Tag Archive for: Tyler Herro

Five Takeaways from Heat-Lakers

Here were my initial five takeaways while watching Heat-Lakers tonight:

#1: Bam Adebayo with a ‘do it all’ first half.

11 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists is quite the first half stat-line when purely looking at stats, but his impact is what popped tonight (per usual). For starters, he was extremely aggressive moving downhill, while also stretching things out to the 3 early on. His passing stuck out to me which I’ll get into in a minute, but the defense continues to be an all over the place affair. Drop, switching, zone. The Lakers kept running into him, including him racking up some blocks which seems to be the only thing voters look for. Rotating weak-side at the rim or simply blocking AD at his release point, his two-way impact is undeniable.

#: The Heat’s core 3 guys’ passing proving to be the functional door for the offense.

Bam Adebayo gets the ball on the elbow. Josh Richardson pins down for Duncan Robinson and slips, as Duncan shortly after utilizes a delayed cut. Bam hits him in stride. Copy that formula and apply it to Tyler Herro or any guard on this roster, and that’s how Bam was accumulating most of his first half assists. As for Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, an area that has hindered the offense at times this season is only using one side of the court. Ball sticks, defense pinches, and things are tonight. Some things I saw early tonight was Herro and Butler prioritizing the skip. Butler had a rare over-head one to Jaquez weak-side who buried it, and Herro did the same to Robinson late in the clock who side stepped for three. Lack of “point guards” mean those guys are needed in that department.

Duncan Robinson’s confidence carrying over.

Watching Duncan Robinson as of late, it’s clear the guy is extremely comfortable. Timely back-cuts, under the radar passing following over-reaction, and well, the shooting. When I asked Jimmy Butler about those outer areas of Robinson’s game, he says being surprised would only equal “untrained eyes.” He’s a complete basketball player, which was amplified on a first half iso that included a stutter and attack for a layup. But as much as it’s fun to note those developments, the guy is still shooting at a high level. More PnR stuff than early years, and his 3 point percentage is being carried by the pull-up stuff. He’s been key to this team’s offense.

#4: The Heat have found their starting four.

As I mentioned a lot before the season, it made the most sense for Haywood Highsmith to eventually find his way into that starting 4 spot. I figured it would take them until around December to get to it, but a rough start moved the chains quicker than expected. And well, it seems like the perfect fit. They wanted somebody that is 3 and D, and man does it seem like he’s at the high end of that. The shooting is a legit skill for him with the overall consistency we’ve seen, but he doesn’t demand many touches at all while always seeming to be in the right spot. Plus just watching him on defense tonight, I thought he would see more time on LeBron, but his work around screens on the Lakers guard room was huge. That front-court should not shift.

#5: Jaime Jaquez won’t be going anywhere when Caleb Martin returns.

When Jaime Jaquez Jr got drafted, I asked him who he was looking forward to playing against most. “LeBron.” Not only was he playing against him, he guarded him in the majority of his minutes. Got a big steal on one of his early drives, and continues to really hold his own on isolation possessions against star players. Fast forward to the 4th quarter, the Heat were searching for offense before the Jimmy Butler return, Jaquez went on a run of his own. Drives down the lane against the smaller defender, spins inside, and finds the exact angle for the layup. Bam gets the steal on other end, hits Jaquez on the break, sends a shot fake then finishes. Very measured stuff.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over 76ers

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

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

Some takeaways from this big night….

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

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

#2: Why Tyler Herro was so impressive tonight…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Mavs

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

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

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

Some takeaways…

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

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

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

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

#3: Dealing with Luka Doncic.

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

#4: Oh hey, Cody Zeller…

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

#5: The fourth quarter…

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

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Jazz

The Miami Heat clearly needed this one…

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

Some takeaways…

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

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

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

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

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

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

#4: Some Bam Adebayo slippage?

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

#5: Another late-game walk-through…

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

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over 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 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 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.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Mavs

The Heat’s nationally televised Friday night matchup against the Dallas Mavericks went…just as you would expect.

The offense was jammed, and Luka Doncic was having his way. The two elements that simply can’t occur.

Plus, the way to defend Miami was put right on display. Some takeaways….

#1: Dealing with Luka Doncic…

When it comes to individual scouting, there are not many players tougher than Luka Doncic. Single coverage is never going to be a possibility, as the ultimate goal is to consistently get the ball out of his hands. The Heat started in drop coverage on Doncic, as Caleb Martin was matched up to chase. On guard screens, if he went at the Tyler Herro matchup, somebody like Martin or Jimmy Butler would quickly double Doncic to get the ball out of his hands. The issue with that: the Mavericks were knocking down their open triples. Heat mixed in some zone shortly after, which Doncic looked just as comfortable with. He was just play-making right over that initial line of defense to feed it to that middle zone. The switching was the final stage among the three coverages, as Doncic and Bam each got their fair share of wins, which is as great of a matchup as you can form. Either way, the point is that Doncic can figure things out so quickly and efficiently, as seen in that first half.

#2: Victor Oladipo taking over the half-court offense early on.

As much as I talk about the Heat dealing with Doncic, the real grind for them early on was on the offensive end. Bam Adebayo had a rough start due to the constant collapsing of the Mavericks defense, and Jimmy Butler kept seeing two defenders on the catch. So, that means a lot of focus on the guards. Victor Oladipo took the reigns early on, as he kept getting two feet in the paint following that initial screen. He flowed into two immediate floaters in the lane, followed by a right flowing hook shot off the glass. He was the one guy that looked comfortable inside the arc. He capitalized his first half excellence with a transition catch and shoot three on the left wing, putting Miami in a decent position with the starters returning. As I’ve talked about a ton after games, he’s been a bright spot. Saving the offense multiple times would not have been on my checklist before the All-Star break. Yet he keeps coming through.

#3: A playoff reversal? Butler doubles and Herro inside the arc…

As I stay in that first half theme, other than Oladipo coming through for their half-court offense, Tyler Herro also picked up where he left off. He began finding his spots on his pull-ups right around the elbow, as his floaters continue to be a comfort spot. As I mentioned before with Jimmy Butler, the Mavs were doubling him off the catch often in that mid-range area. That means the extra pass is made, trying to find the open three-point shooter. Similar to the Mavs plan, yet they were actually converting from deep, knocking down 11 first half triples to the Heat’s 2. Butler seeing doubles and Herro finding a rhythm inside? It’s almost a reversal topic from a few playoff series the previous season. Herro’s play tailed off in the third quarter with a real rough stretch on both ends, but that wasn’t anything coverage related. Just interesting to note the different ways teams elect to defend the Heat’s top guys. Lastly let me add, the Mavs have usually given Butler this exact look to throw size at him and block off the rim, so this is nothing new.

#4: The three point shooting dilemma.

The Heat were the league’s number one three point shooting team in the NBA a year ago. Even aside from the high percentage shooting, the entire offensive base was predicated on simply generating looks from deep, ultimately opening up the interior for their top two guys. So far this season, they haven’t been as lucky to have that blueprint, they’ve had to work in reverse. Try to grind out paint point after paint point to eventually get some three-point looks that benefit this squad. Through the first three quarters tonight, the Heat only had 3 made triples, but more importantly, they only got up 14 of them. Erik Spoelstra’s blueprint has consistently been trying to get up 40, but if we can be completely honest, I don’t know if that’s the best thing at the moment. But when looking at a game like tonight: Butler is being doubled on every tough and Bam wasn’t his consistent self, you can’t combine those two elements with more rough outside shooting. The defense is a different conversation, but that’s pretty much the game.

#5: So, let’s talk trade deadline.

I finished the last takeaways piece asking a simple question after a dominant win against an inferior squad: could this build momentum? Well, we got our answer rather quickly. This next span would be the real measuring stick for this squad against better talent, but no matter the result, one thing should be constant: the trade deadline must be active. Instead of hammering home the same trade targets discussed over and over, a night like this gives some perspective to the build needed in their lineup. Watching Martin chase around Doncic to begin this game, it’s clear they’re missing that physical four that can match up with versatile types such as Doncic. But more importantly, they don’t need a strict defender. They seriously need some shooting. The success of a contender cannot be determined by the shooting numbers of their role players. And right now, that’s not looking too promising. A 3 and D front-court partner would be extremely useful right about now, while bringing in an extra role player or two on the wings/back-up big position. The next few weeks will be all about those possibilities.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Pelicans

The Miami Heat were looking to bounce back from their rough performance against the Hawks on Monday, and did just that, coming out scorching from start to finish in New Orleans.

They got a little bit from everybody all the way down the nine man rotation, as Bam Adebayo led the way.

Some takeaways from this high level performance….

#1: The Heat’s opening possessions telling the whole story.

Before this game, I said the game-plan I would go with would begin and end with the Tyler Herro-Bam Adebayo PnR. Against a team in drop with two drop killers, that could open up the rest of the offense. Herro got into his floater twice in the first few minutes, as Jonas Valanciunas sat right under the rim. The very next possession following that second floater, the Heat found themselves running a PnR at a different coverage. He was now defending at the level, and when they are forcing adjustments this early, that’s when they have you. Herro reads it, leads a bounce pass in the pocket to Bam who lays it in. Fast forward to the next play, Valanciunas was right back under the rim, so Herro flowed right into a mid-range pull-up that dropped. In the opening minutes, Adebayo had 8 points and Herro had 5 assists. The blueprint against teams like this as I said before the game: that Herro-Bam two-man combo.

#2: The first half: the Heat simply blazing in all areas.

Going down the checklist of things you wanted to see, the first half was marking every area for the Heat. Kyle Lowry comes out with high energy, pushing pace, and getting the team transition buckets. Check. Going back to the previous point, Adebayo and Herro doing their drop in that in-between game to really set the tone. Check. The bench scores 28 points in the first half, with everybody contributing. Check. And well, the team shot 72% on twos in the first 24 minutes, pretty much getting wherever they wanted off initial and secondary attacks. Major check. In all honesty, the easy way to describe it was ‘one of those nights’ since the team just couldn’t miss on many shots in their overall profile. But the process stood out to me. There was diversity, there were paint touches into kick-outs, and they followed the base of their half-court game. That was the more promising part.

#3: Let me take another moment for Gabe Vincent.

Gabe Vincent knocked down 3 triples in the opening quarter, yet that’s no surprise as of late since he keeps breaking his own career high every night. But when zooming in a bit more on him coming back into form following the injury stuff, the one thing he displayed in this game is the real component to keep eyeing. Spot-up shooting. He’s been on an uphill climb when it comes to that spot-up three point percentage this season, but it’s been trending up as of late. Not only is that important for that extra punch from deep, but it makes it easier on the primary on-ball threats. Capitalizing on those kicks from Herro, Butler, Oladipo drives really can convert the offense in a positive manner. The other element of this emergence is it can provide lineup versatility. They can get back to plugging him in different spots if he’s hitting like this, so it’ll be interesting to monitor.

#4: X’s and O’s time: A set that I continue to like for this Heat offense.

The Pelicans began making a bit of a push in the third quarter as the Heat were forcing certain looks that they shouldn’t have. In a period that they needed to be offensively settled, they went to old reliable within their offense. I started out this piece talking about the Herro-Bam PnR in space, yet there’s a layered shift that always seems to generate a good look. Before Herro took a dribble with Bam screening, Butler slips dunker spots to catch his defender by surprise. He receives the ball on the left block, turning into an and-1. The very next possession, they baited the Pelicans a bit more. Herro and Bam actually run this PnR as Herro gets deep into the paint, Butler flips spots late, and he hits him for the easy flip shot. It’s a very subtle thing, but that’s a lot to account for on offense with those three pressure points.

#5: A potential momentum builder?

As I’ve discussed across this entire piece, this was a hot scoring night for the Miami Heat. But this was also the first time they’ve been fully healthy, probably all season. The starting lineup back intact, as the bench four were all locked into their respective roles as well. Sliding everybody down a slot simply does wonders to many of their role players. But now it’s all about seeing if this can be another one of those momentum builders. Consistency has been the word I’ve brought up all year, both on and off the court. On the court, they need consistent themes and identities on both ends of the floor. Off the court, they need to simply string some things together over a large span. They’ve done that this week, mostly against worse talent, but now they are facing Luka Doncic and the Mavs plus Jayson Tatum and the Celtics in 2 of the next 3 games. The true challenge.