Tag Archive for: Miami Heat

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Magic

The Miami Heat made their way up to Orlando on the second night of a back to back, which always feels like their biggest challenge no matter the season.

An underwhelming 44 minutes turned into a wild comeback to finish the game, heading into OT, and Miami took care of business.

So here’s four negative takeaways and one long positive takeaway from tonight (lol)….

#1: Horrid first half for Heat offensively, referring to a certain matchup.

This Heat half-court offense is already a grind in the first place. Three point shots just won’t fall, they are clearly under-manned on this roster when eyeing the reserves, and the scoring begins and ends with a mid-floor touch from either Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler. But why did it look *that* bad in the first half? Well, this Magic defense has the two components that Miami usually hates seeing: flat-out switching and length on those switches. That blueprint basically screams trouble for the guards. Every pick and roll was flattened out off that simple switch, and it doesn’t help the shooting cause when 7 foot small forwards are contesting shots off every catch. Most of the time it’s Miami doing it to themselves, but tonight it’s clear this type of matchup structure is something they want to avoid by any means.

#2: The way teams are guarding Bam Adebayo.

Bam Adebayo came out scoring pretty well with 6 early points, knocking down his dotted line jumper that he feels so comfortable with. But the water was shut off the rest of the half essentially, which was the theme of the entire half court scoring. Adebayo was still the best scorer for them through that initial 24 minutes tonight, which says some things, but I’ve been wanting to note how teams have been defending him. He has a strong base/hub, and it involved two spots essentially: off the catch in the mid post and off the roll in any space within the interior. When it comes to the regular mid-post entry, teams rarely will flat-out double him, even though we’ve seen it occasionally in the past. But when it comes to the stuff off the roll, teams are taking it away as much as possible. Pinching in from corners is the easy choice for opposing defenses, since they’re daring you to make a tough skip pass to the close corner. Bet on a struggling Heat three point shooting team to knock down that shot instead of their favorite shot making hub. It makes sense, but they have to find a consistent area of dictating their own shot profile instead of letting defenses choose it.

#3: While we’re on the first half issues topic, let’s talk defense quickly.

In the first half, the Magic shot 50% from three and basically had their way in the paint for different reasons. We know they’re going to switch everything, but one thing they are great at is sending calculated doubles to force turnovers. On the flip side when it comes to big picture comments, the Heat’s normal help defense has been off as of late. Too many times the short corner defender doesn’t rotate for the cut-off, as the Heat’s base is always to pack the paint and give up the three. You can always tell their energy level by those simple principles. In that first half, the missed help assignments created a ton of easy buckets for Orlando. And the key to Miami turning it around in the third: team defense. You can tell when they’re engaged, and clearly that was an Erik Spoelstra theme at half.

#4: Depth?

When it comes to the Miami Heat, they’ve been recently known for having a ton of depth, partly due to the revolving door of new ready to go projects at the end of the bench. But then you take a look at the reserves tonight: Jamaree Bouyea on a 10 day contract, who simply is unwilling to take any sort of jumper that’s available. Orlando Robinson, who fights on the boards and never feels to be a true negative, but doesn’t provide much offensively other than an occasional put-back. Haywood Highsmith, who I’ve been a fan of his rotational minutes in general, yet it’s clear the only scoring is the possible spot-up three you may get when left wide open. And lastly, Max Strus, who I’m sure you are familiar with by now. The point is this: when the starting lineup is inefficient, there’s no coming back from that. There’s no true offensive creation in that second unit whatsoever, which makes this so tough. It’s not only reliance on Butler and Bam being on the floor, it’s reliance on them generating almost every look. That’s basically the takeaway.

#5: Late-game comeback…

Usually I’ll start at the halfway mark of the fourth to finish these pieces, but let’s dig a bit deeper tonight. Down to the 4 minute mark, the Heat trail by 9. Bam took it down the open floor and ended up getting to the line off a leap to the basket. Shortly after, Herro found his spot in the lane for a tough floater. Timeout, 5 point game. After some back and forth, Vincent knocked down a transition corner triple to really give Miami some life, but Banchero kept answering. But then Butler began entering that mode. Mid-range bucket into easy back-door lay-in into another low block turnaround with 36 seconds left to cut the deficit to only 2. Miami ended up putting together a stop on defense off a Gary Harris missed three, and Vincent got fouled on the rebound. Free throws to come, as he buries both. Magic had a chance to take the lead off a nice inbounds play to Banchero, but Bam makes an incredible defensive play at the rim. With deja vu of the night prior, Heat inbound in a tie game with 1 second left: fading Butler three that misses. OT. And the next few minutes was all about Herro and his floater, continually finding his spot and rising up with one hand for touch shots. To put Miami up 5, Butler hit a side stepping baseline jumper with under 2 minutes left. Following some Magic moments, they had a chance down 3 to tie this thing up, but it didn’t fall in their favor. Heat win.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Rockets

Following all of the trade deadline commotion, the Heat faced the Rockets on Friday night.

What is that? Another clutch game?


Some takeaways…

#1: Tyler Herro-Bam Adebayo PnR: begins with Herro’s shooting, ends with Bam’s rolling.

At the half, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo had 16 points a piece. They were essentially the entire offense in that first half, but more importantly, they were doing it together within the same actions. Herro got some threes to fall on simple pull-ups early in the game, which changed their PnR coverages to come. Bam’s defender now began playing much higher, leading to pocket pass after pocket pass to Bam on that roll for a flurry of buckets. It should be noted this isn’t a good defense, but this sequence of events in this two-man combo is a constant theme when things break right. What needs to break right? Well to simplify things, Herro hitting from deep opens everything up. Once you force that back-line to adjust, this pairing is in business.

#2: The defensive game-plan against the Rockets.

The Heat were giving up switches every time down the floor right out the gate. Well that’s nothing new, you might be saying to yourself, but it was for very different reason. They weren’t trying to flatten out this offense, they were trying to bait it. Alperen Sengun gets Caleb Martin on a switch, as Adebayo waits for the entry pass. When he makes his first move, the double is there. They were forcing a turnover prone offense into potential turnovers. This was a good base, but we saw the overall pressure was lacking. Exactly half of their points in the opening half were paint points. Miami was getting beat on secondary attacks, and aside from that early wrinkle, the Rockets’ added burst on the perimeter was breaking them down for a 56 point opening half.

#3: Clearly a switch for Jimmy Butler.

As I talk about very often, Jimmy Butler can flip a switch whenever he chooses. Once the calendar turns into playoff time, he forms into an absolute dominant force that is as tough to slow down as any. When it comes to the regular season, we get examples of that. Some night’s he comes out, and you know what Butler you are getting. Activity in passing lanes, getting to the free throw line, etc. Other nights, such as that first half tonight against the Rockets, he’s in coast mode. It makes sense on the first night of a back to back, as he intends to play his first back to back of the season, but it’s also predictable. The Heat should be able to handle business against this Rockets club without an all-out Butler, but it speaks to this roster certain nights.

#4: No more trade talk, buyout market talk?

Let me take a moment away from the game to talk what is next. For a while there we were talking trade possibilities, but now I’m being bumped down a tier. After an insanely quiet deadline, all that is left for the Heat to gather involves the guys who have been bought out. That is a very heavy guard pool, while the Heat have clearly lacked front-court bodies all season, as their starting power forward continues to play out of position. Russell Westbrook? Reggie Jackson? Pat Bev? Yes, this is where we are now. I’ve talked frequently about the need for a change of scenery of some kind with this group, and following no trade, this is the only place left to do it.

#5: Clutch game? Clutch game!

At the halfway mark of the fourth quarter, Jimmy Butler checks in. Under the halfway mark of the fourth quarter, Bam Adebayo picks up his fifth foul. They trail by 5 points against a bottom feeding Houston Rockets team with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter. The Heat had 84 points scored at that point. As much as I noted the underwhelming defense at times, you just can’t score 84 points in that amount of time against any team in this league, especially weak defenses. The Heat finally got back on the board a minute later, as Butler got to the line on a reach in, cutting the deficit to 3. Shortly after, he took a trip right back to the charity stripe, now only trailing by 1. Heat forced a steal, flow into transition with 30 seconds left, as Vincent finds Herro in the corner covered. He leans left and buries the three, on a shot he just always seems to love. Now up 2. They ended up fouling on the other end, sending Jabari Smith to the line who buries both. Tie game, 10 seconds left. Inbound to Butler, who drives and gets fouled on his way. 2 for 2. Except off the inbound, Jalen Green converts a lay-up with less than a second to go. Out of the timeout, an incredible play by Spo draws up a back door cut for Butler for the win.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Pacers

The Heat faced the Pacers just hours before the deadline on Wednesday night, as Bam Adebayo shines yet again.

He’s had big time offensive nights, but when it comes to that knockdown jumper: this is at the top.

Some takeaways from this one….

#1: The Heat come out with a hot offensive first quarter.

With not much focus on an actual basketball game being played tonight, the Heat came out with a surprising amount of energy. The offense was moving extremely well, as they were hitting shots from the outside and finding back-door cutters often. That interior play led to 9 first quarter free throw attempts. Gabe Vincent was the story of that early quarter, as he walked into an immediate 11 points, which is some awkward timing. The trade deadline hours away, and Kyle Lowry on the top of everybody’s mind, he found his offensive comfort in a heavy off-ball role. Spot-up threes and some PnR play got him going. That got the Heat up to 39 points in that opening quarter, but inconsistency struck again.

#2: Bam Adebayo’s high isos and elbow jumpers…

Bam Adebayo’s game has become simple on the offensive end. Not in terms of role, but in terms of approach. To finish the first quarter, he dribbles down the open floor with an expiring clock, and flows into a deep fade-away jumper at the buzzer doesn’t even hit rim. Shortly after to begin the second quarter, limited time left on the shot clock, he fades at the same spot for the same shot. Bucket. Those rhythm shots turned into a full-out elbow jumper display off every pocket pass and isolation. He was getting to the line as well, but it wasn’t in a Jimmy Butler grind it out style. The jumper was dictating. The pump-fake just kept finding buyers. He finished with 20 points in the first half alone. His scoring levels have become extremely fluid, and they fit the playoff style so well.

#3: Noting some issues, plus the TJ McConnell game.

We often talk about random scrub Heat killers, but TJ McConnell always seems to find his game against the Heat in recent years. He knows the primary spot he can score from, Miami knows the primary spot he can score from. But sometimes that’s just a shot you’ll live with in context of the offense. That was the case in the first half, where he ran off 16 early points in that short mid-range area. As much as I talked about the Heat’s early flow, they still trailed by 3 at half. Even more importantly, they gave up 63 points to this Pacers team in 24 minutes. In big picture, no matter what the roster looks like, the Heat will figure out how to operate within top ranked defenses. But this just sums up the inconsistencies way too often. Shooting variants, coverage variants. That’s what makes playoff projections tough at times due to the wide range of the unknown of who you are getting exactly.

#4: Jimmy Butler willing his way to buckets.

As much as I discussed Bam utilizing his strengths, Jimmy Butler was doing the same heading into the third quarter. Let me start by saying the Pacers are a team that defends Butler much differently than any other team in league. The match-up that Butler usually searches for, already sits there on a platter as their small guard Andrew Nembhard is his match-up each game they’ve played. It’s not a total disadvantage since they constantly shade help, but it shifts Butler’s original approach. In that third quarter, we saw him just willing his way to the basket. Embracing contact, fading for and-1’s in mid-air. Playing off misses and dump-offs around the rim. He was in his element, and most of all, he was playing with a certain level of intensity. Butler and Bam finding their way…just hours before the deadline.

#5: Hours away from the cut-off.

On a night that the Heat played a game against the Pacers, with their two top dogs in Butler and Bam leading the way, it didn’t even feel like a game night. All of the focus seems to be on that 3 o’clock deadline tomorrow afternoon, as they search for any type of improvement. We’ve talked enough names, but I just want to discuss it in the context of this game. Watching Bam Adebayo not hit rim on any jumper. Seeing Jimmy Butler score whenever he chooses it’s necessary. Get them the help they most definitely deserve. We often headline this point with Butler’s window, but what about Bam’s surge? He’s playing at an incredible level right now, and that shouldn’t be wasted either. Let’s just see how this plays out, hours away from the cut-off.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Bucks

The Heat finished off their 4 game road trip in Milwaukee, and the Heat’s core guys came to play in comparison to last game in New York.

Jimmy Butler was a constant force offensively, yet so was Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Heat’s top guys were good, but that wasn’t good enough.

Some takeaways…

#1: The front-court size differences showing early.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez vs Bam Adebayo and Caleb Martin. Yeah, when looking at the height column of their player profiles, it’s a striking disparity. The early showing expressed that perfectly, as the Bucks offensive plan was strictly matchup based. Finding guys like Antetokounmpo over the top time and time again, as the shots at rim was insanely one-sides in that first quarter. The Heat’s primary first half run came when Antetokounmpo was on the sideline, which makes sense, but as I said before the game, the key to this game was going to be sitting back in zone. If they out-shoot you, it is what it is. But you can’t let the Bucks dictate matchups all day off switches. The Heat ended up tied at half, but there was still a clear need for front-court additions. Yes, that was plural.

#2: Tyler Herro controlling the offense big time early on.

After that opening explanation, you may be asking yourself: tied at half? Well I was asking myself that same question at many time stamps, but the answer in the second quarter was Tyler Herro. Even when Jimmy Butler’s crashing rim attempts were needed, Tyler Herro’s in-between game just kept saving the offense. Making quick decisions on when to utilize his favorite floater and when to stop and pop into the usual pull-up jumper. We know he likes this matchup for more reasons than it being his hometown with family in the crowd. He’s been vocal about loving this drop. His comfort was most noticeable, as he was playing extremely loose when roaming downhill or on the break. And when Herro’s playing freely, that’s when he’s at his best.

#3: So ummm, back-up big minutes were…something

Last game. Erik Spoelstra had the choice of playing Udonis Haslem or Dewayne Dedmon behind Bam Adebayo. His goal was to play them both, but ended up going with UD in that Knicks matchup. Fast forward to tonight, Dedmon was the one hitting the early scorer’s table. He went 0 of 4 in the first half. There was an incredible 60 second run he went on: a missed layup turned into an immediate takedown tackle for the foul. Shortly after, he pulled an in rhythm above the break triple that short rimmed. As much as I joke about it on social media, those seven minutes in that first half hurt. I mentioned front-court help early in this piece, but you just can’t be one big man injury away from this point.

#4: Jimmy Butler extremely engaged offensively in this one.

Jimmy Butler has this certain quality. It’s a switch. He can turn it on and off whenever he chooses, leading to incredible playoff runs when it matters most. A matchup that hasn’t always been his favorite is this drop coverage Bucks squad with the way they protect the rim, but that didn’t matter. He flipped his switch. Dominating on the downhill drives into tough bank shots, good in-between range play, and getting to the line when needed. He was seeking on-ball reps in that third quarter, which is needed from him in games like this. As I said Herro took control early on, Butler was silently taking over throughout. When his fingerprints are on games like this, you know in two areas: free throw attempts and defensively. He was extremely active in both categories, compared to his last performance in New York.

#5: More fourth quarter breakdowns…

As the time ticked in the fourth quarter with Jimmy Butler still not checking in, it felt like the Heat trailing by only 2 at the end of the third was the best it could get. Yet Bam Adebayo and company kept Miami in it heading up to the halfway mark, as Butler entered. The next issue that approached for the Heat: their constant shot making all night began to hit a wall. As the shot making dissolved, the Antetokounmpo game-plan will only go so far, as he just continued to battle to the free throw line on a ton of straight line drives. It’s simply an uphill battle when fighting past the size and shooting disadvantages. They put up a fight all the way til the end behind their top 3 guys, but it just wasn’t good enough. A summary of their season, a theme for the trade deadline.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Knicks

The Miami Heat played the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, and Bam Adebayo was showing out fresh off an All-Star nod.

It was another night of an absolute grind though on both ends, resulting in a Heat loss in the final seconds.

Some takeaways…

#1: Bam Adebayo, the two-time All Star, showing out in the Garden.

Shortly before tipoff, the All-Star reserves were released, as Bam Adebayo was one of those names. Much deserved, while I’ll save that exact topic for another time. As for this game, Adebayo was playing like that All-Star self. He was the story of the second quarter as the Heat worked their staggering rotation between Butler and Bam, as Bam found his offense over a specific stretch. He had a pair of big time dunks, as one was a complete poster on Fournier who was late on the weak-side help. Aside from that trend, the Knicks were playing at a much faster speed than the Heat wanted. But Bam doesn’t mind thriving in that field. They began finding him in transition consistently which they need to do more of. He was the offense for them early on, finishing the half with a complete clear-out and isolation pull-up. The main bright spot.

#2: Another on/off Heat point guard segment.

At halftime, Kyle Lowry was a -20. The Heat only trailed by 3 points at that time stamp. It should be noted that Gabe Vincent was great in all elements of that half, but the main thing to note is that the offensive energy shifted. He entered and flowed into a high PnR and knocks down a pull-up three. That alone was the primary explanation. Vincent is comfortable, Lowry is not. We can talk about him missing shots, needing to guard post players every time down, or the constant off-ball role all day long, but his entire career was built off control, confidence, and comfortability at the helm of an offense. He has nothing close to that anymore. That’s the second straight game where he had an invisible first 24 minutes. Once again, that just can’t happen, especially when you are hurting the team.

#3: Udonis Haslem as the backup big, telling in many areas.

The first Heat player to hit the scorer’s table tonight in Madison Square Garden was no other than Udonis Haslem. Orlando Robinson will be out for a bit, possibly leaving Dewayne Dedmon another opening. Except they correctly didn’t go that way. Why? Well the logical perspective is that he’s being discussed in trade conversations, so why risk him getting injured. The other perspective which is where I lean: Haslem is the better option right now. His principles defensively are much more impactful than alternate options. But the other thing this conversation showcases: the trade deadline is a time for front-court help. I know that’s an obvious thing to say, and yes Omer Yurtseven is coming back soon, but they can’t be one injury away from making decisions like this one in April.

#4: A wild third quarter with runs on both sides.

A 3 point game turned into a 13 point game rather quickly to kick off the third quarter. The Heat couldn’t score while the Knicks found their way against certain matchups. One of those matchups was RJ Barrett against Tyler Herro, since they were really trying to draw that switch time and time again. Well if that’s happening, they’re going to need something big from him offensively. And they began getting it. Three straight possessions, three straight Herro triples. The key was that he was confident in his pull-up out of that high PnR, and as he found his offense, others did as well. Miami ended up hitting 5 triples in a 3 and a half minute span, taking the lead right back. Yet to finish the quarter, the early quarter story turned into the late quarter story. Heat had trouble scoring, as Randle now found the matchups he liked for buckets or kick-outs in that mid-post. It’s a game of runs, and this 12 minute span showed that.

#5: Late-game activity: Bam Adebayo *was* the offense.

That late-third quarter stuff blended right into the fourth quarter. The Heat’s zone was being picked apart, and the shots from deep weren’t falling for Miami. As things were going downhill, Bam went into selfish mode. A great mode. He would run down the court, get into his mid-post spot, then operate into a jumper. Then again. Then Butler entered and they ran inverted PnR’s for him. Then again. Waiting til you are trailing by double digits to run this stuff for Bam and let him loose is probably the weirdest part about all of that. This play-style cut the lead to only 5. They continued running stuff for him, such as an easy curl into the free throw line that cut the lead down again to 3. Like I said in the headline, he *was* the offense, and that needs to be a constant theme. Shortly after, he flowed into a baseline step back late in the shot clock, getting him to the 30 point mark. Some back and forth continues with some New York buckets, and Tyler Herro mid-range play, landing in a one possession game under a minute to go, Knicks inbounding. They lob it up to Randle, Bam swipes it for the steal, and gets it into transition. With the Heat down by 3 and a chance to tie, Herro had a good look for three and missed, then they got the steal for another chance. Herro passed up on a three, kicked to Strus, which led to a turnover. Yet that wasn’t ball-game just yet. The Heat challenged the inbound on the Knicks side and won it with another chance to tie or win. Inbound to Herro in the short corner, and it’s off. Buzzer sounds.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Cavs

On the second game of the road-trip, the Heat faced the Cavaliers in Cleveland.

The Heat battled through for a solid win behind Jimmy Butler.

Some takeaways from this one…

#1: Jimmy Butler sets the early offensive tone.

The number 1 defense in the NBA colliding with another top 5 defense never screams pretty offense. And that was looking to be the case to begin this game. The Heat looked lost in the half-court, quickly flowing in a terrible direction in that building. Yet, Butler took the reigns of the offense to steer Miami back in the other direction. He was spamming mid-post touches, mostly following off-ball screens to create mismatches. Garland or Dean Wade on his back meant he had them right where he wanted. Low post touches for lay-ups, drawing clear fouls, and simply watching for the double. After an immediate 11 points, that double was coming sooner, as he began dishing out to baseline drifters. He revived Miami in that first quarter with this formula, and that’s an equation we will see very often in big games.

#2: One Bam Adebayo moment that is needed during a tough stretch.

Bam Adebayo seemed to be carrying over that Charlotte Hornets rust early in this game, as that solid Cavs defense was jamming Bam up to not even receive the ball in his spots. Fast forward to the second quarter, Adebayo got the ball at the half-court line in transition. He put his head down, crashed into Jarrett Allen, and threw down a tough dunk over the top of him. From that moment on, Adebayo found his rhythm. A 12 point second quarter was the result, all coming in that painted area off drives, post-ups, and of course some short mid-range touch shots. But the main point is this: Adebayo’s going to have cold nights just like every player in this league, but his response needs to be this exact blueprint. Realizing he’s faster and stronger than most guys on the floor, so it’ll all generate from some drives to the basket in space. That dotted line jumper must remain his go-to with how automatic it is, but the way to revive it will begin with rim attempts time and time again.

#3: First half point guard play: a lopsided affair.

Kyle Lowry’s name has been coming up quite often for obvious reasons. His impact hasn’t been there, and the bare stats make his case an even tougher one. At halftime tonight, that held up. He didn’t record one single stat except a pair of turnovers, while Victor Oladipo was battling through inefficient play to make necessary plays. He ended up with 5 assists at half, mostly through his energy and ability to get to the rim consistently and dish out or dump off. I think this is a very possible adjustment come playoff time when it comes to shifting lineups, but for now, it’s pretty simple to say this stuff can’t happen. Yes, Oladipo can carry the play-making weight at times, but Lowry’s going to have to play *some* part in that as well. In the third quarter, he was much more engaged though. He knocked down two triples, and made some nice passes to get others involved in the offense. They need his fingerprints on things when he’s out there.

#4: Third quarter trends…

If you’ve watched Heat basketball, you’ve probably heard about the “turd quarter,” as the Heat always seem to let games get away from their control following the half. For example, that was the case last year as well, but Miami was 12th in the NBA in 3rd quarter offense. This season, the Heat are dead last in 3rd quarter offense…by a wide margin. There’s just something about drifting from game-plan or lacking energy in that span. The Heat actually found some flow early in the third tonight following an immediate 9-0 Cavs run, but then they let go again. The defense tailed off, and you just noticed Cleveland becoming the dictators on how they wanted to play compared to Miami in previous minutes. The third quarter trend has become a joke in many ways, but it’s really not. It’s an actual issue somewhere in the philosophy.

#5: Oh look at that, more clutch time…

Tie game midway through the fourth, a lineup of Vincent-Herro-Butler-Martin-Bam on the floor. Martin finds space for a baseline runner to put Miami up 2, followed by a Vincent spot-up triple to give Miami a 5 point lead. The role players stepping up was a good sign, as Bam was sluggish and Herro just started getting going shortly before. Cleveland responded with a Garland pull-up and a wide open Okoro 3 to even things right back up. It was clear at this time, defense would be the key to this one. Mitchell got to the line, going 1 for 2, as the Heat flowed down there end into a Bam jumper at that dotted line. Heat up 1. Butler now hunting for the Garland switch once again, gets to the basket, but misses. Bam gets the offensive rebound and puts back up. 3 point game. Following another stop, Butler now takes Mobley off the dribble, and fades into a middy jumper. Up 5 now. Second half of the season Jimmy Butler seems activated.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Hornets

The Heat kicked off their road trip in Charlotte, and it didn’t go as expected.

They came out playing well, but that faded quickly.

No defensive resistance, missed opportunities offensively. Heat fall late.

Some takeaways…

#1: Tyler Herro/Bam Adebayo’s early scoring as drop killers.

Heading into this game, the game-plan was clear: a poor Charlotte Hornets defense that sits back in drop, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo should have a mid-range field day. Herro came out with that in-between game floater dropping, setting the tone for Miami’s eventual game-plan. The Heat weren’t attempting threes, since they were sticking with what was working offensively in that painted area. After Herro’s early floaters connecting, Bam continued that style. His mid-range jumper was still automatic right below that free throws line, as he would take Plumlee off the dribble on that short roll. But that was the last of a comfortable Bam, as his play slowly diminished. Playing more off-ball, interior defense was lackadaisical, and didn’t seemed fully engaged. That was big in the end.

#2: Jimmy Butler engaged, while in a troll mood.

When it comes to Jimmy Butler, he’s never taking things too seriously in any capacity, but today we saw that even more than usual. Facial expressions after foul calls, screaming after buckets, animated constantly. The main thing was that he was engaged in a game against a 14 win team, which we don’t see very often. He was getting to the rim a ton in that second quarter, walking into halftime with 16 points. The other stat category that will always tell you his level of aggression in a game is the steals column, which he had 3 at halftime. He was hitting passing lanes, and finding the ball a good hit even with the Heat’s lack of resistance at times. Which I’ll talk about now…

#3: The defense waiting for pickup…

Every night there’s a similar theme past the first 24 minutes. An in the mud matchup, as the Heat can’t score but defending at a high level. This time around, it was actually the exact opposite. After discussing the top 3 guys scoring well early, it should also be mentioned that it was only a 4 point lead at half. Why? Well there wasn’t much resistance at the point of attack for Miami, as the Hornets flowed their way into the paint as well for easy buckets. They were rebounding at a higher rate, and kind of out-hustling them on that end to start. Miami never seems to truly get up for games against weaker teams, especially on both ends. Both teams shot charts were very similar, but the Hornets defense matching the Heat’s defense to start wasn’t an expectation by any means.

#4: Hornets trade possibilities making noise?

As the Heat trailed by 5 entering the fourth, the Hornets offensive punch was led by PJ Washington and Terry Rozier with 25 a piece. Two guys who have been linked to the Heat in the past, and probably still will heading up to this upcoming trade deadline. Washington was extremely good in that in-between game floater, as Miami just couldn’t close those possessions with their defensive base wanting those shots. He then found his rhythm from beyond the arc, as we know he’s a solid stretch big from three point lane. Terry Rozier on the other hand was just in his shot creation bag. Step back threes, fadeaway jumpers, getting to the rim. He can be one of those hot and cold type of scorers, but tonight was one of those “hot” nights. And well, it’s clear that both of those styles are things the Heat could use right about now.

#5: An uphill climb late.

What once was a 13 point lead for the Heat, collapsed to down 12 in the fourth quarter. The offense fell apart, and the defense still wouldn’t wake up. Under 5 minutes to go, Bam finally was waking up. He got into the middy pull-up, then blitzed the ball handler for a swat to Butler in transition. 6 point game now. After a timeout, Kyle Lowry came out pushing pace. A transition lay-in, followed by an early drive and dish to Bam for the push shot. 2 point game. Yet the Heat couldn’t fully capitalize. Heat had some good three point looks that they missed from Herro, Oladipo, Lowry. But the true takeaway was the defensive energy. Off a jump ball in middle court with a low shot clock, Plumlee took Bam off the dribble for the lay-in. That just can’t happen late. A LaMelo Ball three put them back up 8. Defense didn’t show up, simple as that.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Magic

Another ugly type game. Another clutch game. Another Heat game.

The Heat held off the Magic late with a game that just keeps repeating itself.

Here are some takeaways…

#1: Should I even bring up the shooting again?

When it comes to recapping these games, it’s necessary for me to once again bring up the three-point shooting. But it’s pretty clear this stuff is getting repetitive. In a deeper sense, this stuff isn’t really an outlier anymore. It’s who they are. At halftime, they were shooting 17% from three. Plus if you eliminate Max Strus’ 2 of 2 start off some DHO actions, they were 1 of 16 from deep. I will get to it in a second, but Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo combined for 28 first half points. Two guys that are interior threats without a three-ball, they need the correct spacing to make it work. Luckily, those guys were making due with the limited space early in this one, but that trend just can’t roll into the playoffs.

#2: Some early Jimmy Butler work.

We can talk about Jimmy Butler’s game played for obvious reasons, but it’s clear that when he has played, he’s been competing at a high level. He had 18 points through the first 24 minutes, and this wasn’t like that Thunder game with straight free throws. He had 4 free throws, but more importantly, 7 field goals. The common thread was mostly dunker spot bouncing, as the perimeter players were dishing it to him in motion many times for simple paint points. But the other stuff was mostly mismatch hunting. Oh that’s Cole Anthony on my back? I’ll just take this mid-post touch into a low-post touch. Oh I have Wendell Carter in space? Quick drive and spin for the lay-in. He *was* the offense in the first half.

#3: Some Bam Adebayo foul trouble.

Just to maintain a pulse check on this game, the Bam Adebayo foul trouble was a decent portion of the direction of this game. Not all of it, but some of it. The Magic were doing a good job of getting to the rim, and as we know, Adebayo’s going to do his best to meet them there in that clean up crew role. He got called for some questionable ones when it appeared he went straight up an down, but that ultimately meant more Orlando Robinson. He’s been a better alternative than the other options, but it’s definitely not perfect. The lack of a big man offensive hub, the hands need work, and the defense can be picked on when there isn’t blitzing. We don’t see Adebayo foul trouble often, but it was a first half story-line.

#4: If Kyle Lowry is shifting into more of an off-ball role, the shots need to be taken.

With another underwhelming first half when it came to Kyle Lowry’s box score, that wasn’t my biggest problem. It’s the amount of kick-outs he was receiving and passing up. It’s one thing to be unselfish. It’s another to hurt the half-court offense by denying good looks. We saw him beginning to take some of those shots in the third, knocking down back to back triples that were two of his more contested looks of the evening. That stretch was probably the best few minutes of the game for their offense, as you began seeing certain lanes opening up. Yes he’s now in more of a spot-up role with all of the on-ball threats, but the main need within those minutes it to take the open shots off the catch.

#5: Late-game play…

While I’ve described many of the things that were going wrong, let me start with something that began going right. Mid-way through the fourth quarter, the Heat made their offensive run by some transition Caleb Martin finishes. He put a wild move on Orlando for an insane up and under, then followed that up with another tough lay to push it to a 5 point lead. As both teams were throwing some punches back and forth, the Heat found a common thread defensively. Collapsing on drives. A few blocks for Adebayo and Martin got the Heat on the break a good bit, giving them some momentum. The Magic responded with some foul drawing to continue to claw away cutting the Heat’s lead to only two with 2 minutes remaining. The following plays consisted of another tough Martin finish, a Wendell Carter triple, and a Butler spin and score with the and-1. Heat up 4. Orlando ended up cutting it to 3, 40 seconds left, Butler walks the ball down the floor. Butler-Bam PnR turns into a tough Butler floater that drops, as he trots off the floor into a timeout. Out of that timeout, Butler ended up fouling Banchero on a three, as he went 2 of 3 from the line. 3 point game. Some eventual free throws iced the game, as the Heat get the win.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Celtics

The Miami Heat pull off an incredible comeback on the Boston Celtics behind a major Bam Adebayo night.

Haywood Highsmith triggered it all with his high level two way play.

Some takeaways…

#1: The Heat’s defensive start: Jayson Tatum cooking and role players countering.

My question to begin this game was how they would treat Jayson Tatum. Would it look like the game against Luka Doncic and the Mavs? Well, not really. The Heat were allowing him to operate one-on-one on switches pretty freely, as he went at both Tyler Herro and Max Strus consistently to kick off the game. He kept getting two feet in the lane for buckets, but then the Heat shifted. They began getting into their blitzing bag which I compare to the Doncic plan, but the issue is Jimmy Butler is a big piece of the two on the ball game-plan. Tatum would throw over a wild skip pass or simple pocket pass, as the back-line defenders simply lacked size. It opened up runways leading into over-help. The defensive stuff was a bit all over the place to start against that Tatum constant.

#2: Max Strus starts things off with 3 early triples, but then…

To kick things off, there were good signs in the Max Strus shooting department. He got some good looks early off a ton of slip screens, as they were spamming specific off-ball actions to get him free, leading to those three first quarter triples. All were assisted by Kyle Lowry, showing that it was similar sets. Either way, the others tailed off quickly. Taking away Strus’ start, the rest of the group was shooting 21% from beyond the arc in that first half. Lowry, Herro, and Oladipo were 0 for 11 from deep. A simple recap: yikes. A deeper recap: every shot just kept coming up short, which is odd since the other team was the one playing on the back-end of a back to back. This isn’t a bad stretch of shooting at this point. It’s who they are, and it’s time to adjust in some different areas.

#3: Free throw marathon, but something stuck out in the second quarter for the Heat.

With over seven minutes to go in the second quarter, the Miami Heat were in the bonus. There were a total of 23 fouls and 30 free throw attempts in the first 24 minutes of basketball, clearly showing the theme of this game to start. With that said regarding the Heat’s long period of being in the bonus, one thing should’ve been clear for the offensive structure: attack the rim. If Jimmy Butler was playing, he would’ve been having a field day for the next portion of time, but obviously he was out. From that point, Miami shot 6 straight threes over the next few minutes, all missing. For further context, they missed 14 of their last 16 shot attempts prior to the half. When an opportunity presents itself to potentially get some easy ones, while the outside shooting is going in the opposite direction, you should definitely try and capitalize. That’s what ultimately led to the Celtics branching out to an 8 point lead at half. Small thing, but crucial.

#4: Well, Bam Adebayo found his rhythm.

After an uneven start for Bam Adebayo as well, he found it in the third. He may have been the only one to find it in the third actually. They got him to his spots, which seemed like the only reasonable thing to do. Tyler Herro was extremely off on the offensive end, Kyle Lowry couldn’t hit a triple, and it took Victor Oladipo until the final minutes of the third to find his shot for a moment. As for Bam, they just kept feeding him on that short roll. Just let him catch at that dotted line or the elbow, and live with that result. That result was a positive one for a good bit, as he soared to 21 points through the first 3 quarters, which felt like an uphill climb after the way he came out. Bam Adebayo has been this team’s rock when it comes to consistency, which is a very good sign for him. And well, a worse sign for others.

#5: Late game recap: Haywood Highsmith sparks, Bam Adebayo dominates.

Haywood Highsmith deserves a ton of individual credit tonight. At the end of the third, I said he was their second best player tonight. Then he proved that to another degree with 3 triples in the first 6 minutes of the fourth. He set the tone throughout defensively, possibly being his best all-around game. Then Bam capitalized on the energy with back to back buckets at the rim. Tie game at 87 a piece. Bam hits another short roll jumper to give Miami a 2 point edge, before Herro flows into a rhythm three to extend the lead to 5. He hit the biggest one of the night up to that point. Tatum answers shortly after with an and-1 down the middle of the lane, cutting it back to a two point game. Heat walk back down the floor into a Herro-Bam PnR, Herro lobs it up, and Bam almost catalogs a nice poster barring the foul call. He follows that up a bit later with an insane swat at the rim, showing it all off. Yet, Grant Williams answers for the tie. Biggest play of the game, the Celtics blitz Herro, he finds Bam, and he turns into another big time jumper. 30 burger. Heat blitz Tatum back into a turnover. Game-time.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Pelicans

The Heat faced off against the New Orleans Pelicans once again, and it definitely wasn’t as smooth as the first match-up.

In the mud offense, defensive spike, and a late Lowry scoring run.

But here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Well, that was some ugly first half offense.

There’s a tough watch when it comes to half-court offense in the NBA, and then there’s the first 24 minutes of Heat-Pelicans. If it wasn’t for a hot defensive stretch for the Heat, that I will dive into heavily next, They would’ve been in the mid 30’s through two full quarters. Everything is a grind when it comes to this team’s slow-paced approach. Teams try to eliminate the top players: Butler sees mid-post doubles, Bam sees extra help on the role, Herro sees great defenders with the occasional blitz. Teams want Lowry/Martin types to obtain heavy usage. We can continue to look at the shooting or certain elements, but there are simply too many moments I sit back and say ‘what are they trying to accomplish on that end right now.’ Maybe a good chunk of that is the need for extra talent, but it looking that ugly when healthy can’t be the case by any means.

#2: It all starts with the defense.

Bam Adebayo switches, Orlando Robinson blitzes. Early in this game, the defensive coverages weren’t much flashier than the offense since it was getting pretty bland. Good players like CJ McCollum can see right through that. Then the final 2 minutes of the second quarter hit. Here were the last 5 defensive possessions of the quarter: Kyle Lowry hits the weak-side passing lane for the steal, Jimmy Butler doubles high and gets a hand on the ball for a steal, Victor Oladipo blitzes and rips the ball away and onto the break, Heat force a turnover off good rotations due to a travel, and finally, Butler doubles at the nail for yet another steal (as Lowry nails a non-counting full court shot). This half-court offense is atrocious at the moment, so the defense holds all the wait. If they can force turnovers and get easy baskets over a stretch, that’s their outlet. Plus, it’s an eventual energy boost to the offense on the other end.

#3: A continued look at the Jimmy Butler usage.

Jimmy Butler’s first field goal attempt came with 3 minutes to go in the first quarter, and it was on an open break. As I discussed after that Dallas game, the blueprint to defending Butler and the Heat was being laid out on national TV. And well, it’s clearly a new add to teams’ scouting reports. Off every mid-post catch, the Pelicans were sending that double to Butler. He loves playing with his back to the basket to eventually attack, plus it’s one of their biggest triggers in the half-court. Double, swing, swing. Now it’s a late shot clock heave. But aside from the focus on the actual double teams, his usage has been off as of late. A lot of screening and rolling, to simply make up for the fact his on-ball stuff on the perimeter is being taken away. It’s good to find alternatives, but the ball needs to be in your best player’s hands a good bit, especially when struggling in the half-court like they did to start. That’s exactly what they did more of in the third quarter, but still something to monitor.

#4: Tyler Herro finding his rhythm.

It has been no secret that Tyler Herro has been having some three-point trouble as of late. With that, he’s found his rhythm in these two Pelicans games by finding his spots inside the arc. Floaters, pull-ups, paint touches. That’s where he was generating most of his points to begin this game, while every three-pointer that drops feels like a sigh of relief for him on the floor. But there was something else that happened that was cool to see. Herro being guarded by McCollum, screaming at Butler on a certain possession to play for the switch. Butler turns back toward Herro to listen, gives him the ball, and screens. They get the switch and Herro feeds him, leading into a foul at the rim. This offense needs a lot, but communication is a decent start. Take any advantage you can find.

#5: Late game lay-out…

With under five minutes to go, we got a continuation of the last topic, as Herro knocks down a tough corner three to give Miami some more life on that end. After a Butler pump-fake and forced whistle, the Heat found themselves up 86-84. Adebayo blitzes McCollum on one end to force the turnover, into forcing a switch on him on the other end. Lowry feeds him, and he lays it in. 88-84. With under four minutes to go, I don’t have any answer to how in the world they were flirting with 90 after the disastrous first half offense. But well, those Bam type blitzes is what created buckets in this one. An eventual Lowry step back wing three pushed the lead to 91-86, flashing a moment we haven’t seen in some time. Pelicans answer, but so does Lowry. A pump-fake, up and under move gets him the bank shot in the lane. But then, McCollum comes right back with a catch and shoot three. This exact dialogue continued. Lowry scored 9 straight points, but the Pelicans kept responding. Heat up 98-96, Pelicans had a shot. Heat double, they feed down low to Nance, and it goes through his hands with Oladipo coming up with it. He went 1 of 2 from the line, going up 98-96, as the Heat force a 5 second violation on the potential game tying inbound. Heat counter with their own inbound trouble, using two timeouts and a forced jump-ball, giving the Pelicans another chance. McCollum misses the 3, Heat escape.