overlook the bench production and the hot start from the role players.

Once again, they didn’t have that last season.

 

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Jimmy Butler Not Just Doing Winning Things, But MVP Things

It’s wild that one of the league’s top two-way players doesn’t receive the same praise that some of the league’s best scorers do.

Jimmy Butler is one of those hard nosed defensive guys, who can pass the ball at an extremely high level, get to the free throw line whenever he chooses, and can lead a team as well as anybody in this league. But in that description, notice how I didn’t mention scorer?

That’s always the last thing to come up when discussing Butler, and it shouldn’t just be a shoe-in adjective. He is currently averaging 25.3 points a game, which is 12th in the entire league.

Yeah, I’d say the guy can score a bit.

When bringing up the “Most Valuable Player” award, his name should always be floating around the top due to his “value” for this team every year. But after an incredible start to the season, basketball reference has him first on the MVP award tracker.

Why is that? Well, scoring Jimmy is back.

And even more importantly, he’s not going anywhere.

It is far from an overstatement to say Kyle Lowry is the reason for this flipping of the switch into scoring mode. As some Heat players voiced after last night’s win, Butler had a lot on his plate last season in terms of facilitating and hitting teammates right in their spots, but now that is Lowry’s job.

Butler’s role is to not only be that true scorer, but also collapse the defense any chance he gets. He may not have to play quarterback at the top of the offense as much anymore, but assists are still being generated through those drive and kicks that worked so well in the past.

And as the shooting numbers on this team continue to rise, those numbers will rise for Butler as well.

Now, the first interesting piece to his scoring mentality is his body of work getting to the rim. The league is cutting back on a lot of the foul calls that began to go overboard in previous years, while Butler is still continuing his success.

Guys like Trae Young and James Harden are trying to find their way in that department, since although they were smart in how to draw the whistle, they weren’t physical in doing it by any means. And that’s the difference with Butler.

Top 3 players in free throw attempts so far are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and Rudy Gobert. It makes sense that bigs can continue that trajectory of getting fouls since it’s inevitable with the amount of post-play that is thrown in there. But Butler is just continuing his full-back ways, plowing right ahead to the rim.

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The second element to this is that he’s taking advantage of mismatches at a pretty incredible rate. There’s no more waiting around while the shot clock trickles down. It’s now a full embodiment of the Lowry mentality.

Lowry doesn’t play to the clock, he plays to the best shot that comes available to him on the floor.

Looking at that first clip above, we see Butler get the ball with Ish Smith defending, the entire team clears out to the weak-side, and he goes to work down-low on the box. That is the formula for him.

That right there is a sign of sustainability. While the next part of his game that I will discuss may be up and down, this won’t be going anywhere.

All because he has a point guard unleashing those limitations. “Kyle’s telling me to be aggressive,” Butler said. And as much as Butler is always telling others to be aggressive, he needs that voice in his ear as well.

I can’t say that I expected Butler’s jumper to be back to this degree to kick off the year, but I guess an actual off-season gives you a chance to properly rest your body.

To that point, there’s no doubt that his legs are fully back. Looking at last season when threes never seemed to fall, every shot was short. No air time, no three-point makes.

Looking at the first two clips above, I see a guy that is getting off his feet and firing in a way that I haven’t seen from him in quite some time. Not that I expect to see a ton of stuff from him beyond the arc moving forward, but forcing defenses to even semi-respect it changes things completely.

The same goes for the mid-range jumper, which although it has seen a slight decrease from last year, those shots have been falling frequently over this 4 game slate. Also, these numbers would be even more ridiculous if he didn’t go 7 for 22 in that game against Indiana.

Another indication about him having his legs back are the amount of dunks he’s getting this season compared to last. He has 8 in six games, while he recorded 39 all of last season. Catching Lowry alley oops this regularly wasn’t an expectation of mine, but we’re seeing it right out of the gate.

And do you know another reason those dunk numbers are higher than normal?

Self generated defensive plays.

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Two of those eight dunks are seen right here, both being generated through Butler swiping the ball away from Ja Morant.

As I spoke about a ton heading into the season, Jimmy Butler will shine on the defensive end more than usual, since the numbers will actually mirror his activity and production in this new role.

He’s back in that sneaky, free safety spot where he can play from behind, double when he chooses, and make the instinctive reads for himself that he has always been so good at making.

The first clip just showcases a continuation of his activity on that end whenever the handler has their back to him. When someone’s eyes are focused in another direction, that is always Butler’s cue to pounce on them or go for that sneaky steal.

The second clip is that wrap around steal that Butler always gets away with, but doesn’t get credit for since the teammate who scoops it up gets the steal. His steal numbers would be even higher if that was the case, and it almost feels like they should record it like sacks in football.

Give each guy half a steal.

This may not seem important, but it is when discussing the way the league evaluates so many players according to stats. Defensive player of the year awards continue to take block and steal stats into account a little too much, and the overall production and value on that end of the floor too little.

In many ways, I feel Butler would have a better chance at DPOY than MVP. It just feels like one of the younger guys will emerge as the season progresses since it’s only game six, and that guy would get the nod.

And frankly, Jimmy Butler probably wouldn’t care one bit.

He has one thing on his mind and that’s an NBA championship, but somehow he has himself right on track for both as we continue to move forward in the season.

Butler’s value on this Heat team is clearly greater than any other, and I’m even saying that following Miami’s only loss coming without Kyle Lowry. Bam Adebayo is a major engine to this group as well, but I can’t see the Heat escaping with many wins if Butler isn’t on the floor.

Defender Jimmy continues, passing Jimmy takes a step back, and scoring Jimmy takes two steps forward.

25 points a game on 53% shooting, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals. And the most important number, a 5-1 record.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Memphis

The Miami Heat had a tough matchup on the second night of a back to back without Bam Adebayo, but came away with a win against the Memphis Grizzlies. Jimmy Butler led them with 27 points, as they prance into a 5-1 start to the season.

So, what are some takeaways from this big win?

#1: Bam Adebayo out calls for Miami going 5 out.

With Bam Adebayo being ruled out before tip-off tonight, there were some rotational adjustments for Coach Erik Spoelstra. While I expected to see an Omer Yurtseven insertion, they went with Dewayne Dedmon and relied on small-ball play when he wasn’t on the floor. And with his early foul trouble, we saw a lot of those minutes. PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris making up the front-court, before mixing it up with some Max Strus minutes at the 4. With that said, a theme was in place for the offense. They couldn’t work it into their centerpiece center in the mid-range tonight, leading to a total shift, beginning with 5 out offense. It’s not something we’ve seen a ton of in recent years, but with the names I just mentioned in the front-court, they were kind of forced into it. And well, the outstanding ball movement allowed it to work perfectly.

#2: Miami’s bench as a whole comes out big to start.

I touched on Miami’s bench being a lot smaller in this game with Dedmon moving to the starting lineup, and that means they needed immediate offensive production. And I’d say they did just that. Late in the second quarter, the Heat bench shot 65% from the field on 17 total attempts. Max Strus pin-down pulls, Markieff Morris’ early hot hand, and continued Tyler Herro aggressiveness. Last season, Miami didn’t have the ability to be without Adebayo and have the bench pick them right back up, but simply, this is a different team. Herro deserves a lot of credit for his ability to lead lineups for stretches, but the role player play on this team has been incredible, and another “role” player with a higher ceiling could be on his way soon.

#3: Silent scorer Jimmy Butler returns.

Jimmy Butler is a lot of things. He’s an unbelievable passer. He’s as good of an off-ball defender that I’ve seen in this league. He can get to the free throw line even while officials are keying in on eliminating that some. But well, the scoring description doesn’t come up enough, since he’s just a silent killer in that department. His finishing this season has been outstanding, and the interior having some extra space this season allows him to get those easy put-backs that he’s always relied on. Another thing to mention is that it’s not all being generated at the rim. Butler has his legs back. He’s shooting three balls with confidence, those mid-range jumpers are falling, and the bunnies are flowing much smoother than they were against Indiana. More on Butler’s plate without Adebayo was no problem as he strolled into a 23 point first half. Key word: silently.

#4: Heat’s defense continues to wreck havoc as much as possible without the anchor.

One of my focuses watching this game was going to be the defense without Bam Adebayo holding it down on the back-side. And well, Miami actually held their own more than I expected. For one, the Heat going small did not mean they were losing anything defensively, since Morris and Tucker are both strong and quick enough to match-up with so many different guys. But as much of an anchor Adebayo is, Butler continues to shine as he’s right at home, which I drilled all off-season. Adding so many extra defenders obviously is a plus to that end of the floor already, but it shifted Butler’s role. He’s now outside of actions more often, meaning more anticipating passes that develop in front of him and doubling whenever he chooses. I may have said that would be his role, but I didn’t think it would click this early. Yet, Butler always finds a way to settle in quickly.

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#5: So, are the three-point worries surrounding Duncan Robinson officially gone?

Do we worry about Bam Adebayo defending at a high level? Do we worry about Kyle Lowry passing at a high level? Then you shouldn’t worry about Duncan Robinson shooting at a high level. As I’ve said after all these games where he’s struggled shooting from deep, it’ll come together. Tonight, Robinson was at 5 threes on 50% shooting from deep and it wasn’t even the fourth quarter. A run in the third quarter from him sparked it, which is always the case with shooters like himself. Seeing the ball go through the hoop 3 straight times in a stretch is all it takes to get back on track, and Robinson did just that. Plus, he had one of his better defensive games of the season, moving his feet in isolations and contesting/recovering on shot attempts. A game like this was needed, but now it’s time to build off it.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Hornets

The Miami Heat took down the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night to improve to 4-1 on the season. Miami took care of business on both ends early, through scoring domination from Butler, Adebayo, and Herro, plus a continuation of that swarming defense against the league’s best offense.

Charlotte did make a run in the second half, but Miami held them off. So, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: The help Lowry is providing for Butler is different from the rest. 

I’m not just going to discuss the help Kyle Lowry is providing to those around him after every night like this, but it’s actually quite necessary. We may be wondering what the difference is specifically in Jimmy Butler’s urge to score right out the gate each night, and the answer is simply Lowry. Why is that? Well, Butler had a lot on his plate last season. Go-to scorer, go-to facilitator, etc. Not that he can’t handle that, but handing out roles like their name tags to begin the year has allowed Lowry to be that passer who doesn’t have to worry about scoring, and vice versa for Butler. Jimmy may be a natural play-maker, but it not being needed from him allows him to be this strong attacker that we essentially haven’t seen since the bubble with the number of attempts.

#2: Tyler Herro continues to “Heat up,” allowing veterans to “cool down.”

Tyler Herro is another topic that we will probably end up discussing most nights. He entered the game off the bench per usual, and continued to put the ball in the basket at a high level per usual. Oh, and the key word: efficiently. 18 points in 14 first half minutes on 7 of 8 shooting is pretty good in my opinion. The three was falling, he was getting to the rim, and that mid-range/floater go-to is still his number one skill on that end. It isn’t just about the ball falling through the hoop, it’s that he’s getting to his spots at a completely different level. Step-backs, step-throughs, and no hesitance on the pull. As this scoring continued, Butler sat on the bench without the need for him to make eye contact with Spo to go back in. This is a new team. They can survive without him for stretches, which is huge for this squad, yet it wasn’t possible last season.

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#3: Rebounding domination continues, uniting Spo and Riley’s play-styles.

I can’t say that I expected Miami to dominate the boards in this way this season, and I don’t think they expected it either. There are a couple reasons for it. 1) Guys like PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris may not have that extreme lengthy build, but that doesn’t always equal good rebounding. With that broad build, the box-outs are supreme, allowing the rebounding numbers to be spread out evenly with guards like Herro and Lowry crashing the boards. 2) Bam Adebayo is a clear-cut rebounding threat. It’s not that he wasn’t in the past, but the defensive schematics allow him to actually be in position for them more often this season. Since he’s not defending a guard on the perimeter every single play anymore, he finds himself down low on the box, awaiting the ball to fly off the rim. And well, that’s the formula.

#4: Miami’s role player run ends.

This may not be a stand-out takeaway, but it’s an interesting trend to keep track of. It’s not just about Miami’s role players basically carrying them against Brooklyn on Wednesday night, but there’s been one role player in every Heat win that stepped up when needed. Tonight, they didn’t have that big time game from a role player. To counter that, Miami just had Butler, Adebayo, and Herro rolling on the same night, which means the role players like Morris and Tucker can just do what they usually do on the floor aside from scoring. But if the shooting from Duncan Robinson and Lowry continues, they’re going to need somebody to shine if one of the main guys have an off night, and from what I’ve seen, I’m confident they will.

#5: At some point, shots will need to fall for Robinson-Lowry.

Kyle Lowry’s shot is going to need to fall sooner or later, since it hasn’t yet this season, but all of the other stuff he provides basically hides the poor shooting. Duncan Robinson, on the other hand, is right in that spotlight, due to the fact there were high expectations on him as one of the league’s premier three-point shooters. But to start the season, it’s been real ugly in that area. There’s still a certain level of focus on Robinson on the offensive end, but open shots are being generated for him quite regularly, and it’s almost as if he’s better with a hand in his face. Yet, with Herro’s name flying higher and higher up the scouting report, Robinson will have to get real comfortable in wide open spot-up threes. And aside from that recency bias, he clearly will.

 

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PJ Tucker: The Kyle Lowry of the Defense

0 points, 0 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, and 1 rebound.

That was PJ Tucker’s stat-line in a home match-up against the Orlando Magic on Monday night through 21 minutes of play, and while those numbers represent a pretty invisible night, it’s actually quite the opposite.

Tucker was not brought to Miami to score the basketball at an elite level, he was brought here to do everything else. The main element to that is the defensive side of the ball, creating a suffocating starting lineup with Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo.

And well, a lot has changed for many of the East’s best teams this season for better or worse.

Brooklyn lost Kyrie Irving due to his unwillingness to get a vaccine.

Philadelphia currently lost Ben Simmons for reasons I don’t have time to explain.

And Milwaukee lost a specific piece of their team that isn’t being brought up enough, PJ Tucker.

To win a championship, you need guys like Tucker who can play over 20 minutes without scoring a point, and still look like the most important player on the floor.

Over the first 4 games of the season, players being defended by Tucker are shooting 26% from the field on 10 of 39 shooting. Some may say that’s a small sample size, but I’d say that number won’t shift much.

There are guys like Butler who are just ball hawks in a lot of ways to hit those passing lanes at an elite level. There are guys like Adebayo who are just so physically gifted at that size to stay in front of small, shifty guards on a regular basis. But there are also guys like Tucker who are just so positionally sound that he won’t give you an inch.

That’s what has made it so hard for Kevin Durant, which by the way, difficult for KD in a game is scoring 25 points on 50% shooting, but it was very evident he was uncomfortable. It’s not that Tucker uses length against him. It’s not that he’s reaching a ton to let the referee dictate the possession. He just gets in his grill, doesn’t give up that space, and forces the Durants of the world into tough deep ball shots.

Looking back at the recent trend of front-court mates for Bam Adebayo, it’s been a pretty rocky ride in my opinion.

Starting with Meyers Leonard, they had major success throughout the first half of the regular season, giving him that stretch big who plays in drop coverage essentially was a springboard to Adebayo just letting everything show on the defensive end.

But with Coach Erik Spoelstra, that type of play-style was not going to last in the post-season.

They acquired Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala, and Soloman Hill at the deadline, leading to an incredible Crowder bubble run at the 4, basically showcasing the correct path for that slot next to Adebayo.

After he wasn’t retained, things did not go so well for that power forward position. Moe Harkless to Kelly Olynyk to Trevor Ariza was the continued revolving door for this Heat team. And although there were moments when the Ariza insertion was clicking, there was just one main difference between him and the ultimate 4.

They needed a guy who can size up.

It was great that Ariza plugged Miami’s point of attack defense at the time, but they have that in Kyle Lowry now. At this moment, the 4 who can size up instead of size down was the missing piece.

And that is Tucker.

As he said after the game regarding this team’s defense, “I can be on KD then Bam will switch and I’m like cool, then Jimmy will switch and I’m like cool, then Kyle will switch and I’m like cool.” And that right there is the beauty of this team’s new look defense.

When that switch occurs, Tucker has no problem sizing down as well, since frankly, he’s 6 foot 6 so it’s not necessarily “sizing down.” Looking at Miami’s defense on James Harden last night, he shot 0 of 7 when Adebayo, Butler, and Tucker were defending, and that was not accidental.

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Tucker was the reason Miami took down Brooklyn on Wednesday night, and there’s a chance I could be writing that same sentence following a playoff game later in the year.

He may be making an outstanding impact on defense and on the boards, but he’s actually provided a really positive offensive role as well, which may not be the case all season. Tucker is currently shooting 39% from three on over 3 attempts a game, which is needed to take some pressure off Miami’s wing ball-handlers.

To put some of that stuff in perspective, obviously this is once again a small sample size, but Tucker has the best net rating on the team right now at 25.1. Where do the other starters land? Lowry at 19.1, Butler at 16.4, and Adebayo at 9.8.

And that’s not all due to Tucker’s 81.6 defensive rating, which is absolutely insane, but he also has the highest offensive rating among Heat starters. The sustainability of this is another conversation, but there’s no doubt that Tucker is playing at a level that I don’t think many expected.

Well, maybe Pat Riley expected it.

The last thing that must be pointed out about Tucker: he’s the Kyle Lowry of the defense.

Lowry isn’t the best offensive weapon on this team, but his job is to set up the better offensive options and put them in better positions to thrive on each possession. And that’s exactly what Tucker is doing for the defense.

Aside from the vocal aspect, since he never stops talking on the floor, he’s placing Adebayo and Butler into these weak-side defensive stances where each of them thrive, while also taking the bigger match-ups so Adebayo doesn’t have to take the beating on that end of the floor every night down low.

We knew they needed a guy to set up offense like Lowry, but I don’t think we fully recognized the need for a guy to set up defense like Tucker.

They have that now, and Tucker has been good. Really good, and it shouldn’t go unnoticed.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Big Win Over Brooklyn

The Miami Heat took down the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night in the definition of an all around night. Lowry thriving, Butler shining, and role players making the difference.

So, here are five takeaways from this big win…

#1: Hit ahead passes were not only the first quarter theme, but a new Miami offensive theme.

Some offensive things fluctuated throughout this one, due to stretches being picture perfect, textbook offense, while other spurts were once again in the mud. But to look back at that clicking style of play, it aligns with that transition offense that we all knew Kyle Lowry would provide upon arrival. Yes, he pushes the ball down the floor. Yes, he can slow them down when it’s needed. But most of all, that hit ahead pass has been pretty contagious across the roster. With it only being the fourth game of the season, it feels like we’re still in that stage where they’re trying to grasp the timing of it fully, but it still works. Guys like Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have fully embraced that as well, which is a major part of it this early in the season. But it’ll be necessary to mix it in out the gate, instead of showing all of their cards immediately as the season progresses.

#2: Jimmy Butler comes out with all eyes on the rim.

Jimmy Butler always seems to come out with a clear-cut plan when the game begins. Sometimes in a game without Lowry in Indiana, it’ll be pure play-making with the ball in his hands. But in a game in Brooklyn after a 36 point night against Orlando, it was all about scoring. He was getting to the rim consistently, and even without getting that whistle, he was still converting regularly early on. And well, that’s the Butler they’re going to need over this next stretch of games against tough opponents. Butler was so crucial in the rebounding and defensive aspect of this game, providing second chances and extra possessions for himself over and over on the box. Coach Spo is exactly right when he says Butler is not a flopper, but that physical downhill play isn’t disappearing. Fullback Jimmy is still very much in effect.

#3: This version of Dewayne Dedmon provides much more flexibility.

There’s been one bench guy that has stood out in many of these games, either in a positive or negative light, but tonight that guy was Dewayne Dedmon. In many ways, offensive opportunities were just falling right into his lap under the rim, but actually converting on those possessions is a completely different story, which he has continually done at an extremely high level. This team also hasn’t been the greatest rebounding team in recent years, especially when relying on an undersized rookie Precious Achiuwa as your back-up center to provide that specific skill. Dedmon has done just that, and the offensive activity is the main element. Six first half rebounds with four of them being offensive. Miami needs those extra opportunities like that if they’re shooting this poorly from three, and having a reserve propel you in that way is important. But it wasn’t just him, which I’ll touch on down the line.

#4: Miami’s third quarter run: off-season acquisitions.

Coming out of halftime, it almost looked like Brooklyn could run away with it after an immediate triple from Kevin Durant. But what turned it around for Miami in that span? Well simply, the new guys. Kyle Lowry was a big reason for it to start, after a quick run that consisted of himself and himself only. Transition pull-up three, running the floor for a lay-in, and a nice dish for a Robinson three was how it went down in a stretch, really sparking Miami to kick off the second half. But the guy who was even more impressive tonight, specifically in that third quarter, was PJ Tucker. Making Durant as uncomfortable as humanly possible, competing on the boards in a way Miami hasn’t had in years, and just getting his hands dirty by diving for loose balls and things of that nature. If you get a big time game from one or two role players over this tough stretch of games, they will be in great shape coming out of it.

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#5: A rebounding flip from this Heat team changes things.

Looking back at the off-season, the Heat lacked a couple of things when evaluating the team on paper. They needed a pure point guard, which they got in Lowry. But they also needed added rebounding, which it was unclear if they acquired. They brought back Dedmon, but the only other front-court additions were strong 4’s who provide more of that horizontal presence than vertical presence. But let me just say, length doesn’t always equal good rebounding. Miami killed the Nets in that category tonight, and it was the definition of a team effort. Butler was outstanding in that area, Adebayo did his job, Tucker/Dedmon provided those extra opportunities, and Tyler Herro continues to bring that strong attack off misses. Keeping Spo’s personnel while adding a Pat Riley staple is the definition of a successful off-season.

 

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A Duncan Robinson Dribble Hand-Off Shift: Adebayo to Butler

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Coming into the season, it was known everybody on this Heat team was going to endure a shift. Duncan Robinson’s shift, though, was for very different reasoning.

Guys like Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro were going to see a positive change in terms of their newly acquired point guard, Kyle Lowry. And Bam Adebayo was going to begin that transition into a “flat-out scorer,” as Pat Riley noted before the season.

But as Adebayo begins to flip that switch, a prominent part of the offense was going to be cut out a little more: the dribble hand-off. While many Heat fans may scoff at the thought of a hand-off at this stage, it can still be highly effective, especially when Adebayo isn’t the one doing it.

To that point, my initial thought to begin the year was that’ll be PJ Tucker’s role. He’s a great screener with his wide frame, and has shown to be more than willing to play that “set-up” role on the offensive end of the floor. And well, he’s done just that so far.

But there’s actually been a better guy for that job through the Heat’s first 3 games of the regular season, and that guy may surprise you.

It’s Jimmy Butler.

Robinson is currently 8 for 25 on threes to begin the season, but the issue isn’t exactly those two numbers provided. It’s actually the spurts where you kind of forget he’s on the floor, since that hasn’t happened up until this point.

He’s always been a guy that can draw two to the ball at any time, but that’s actually been the new norm for Tyler Herro to begin the year. With that said, there should be even more of an urge to find Robinson and let him fire, especially in a game in Indiana without Kyle Lowry.

But without the continued DHO spam from Adebayo on a nightly basis, how does Butler provide an effective two-man game with Robinson?

Well, it’s actually in the same exact way Adebayo does it.

Taking a look through these clips above, there must be an understanding of the situation. This game was completely in the mud to say the least, and Butler was essentially being drowned in that mud.

He couldn’t get anything going, while Robinson couldn’t truly find a way to be incorporated in the offense without a true orchestrator by his side. So, the third quarter plan was to work themselves in together in space.

In the first clip, Butler gets another isolation possession for himself, but on this inefficient night, he’s looking for other options. Robinson loops around for the hand-off as Butler slips the screen, and he catches it in stride for the easy bucket.

Now, let’s move onto the second clip. And no, it’s not the same clip being replayed.

Robinson once again comes around the perimeter as both defenders bite on that DHO, which is why we constantly harp on his gravity. He hits Butler, and points come out of it once again.

Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle calls timeout for one reason and one reason only: to make an adjustment to that offensive combo.

Fast forward 30 seconds and you can see that defensive change that is made. Malcolm Brogdon doesn’t attack the Robinson hand-off, and just awaits the Butler slip. What does that mean for Miami? Well, it means Robinson has one job now: try and collapse the defense.

That collapse never truly occurred, which gave him a wide open driving lane for the easy two. If Robinson can counter those defensive adjustments consistently in this same fashion, then Miami really does have the best of both worlds.

Adebayo can play that weak-side as a scoring threat, while Butler plays that short roll with deep-threat Duncan by his side.

But Robinson has to get back to that same shooting level where it’s less thinking, and more reacting.

And it should be mentioned that this wasn’t just a one game thing.

As seen above, Miami worked it into their game-plan against Orlando as well, which makes it even more deadly when Butler is knocking down those bunnies/mid-range jumpers on that slip.

But they’re going to need that unconscious shooting from Robinson for this to fully work. With the guys around him, less attention will be on him then there previously was, but he’s going to have to make them pay.

I don’t really have any concerns about that necessarily, but the shots aren’t going to come in the same exact ways that they did last season. It may be more transition stop and pops off the catch. It may be more open looks that he has to knock down. And well, it may be the continuation of the dribble hand-off with Jimmy Butler.

But for his minutes to be a success next to Herro in those specific lineups, those shots will have to fall. And that combo hasn’t been considerably great so far.

Now as the schedule really starts to ramp up, they’re going to need him in a bunch of these big games. It’s about getting back to that original mindset: not focusing on three-point makes, but focusing on three-point attempts.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Orlando

The Heat took down the Orlando Magic on Monday night to improve to 2-1 on the season. Jimmy Butler led the way with an outstanding bounce back, while others sprinkled in some other things behind him.

So, let’s take a dive into some takeaways from this game…

#1: All eyes on Tyler Herro.

Tyler Herro has had a pretty incredible start to the season, kicking it off with a 27 point night then following it up with a 30 point night. A main takeaway from those games: he had a ton of attention on him…after he got rolling. It was a different story tonight, as once Tyler Herro’s name was announced across the arena, there was a united understanding on the defensive side of the ball for Orlando: hound him. Hedging pick and rolls, guards full out blitzing, and much more. What did that mean for him in the first half? Find Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, and that’s exactly what he did, leading to a combined 34 point half for those two. And that will be expanded upon more as the opposing scouting report continues to hone in on it.

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#2: Jimmy Butler comes out with a purpose after his poor performance.

If you watched Jimmy Butler against Indiana, you’d know he wasn’t himself. Efficiency was terrible, and as he said after the game, he allowed that to dictate his defense. In this game, he turned that around completely. 24 points on 11 for 13 shooting through 17 and a half first half minutes is a clear indicator. The interesting part is that only 2 of the 24 points came from the free throw line, but you don’t need fullback Jimmy when he’s knocking down those easy bunnies and mid-range jumpers. Were those points just being generated through Kyle Lowry’s presence? Part of them were, but the 4 first half steals can pretty much tell you he was generating stuff for himself as well.

#3: Miami’s offense is back…I wonder why.

From tip-off, the Heat were not only getting out on the break at a higher rate, but half-court sets were flowing. What led to the turnaround? His name is Kyle Lowry. It wasn’t Butler and Adebayo reverting back to late year’s play-style anymore. It was them receiving the ball right in their spots, just focusing in on that off-ball movement that each of them are so good at. In terms of the transition offense, it’s pretty obvious why it’s called “Kyle chaos” among the team: nobody can truly keep up with it. Guys like Adebayo and Herro are embracing that style of play to fully sprint down the floor, but it’s another thing to be in the right spot at the right time with the right peripheral vision. That stuff will come over time, but having that Lowry base will pay off majorly as the season continues.

#4: Markieff Morris embracing the offensive role necessary.

Something I’ve been talking about with Markieff Morris since he arrived has been the offensive spotting that he finds himself in. A main reason he’s been toward the bottom of many rosters recently is due to that inefficient deep ball that continues to pop up year after year. How can they maximize him then? Well, making him a roll/mid-range threat is the obvious way. It’s only the third game of the regular season, and we’re seeing it repeatedly. Toward the end of the third quarter, his stat-line read: 10 points, 5 for 5 shooting, zero 3 point attempts. Shortly after, he clanked a triple off the side of the rim, and followed that up with a big shot from the corner, but the point still stands. He has a chance to really thrive in this role, and three point attempts aren’t the way to do that. A potential shift in his front-court mate may enhance him even more though.

#5: A point of emphasis for Max Strus: get up shots.

Max Strus’ role is clear with this team, provide spacing and shoot the ball. As he said after practice when I talked to him, his role is to get Tyler Herro the ball, but could he be taking that too literally? He had 1 shot attempt up until the beginning of the fourth, before letting a wide open three go in the corner. But that play kind of projected his entire mindset. He had the open corner three initially, but swung to a covered Herro. Herro then gave it right back to him as he knocked down that shot. But focusing on his shot attempts will be crucial for him. They need him to score in this role, even if Herro and one of Butler, Adebayo, and Lowry are on the floor. He’s been doing a lot of other things well such as taking charges frequently, but those attempt numbers will need to rise. And not just the late-game heaves after the game is decided that he loves.

 

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What Happened to Miami’s Offense Down the Stretch Against Indiana?

Going from an opening night performance where Miami scored 72 points through 2 quarters to the second game where Miami scored 91 points through 4 quarters and an overtime is pretty interesting.

The missing piece from the puzzle: Kyle Lowry.

It’s not just that Miami missed his pure skill, but they just need that extra piece at the top of the roster to avoid lineups that are pretty uneven bench groups to say the least. As many have noted, this game looked like one from last season.

The other element to missing Lowry was that the offense was so out of control and in the mud throughout this game. They missed that offensive initiator to place them into their sets and allow them to just go, and it’s even harder when Jimmy Butler has a night shooting 7 for 22 from the field.

So, on this atrocious shooting night, it’s important to look into the stuff that was being run late in this game. Let’s take a quick walk through Miami’s last 2 minutes of regulation and the entire overtime on the offensive side of the ball…

The one positive note from Miami late in this game was the scoring from Tyler Herro, even if he did do it on 28 shots. Attempts should not be harped on with him in a game like this, since considering the offensive pieces around him last night, he should’ve been shooting for 30+.

Aside from that, it was clear the ball needed to be in his hands late in this game no matter what. Down 2 with 2 and a half minutes left, he avoids the screen and moves back left for a tough shot above the break. And well, he buries it.

Fast forward to 55 seconds left, Miami’s score remains the same, but they go back to that Herro creation at the top of the key. He steps back on Brogdon moving to his left and hits by far the toughest shot of the night.

If this wasn’t a signal that the ball had to go through him, I don’t know what was.

But yet, Indiana’s defense seemed to want the ball in anybody else’s hands as well.

Tie game with 30 seconds left, Butler is trying to get Herro on the move like they’ve done up to that point with constant screening. But with Brogdon covering Butler, he can easily show and recover on the screen, leading to a Miami reset.

Butler gets the ball at the top of the key as Bam Adebayo comes for the screen, and this is exactly what you want. Take a look at the spacing on the floor: Robinson and Herro both have their defenders glued to them on the perimeter, giving the Heat’s best two players the ultimate runway.

But everything just seemed a step too slow in that department. And better yet, predictable.

There was a crease for Butler to hit Adebayo on the roll, but he misses him with all attention on him on the ball. He then speeds up to attack, and every defender basically crashes in at once.

Why is that? Well, all 9 players on the floor knew what was coming next, and it led to them meeting him at the rim.

Without the team’s primary initiator, of course processing things offensively will be a bit delayed, but it’s unlike Butler to miss the type of reads that he always makes. He tried to make a play, but came up short on this possession.

Now, we make our way into the beginning of overtime, and it actually kicked off with one of the few good looking possessions for Miami in this game.

Butler orchestrating for guys to be in the right spots, as Adebayo sets a pin-down for Herro as a decoy essentially for them to get into the initial action. Adebayo gets the ball, Herro sets the back-screen for Butler, and Adebayo lobs it up to Butler for the bucket.

Now that looked like good offense that we saw against Milwaukee in the season opener.

The Heat are now down 2, and they try to run something similar to what was shown in the last clip with Adebayo receiving the ball in the high post. The ball gets bounced around, and it leads to a top of the key pick and roll with Herro and Adebayo.

Not only does Herro see two defenders fly at him, but there was no worry in the scheme defensively to quickly recover. The plan was clear: make Herro uncomfortable.

That’s exactly what they did, as Herro makes the right read to hit the open corner, but it flies way over Tucker’s head out of bounds.

When looking back at this play, there should be a slight shift if this coverage is ever thrown at him again, which many Heat players said after the game will be seen again. Adebayo should relocate to the free throw line extended on the roll as a release valve, while PJ Tucker should drop to the dunker spot.

If a defense is going to commit that heavily, you have to ultimately force them into flawless rotations once Adebayo catches that in the mid-range. Obviously it’s just the second game, so stuff like this will be tweaked when seen again, but that right there isn’t Herro’s fault.

The supporting cast can’t be immobile when this type of thing is seen.

This was a very crucial play for Miami when looking back at it, but it told us all we needed to know about this game. It’s Herro and Butler playing catch on the perimeter, while Adebayo’s early aggression fades completely.

In many ways, the role of Adebayo in overtime was the one he embraced when playing for Team USA in Tokyo.

Taking up space in the dunker spot, and pure screening and relocating. He wasn’t a roll threat, he was just a screen threat.

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Now, that’s not all on Adebayo, since the wing players have to do a better job of hitting him in those open windows, but there has to be that self awareness of who he is in these moments.

You’re already without a top player, in Kyle Lowry, so it should be him taking a step forward instead of a step back in terms of role.

The play ends in Butler trying to draw a foul on his three-point attempt, which clanks off the rim and into the Pacers’ possession. When the team is down 4 with 3 minutes left and that’s the shot you’re getting, you just aren’t winning those games. Especially considering the night Butler had up until that point.

But hey, somebody other than Herro had to try and make something out of nothing.

The hopes of Miami making a late push are pretty nonexistent at this point. Out of the timeout, down 9, Erik Spoelstra draws something up for one of the best shooters on the planet: Duncan Robinson.

Why is this important to note? Well, we needed to see more of this when offense wasn’t clicking late.

Miami went from a team that only relied on Robinson on the offensive end through hand-offs last year, to almost forgetting he’s on the floor at certain points last night.

Robinson has usually been the guy getting the double teams thrown at him in these spots, but his teammate, Tyler Herro, was seeing that instead. And that right there is an indicator to get Robinson some looks no matter if he missed some easy ones early on or not.

Robinson gets a wide open three on the inbound off the Adebayo screen, which is not something we’ve seen often on inbound plays recently since he’s the usual piece being focused on. But waiting to unleash him in this way 3 and a half minutes into overtime didn’t give them much time to recover.

Speaking of “waiting to unleash,” here’s Adebayo pushing the ball up the floor with 1 minute to go in OT, and ultimately missing two forced shots at the rim.

Once again, does it matter that he fell short on those lay-ins late? Maybe to a certain degree, but they just need him to get the ball up. And yet, this was the first time in overtime that he took it upon himself to initiate offense.

This isn’t just a conversation harping on the aggression of Adebayo, since I actually feel he has become much more purposeful in that department, but it must stay consistent.

It can’t be forceful right out the gate, it has to be in the normal flow as well.

It can’t be Kyle Lowry telling him to go, it has to be him realizing he can blow-by his guy as well.

In no way should people overreact to this game, since many of these trends won’t be the case when Lowry gets back on the floor, but this team has to be prepared for one of Butler or Lowry to be out for a game here and there.

Since that can be the difference between finishing the season with home court advantage or not.

 

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