Tag Archive for: Tyler Herro

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Celtics in Game One

The Miami Heat kicked off the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night, and it didn’t start in ideal fashion.

As I will discuss, things weren’t clicking on both ends of the floor in the first half. Emphasis on first half.

The second half was an entirely different game. Gabe Vincent to Max Strus to Jimmy Butler.

The Heat took off, and well, they didn’t look back. They now are up 1-0 in the series, during a game that they looked like they had no business winning for 24 minutes.

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So here are some takeaways…

#1: The problematic trend of the Heat’s interior defense in the first half, tied to off-ball switching,

When watching this first half for the Heat, a lot of what happened was kind of expected. Choppy offense in the half-court, switches bothering Miami, plus more. Yet, the defensive issues weren’t expected one bit. The Celtics were owning the Heat in the paint, shooting 15 of 19 at the rim in the first half, which added up to 42 points, two shy of a postseason record in one half. But that leads into a question: why was that happening? Well for starters, Jayson Tatum was basically blowing by that initial perimeter defender any chance he got. But the true issue was the off-ball switching on the weak-side. Gabe Vincent often found himself in the corner with Danie Theis spaced in the corner after an off-ball screen forced the switch. Now he dives, and it’s an easy bucket down low. That was the formula, and the storyline of the Heat’s first half defense.

#2: So, Tyler Herro is back.

Although the issues were the topic at the half for the Heat, Tyler Herro clearly found his groove. The one major surprise was that once he entered, the Celtics shifted into drop. And well, he couldn’t have asked for a better coverage change. As he says all the time, he loves drop coverage. So he began finding his mid-range pull-up early against guys like Williams and Theis, which quickly blended into some high PnR reps. Now it’s decision time for the defense, since the two outcomes are either a blitz or a triple. Herro looked both energized and comfortable with the ball in his hands right out the gate, but they still needed a bit more. But aside from everything, this type of confidence booster after the last series was all he needed to open himself up moving forward.

#3: PJ Tucker goes down for a few, Caleb Martin steps up. But something stood out about that early.

Walking away from game 7 between the Bucks and Celtics, there was a similar sentiment on Grant Williams after he caught fire. Early in the game, he struggled badly, leading into him passing up good looks. And the thing about that: it hurts your offense even more than taking the shot. The reason I bring that up is because Caleb Martin had moments like that. They’re going to dip off him when he’s off the floor, but if the shot clock is under 10, that shot has to go up. PJ Tucker went down in the second quarter with an apparent leg injury, but he didn’t stay down for long. He re-entered to start the second half, but the point about Martin still stands. We know what he can provide defensively in this series, but that’s something to track.

#4: The third quarter turnaround.

As much as I touched on the early defensive struggles, the Heat began to turn it around to begin the third. For one, Bam Adebayo sparked the entire team with a defensive masterclass. Denial on Brown at half-court, 7 seconds on the shot clock, Brown drives by, and Bam catches up to stuff it at the rim. Then Butler begins to join the defensive party, by getting back to back steals in the passing lanes for transition buckets. But more than anything, they began to find themselves offensively. Fearless Gabe Vincent got going as an on-ball creator, which blended into some scorers getting some relief buckets. What was once known as the turd quarter, became a pretty strong 12 minute stretch in game 1 of the ECF, scoring 39 points to the Celtics’ 14.

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#5: Jimmy Butler: elite of the elite.

As this game began, it felt like he was drifting a bit. Miami couldn’t get into their usual actions, and Jimmy Butler was doing just enough to casually get by. But then he gradually started picking it up. As Miami finished the third quarter with a 17 point lead all of a sudden, Jimmy Butler found himself with a 31 point stat-line on 13 shot attempts. Simply, he dominates in some fashion. It isn’t highlight step backs or street ball crossovers, but he gets the job done with timely slots and a calculated foul drawing process. But the scoring wasn’t the story there. As I illustrated before, he turned the defense up midway through the third with back to back steals off pure passing lane dissection. He waits for the big to turn, then sprints. He’s one of the highest IQ defensive players in this game, but he’s also an elite leader as seen on this stage right now. And it took game 1 of the ECF for the national public to realize probably.

 

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The Miami Heat-Boston Celtics ECF Preview

So, the Eastern Conference Finals are officially set.

A rematch of the bubble ECF between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics will kick off on Tuesday in Miami at FTX Arena. But you aren’t here for location updates, I’m here to get right into the specifics of the series.

Before the game 7 was played between the Bucks and Celtics, I made sure to highlight one thing, since even Tyler Herro hinted at it at practice. The Celtics would favor Jimmy Butler, the Bucks would favor Tyler Herro. And if you’re going by that comment, maximizing your best player is the way to go.

Speaking of Herro’s comment at practice, he just slightly hedged in the direction of saying one coverage would be easier for him to operate in, which would clearly be the Bucks. Yet as good of a defense that the Celtics are, there are ways to change that for him…

Tyler Herro Beating the Switch

Before talking about guys like Butler and Adebayo, it feels like some need a calming start on Herro, due to the fact some are worried about this match-up for some reason. Saying the Bucks defense opens things up more doesn’t mean he’s going to be eliminated against the Celtics.

It just presents different challenges.

One of those challenges is switching a ton instead of finding pockets against drop. And before I even dive into the fact that drop openings will be there against this team as well, how will Herro deal with the switching wings and guards?

After watching those 3 clips above, there’s one primary takeaway: no screen, no blitz. Yes, I know we get caught up in the fact that Herro does need screens to get into his most comfortable play-style, but there will be times where he needs to just go.

Either getting a Payton Pritchard switch, or putting a bigger wing on their heels before stepping back, that has to be step one.

Seeing the amount of blitzes he saw against Philly, it was clearly a learning experience. Other teams watching that might say, ‘Hey, should we do the same?’ But at the same time, Jimmy Butler’s saying, ‘Okay, then I’ll do the same.’

It’s pretty much pick your poison, and the Celtics are such a sound defensive group that the focus won’t be on one guy, but if they do elect to start doubling, this can’t be the answer:

A blitz from this team will be much different than a 76er blitz. This team is lengthy, quick, and connected throughout.

I already know one of the main points that will be harped on starting tomorrow during film session will be Herro getting the ball out early when this is seen. Keep this Celtics group moving, since when you begin to slow down and hold the ball, they’ve already beat you.

But once again, me starting out this piece pointing out what Herro might have to deal with is not saying this isn’t his series. Actually, it’s saying the opposite.

They’re going to need a high level half-court scoring Herro in this series, and he’s had success against them on the big stage referring back to that 37 point bubble performance.

But if you’re worried about the switches onto him, what if his counter isn’t to deal with switches?

The DHO series?

To tie in the previous points, the Celtics still have versatile bigs who will dip back in drop, while also containing at a high level. The Bucks may give up a lot of threes, but the Celtics rely on a lot of perimeter screen chasing against a Heat team that is constantly moving.

And what is the product of many of their movement sets? Well, a dribble hand-off.

Looking at the first clip above, Al Horford is in drop and Jaylen Brown goes over the screen. That’s a win for the Heat.

2 on 1 for Bam and Herro leads to a lob pass, ending in a Bam dunk. The point of this is that using Bam as a screener for Herro will be even more important than usual. There’s another combo that I’m going to discuss next, but the Bam-Herro PnR may be back in action for another round.

Just like in the third and final clip above, it isn’t a hand-off that’s being run, but it’s an empty corner PnR for Herro. Not to sound like a repeat of games 1 and 2 of last series, but providing less abilities to help over on Herro is the main goal.

Now the defender goes over, and it’s a Herro floater.

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But this isn’t all about Herro, the hand-off element is about the shooters collectively. Jimmy Butler averaged the most points a night against the Celtics for the Heat this season at 22 PPG, but do you know who was right behind him?

Max Strus.

He scored 21 PPG, including a pretty memorable 3 block 4th quarter the last time these teams faced off. But most importantly, the hand-off dissection will be an important element from him this series, which is actually something he worked on a ton in practice Sunday morning.

This type of stuff is the add-on element, but now, the stars are the main dish at this stage.

Jimmy Butler: slip, slip, slip

Sitting here in a preview talking about Jimmy Butler’s foul drawing, inside scoring, and post-up turnarounds feels rather obvious after watching 11 games of it already.

So, what is the adjustment for him specifically?

Well, look out for him being used as a screener.

It makes it a little bit more tough if the team is without Kyle Lowry, since there aren’t many people better suited for finding Butler on the roll than Lowry, but there will still be advantages.

In the clip above, knowing the Celtics are going to switch, Butler slips, Lowry lobs, and it ends in a bucket down low. That will be there constantly, but I guess the question will be if Gabe Vincent can make that pass consistently.

(And I have a feeling Lowry will be in Vincent’s ear a ton about making that read)

We know what Butler is at this stage. We know what he’s going to provide on the offensive side of the floor. The one thing we don’t know, and what opposing teams don’t know, is where he’s going to generate those points specifically.

Butler will be Butler, but beating switches with a slip will be a focal point.

Bam Adebayo: Watch for Advantages

When some were predicting that the Bucks would take it against the Celtics in game 7, a consistent thing was being thrown around: Brook Lopez and the need for Adebayo’s jumper.

The traumatizing state of last year’s playoffs had people worried about that specific match-up, since it’s undeniable that Bam’s jumper was going to be needed.

Now that the Celtics advance, I’m not sure that’s as primary a focus as we originally thought.

Yes, he indeed has to be aggressive, but in a much different fashion. As I’ve portrayed over and over in this piece, the Celtics are a heavy switching defense. With that said, if Bam begins to get smaller wings or guards on his back, that match-up can’t be neutral.

It simply can’t.

Looking at the clip above, I wouldn’t say that’s the best example with the way he faded away on the post up, but the point still stands. If a Jaylen Brown-type is on his back in that low post, the shot must go up.

His defense is so valuable that it almost cancels out his offense at times, but now that this Heat team finds themselves 4 wins away from another trip to the NBA finals, they’re going to need their second best player to be an offensive threat.

Simply, a threat that’ll capitalize on advantages.

Defensive Match-Ups

Before I talk about game-plan, let me address some individual match-ups that I would expect to see. A lot of this is pointless with Miami’s switching, but this is something I’d look for out the gate:

Marcus Smart -> Gabe Vincent

Jaylen Brown -> Jimmy Butler

Jayson Tatum -> PJ Tucker

Grant Williams -> Max Strus

Al Horford -> Bam Adebayo

Yes I know that Robert Williams coming back will change things, but considering the five we saw from Boston today, this would be my expectation. Placing Tucker on Tatum feels like an obvious conclusion, but like usual, Bam Adebayo is the defensive X-Factor.

Something the Heat did a ton of the last time they played Boston was use him as a weak-side action wrecker instead of the pure switch guy. That meant the corner three would be sacrificed at times, but Brown or Tatum wouldn’t have an easy driving game once boosting by that perimeter defender.

Aside from Erik Spoelstra finger-pointing, I think we see exactly what we saw from them defensively against Philly. You may be wondering, why in the world would they keep the same game-plan?

Well, they wouldn’t. They would just be combining the approaches from games 1 to 6.

Nothing was consistent on that side of the ball for Miami all series. Soft switching in game 1 blended into pure drop coverage by game 6. I think this is a series where you can get away with the switching at times, which Miami will rely on a ton, but they now have a counter in their back pocket.

Keeping Bam closer to the rim in drop showed very positive results in terms of keeping the ball in front of him. He can be very impactful in the switching scheme, but now that it is adjustment time in the playoffs, teams like to find ways to pull him all the way to the deep corner to eliminate him.

But now, they have options.

And speaking of options, there’s one minor schematic focus that’ll be seen. If the ball isn’t being worked through Tatum or Brown in the primary action, Jimmy Butler will free-lance.

Once the Celtics begin to operate in the middle of the floor through their bigs, Butler will be smirking on that back-side since he knows he will probably have 2 points on the other end if he times it right.

This may not seem like a major deal, but I’m sure it’ll be noticed throughout this series.

Some Underrated X-Factors

Lastly, I’d like to highlight two Heat players that can end up being high level, yet underrated, X-Factors in this series.

We know about the need for Butler, Bam, and Herro as talked about earlier. Shooters will be important generally as well. But who will be the guy to get those shooters going?

Well that guy is former All-Star Victor Oladipo.

He silently had a killer series against the 76ers last round even with the teams’ ups and downs, and this is a match-up that could favor him even more. Aside from matching up with guys like Brown or pressuring full court on the defensive end, he could be the piece to bend this Celtics defense.

The first element is rim pressure that we bring up so often. Butler provides a ton of it. So much that defenses like the Celtics will over-commit, leading to a kick to an open guy as the rotations begin for the defense.

Swing-swing-swing, and oh, the defense recovered. Do you know how that is bypassed? A second rim pressure threat. Swing-swing-swing becomes swing-swing-drive, and the outcome looks a whole lot different.

Other than that primary factor, switches could mean more reliance on Oladipo as a shot creator. We’ve gotten flashes of his bag off the dribble, and I think we see more of that in this series. Or at least, it’ll be an offensive focus to increase the frequency of it.

My other X-Factor in this series, though, is actually Caleb Martin. Lowry most likely being out means Vincent will be starting, which also means the Heat either shrink to 8 or look for that 9th guy.

Now that we’re nearing the end, a lot of guys will see slight decreases in their minutes, but Caleb Martin will be a useful tool in this series. With all of the Celtics lengthy wings, throwing Martin out there to pressure them seems like a clear option.

Some may say that Duncan Robinson could be utilized, hinting back to my section on the DHO surge, but I personally don’t see it. At this point, it’s no secret that this series will be a defensive dog fight, and they aren’t going to look to counter that with one-way players like himself.

Aside from the X’s and O’s, this should be a fun series for basketball lovers. Two high level defenses going at it, while coaches on both sides send counter punches in opposite directions.

Looking at the Bucks falling short as Giannis Antetokounmpo sat on the bench breathing heavy as time expired in game 7, something stood out majorly: a one man show of arguably the best player in the world couldn’t take down this Celtics team.

The Heat are going to need everybody.

 

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The Tyler Herro Counters Coming Against Philly

Physicality, blitzing, elimination. Those have been the primary keys from the 76ers in terms of stopping Tyler Herro after he dominated in games 1 and 2.

It has now turned into a best of 3 series, since it’s the first team to grab two wins. The formula appears to be rather simple: don’t shoot 17% from three over 3 quarters and a half. Plus limiting a 49% 3-ball on the other side will be a good start.

But as much as the two games in Philly have been about hitting open shots, it’s clear that an adjustment is trending for the 6th man of the year winner, Tyler Herro.

Looking through the film of the Heat’s game 4 loss, some things really jumped off the screen when he was leading an action. The 76ers have thrown their punch at him, so what is his counter punch heading back down to Miami?

Well, let’s take a look at just that…

For starters, I must begin with the soft spots of Philly’s defense since Joel Embiid returned. The main one has been that the 2-3 zone has to be an indication to feed Herro the ball.

I will get into the blitzing of the PnR coverages, but the zone provides the most simplicity when Herro has the ball in his hands. Wait for the screen, get to the middle of the floor, and make a play with either your jumper or your gravity.

Embiid isn’t playing too high in the zone, yet Herro reacts anyway by pulling right after Matisse Thybulle is eliminated by the screen. Quick pull, quick bucket.

He had some opportunities in this game just like this that he didn’t capitalize on, but you’ll take these shots over and over make or miss. As Jimmy Butler said after the game, “We’re gonna take the same shots next game, and they’re gonna fall.”

That may be a positive outlook on the situation, but for Herro specifically, that must be the mindset.

The other release valve since Embiid returned has been to play like you did in games 1 and 2, when the opposing lineup looks like it did in games 1 and 2.

By that I mean Herro and Adebayo have proven to elevate their games when Embiid is off the floor. Adebayo begins to attack a bit more, and Herro doesn’t see the same on-ball pressure that Embiid provides.

Looking at this play in particular, some scramble switches allow Herro to flow into a hand-off with a double screen, getting probably his best look of the night. There are openings within both the zone and Paul Reed minutes, and he must take advantage.

But it isn’t about seizing the good times. It’s about overcoming the rough times.

A lot of this will have to be reaction based, since as much as Philly’s game-plan is to speed Herro up, the game-plan from Herro individually has to be: wait for them to make a mistake.

Looking at this play, Embiid hedges left on the screen as if Herro will refuse it, as Tyrese Maxey simultaneously goes over on the high PnR instead of under. Now Herro finally has some running room to operate in some type of an open floor.

Slight hesitation allows Herro to slip by Embiid to get to the rim, utilizing a flashy up and under on the right side while using the rim as protection. When they’re in regular drop, it’s a win for Herro and Miami. He can get to his spots, he isn’t being sped up, and they’re the ones dictating.

But the issue is that’s the Philly adjustment we’re discussing. This specific type of drop hasn’t been seen often against Herro.

Herro walks the ball up the floor and finds himself trapped right inside the half court line and the sideline. Embiid hedging the screen to eliminate a hard push right from Herro, while Maxey leads him right into it.

Bam rolls, Embiid slides back, yet the angle stays the same. They want to funnel Herro into a crowded lane.

He changes direction as he crosses left, and Embiid stays consistent with the ball again. Yes Herro’s getting to the middle of the floor, but so are 3 of the 76ers’ defenders. A kick-out is the outcome, which ends in a contested Oladipo three.

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He wasn’t getting an overwhelming amount of PnR ball-handler reps in this one, but the ones he got looked rushed. Like I said, they were speeding him up, which trends into stuff like this…

Screen. blitz, back-side tag, turnover. PJ Tucker in that corner is pretty much the open slot when this is seen, as Harden is forced to drop down on the rolling Adebayo, but Philly will live with Herro having to make that pass all night.

But what do you believe is the main issue with this play?

Butler not backing up to catch the retreat pass? Bam not finding an open gap? Herro picking up his dribble?

Wrong. It’s actually the spacing within the action for Herro, specifically in the strong-side corner. How can Miami throw the counter punch at Philly’s constant blitzing at Herro? Well, you turn that bundled up strong-side action into an empty corner.

Now things are spread, Embiid has more ground to cover, and Herro can potentially find an angle using the baseline to his strengths. The problem with the recent blitzing isn’t the two in the action itself, it’s actually the helper.

Here’s a quick example: Tucker in the weak-side dunker spot, Oladipo in the corner, Lowry on the wing. Herro makes the entry pass to Butler with Embiid defending him, then flows into the hand-off on that wing.

This isn’t much of a blitz like before, but Embiid is still forced to play higher in that drop. Now Herro has more room since there’s no help defender to hedge at him, and a baseline leaner is the product of it.

The same would go for a blitz in this situation. Then it’s just about Herro beating Embiid to the spot baseline and making a play off the attack. There are many counters to the blitzes, but it’s going to start with empty corner pick and rolls over the next few games of the series.

That’s the primary element to watch for.

Yet while that’s the focus of the side pick and rolls, there still must be a way to alter the deep blitzes at half-court when they flow into a high pick and roll.

One of the major shifts that feels kind of important: setting the screen a bit lower. Usually when we talk about Herro, you say setting the screen higher is more effective to stretch out the floor North and South, giving him more room to operate.

But right now, the higher the screen, the more they’re forcing him into East and West movements due to that blitzing we’re discussing.

So, what does setting the screen lower do when Embiid is in the action? Well, if they blitz, it gives you more room for a retreat dribble. The reason turnovers are more willing to happen is due to the passing coming in tight windows. Retreating back a step before making the pass creates chaos on that back-side once the pass is made, since the court just got a lot bigger for the 4-on-3.

In the play above, Herro just picks up his dribble. That allows Embiid to circle back and recover, yet when Herro swings, it’s basically a total reset. The dribble must be kept alive, and stop allowing the 76ers defense to get back to home-base for them.

Lastly, when a team is mixing up coverages this often on a certain player, miscommunications will occur. Right here Embiid drops back as Thybulle thinks he will stay high. Herro finds himself much more open than he could’ve imagined, yet couldn’t capitalize.

Those are the shots that will begin to fall, especially at home.

But if I can just punch this point home one last time, the clear-out by Oladipo to the strong-side corner in the play above is the reason I talk about the empty corner stuff.

Once he plants in that corner, Herro is forced to pick up his dribble since there’s no room to operate off an attack. There are plenty of actions that’ll be run, and I’m just looking under a microscope of one player at the moment, but this will be the key.

Guys will begin hitting shots from deep, and 7 of 35 from deep will most likely be an outlier, but this team is going to need a high level Tyler Herro to win the next 2 of 3 games.

They’ve gotten elite level Jimmy Butler. But it appears that he needs that second scoring punch to overcome the rough shooting from the supporting cast. Herro can be the one to get that done, and frankly, he may need to in order to comfortably close this thing out.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over 76ers in Game Two

The Miami Heat came into game 2 with a similar mindset, and closed it out in a similar fashion.

Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo copy and pasted dominance. Jimmy Butler playing master facilitator. And the Heat defense swarming at all times.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Bam Adebayo in early attack mode is always a welcoming sign.

As much as we sit around and discuss the fact that Bam Adebayo has a favorable matchup against the 76ers, Bam himself is very aware of that internally. Entering these games, he knows that he will have advantages, especially after the PnR dominance with Tyler Herro, and he came out attacking yet again. Herro kept feeding him in that high pocket to give him a runway, and not only did that lead to positive offensive, but it put him in a position to consistently get to the line. Once he gets some early foul calls, you always see that mental shift where he begins to drive more. Plus it should be noted that his defensive willingness was felt. No matter who he switched on, the immediate reaction was to clear. He creates a 4-on-4 match at times, which is a special trait.

#2: Heat going more zone, Philly going less zone.

Heading into this series, one of the main things I highlighted in my preview was the “battle of the zones.” Both had very valuable reasons to utilize it, and the 76ers obviously got the first real crack at it. In the second quarter of game one, it gave Miami real trouble. Nobody was flashing middle, they weren’t able to get into the primary actions, and it allowed certain matchups to not be exploited. But now, the Heat were waiting to adjust. They consequently went to it less to begin this game, but Miami increased the frequency on their end. Pressuring with Oladipo and Martin in the 2-2-1 which blends into the 2-3. Usually the release valve was that Tobias Harris gets into a post up on the low box, which was okay with them as he shot 3 of 11 in the first half. Never should it be gone to for too long, but it’s something to monitor in this series.

#3: Tyler Herro continues to love the matchup and coverages.

Looking at Tyler Herro in the first half of this game, I could pretty much copy and paste most of the stuff I said in game 1. High PnR dominance, making the right reads and passes, and scoring whenever he chooses as he eyes the back line defender. The only difference though tonight, he was eyeing the initial defender a bit more often. Instead of focusing on the next read, he keyed in on the current one. That usually meant a quick pull up off the screen, a snake dribble inside once Jordan began playing higher, etc etc. The point is that we’re aware he can score the basketball at a high level and can exploit this defense, but mixing up reads isn’t easy at his age. But yet, he’s a natural in that space.

#4: Jimmy Butler controlling the game through every lens.

After as dominant of a first round series as humanly possible for Jimmy Butler, he seemed to fully hand the keys to Bam and Herro in game 1 against Philly, for obvious reasons. But in this game, his scoring around the rim was coming much more naturally than it did in game 1. Yet, I’m not focused on the scoring. We know he can get to his spots and dominate most matchup advantages on the floor. But without Kyle Lowry, he stepped up big time in terms of total control. Halfway through the third, he had 10 assists logged and it was all on the natural flow of the offense. And looking away from schematics and into natural fandom, as a Philly fan behind us at the game chanted at the team all game, it flowed into “We still love you Jimmy,” late in the third. He can have that hold on you I guess.

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#5: Victor Oladipo combinations steadily improving.

Looking at game 1 under a microscope, the Victor Oladipo combinations were a bit different than we’ve seen. Instead of running his own lineups when Butler was out, he found himself running next to both Butler and Herro pretty often. They were a bit shaky to start since he was being used primarily as an off-ball threat in the corner, but they blended him on the ball a bit more in this game tonight. This offensive flow won’t just click over night, but the thing about it: it doesn’t have to. We can hone in on that all we want, but the truth is that his defense on top players makes any combination work. When you can do to James Harden what he did in this game, it’s clear something is going right.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over 76ers in Game One

The Miami Heat kicked off round 2 against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night, and although there were minor bumps in the road, they really took care of business.

After struggling in round 1, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo really took control of this game. Together.

But as much as they’re the focus, PJ Tucker put them in this position under the radar.

Anyway, here are my takeaways from this one…

#1: The early, early offensive approach for Miami: Herro-Bam high PnR.

Before I discuss the offense in the first half big picture, I must first address what was working. After Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo had rough first round series, it was clear coming into this one that this match-up could favor them greatly. The drop is there for Herro to attack, and Adebayo has the size advantage over anybody not named DeAndre Jordan. So, Miami quickly evolved into high PnR madness with those two when Jordan or Paul Millsap were sitting in that drop. Herro’s able to create attention through his drop instinct once passing the three-point line, which transitioned into open lanes for Bam as a roller since nobody could stick him. That was when offense was peaking. But then, it declined. Rapidly.

#2: The offensive drought that followed…

Now, to enter the problematic parts of this Heat offense, it went from executed offensive sets that were clearly intentional heading in, into a whole lot of randomness in that second quarter. Miami began blending into forced drives and more forced drives until an open man was found. Yes, that’s the complete recap. They were no longer looking at Adebayo roaming baseline who would find a perfect deep seal. Combine that with shooting 25% from three in the first 24 minutes and you have yourself an issue. Butler had the jumper fall early with back to back mid-ranges when they went under the screen and a standstill three, but that turned into tough fade-away jumpers with wings guarding him. That’s fine against Maxey, but forced against others. It was clear at that point, adjustments were needed coming out of the half.

#3: Should we take a second for extra PJ Tucker appreciation.

In the first round against the Atlanta Hawks, after Butler, PJ Tucker was the most important player in the series. And well, he wasted no time in this one. Immediately picking James Harden up full court, switching and helping down low, while dominating as that weak-side help guy at the nail. When looking for the answers to Philly’s early scoring trouble, it was all PJ Tucker. But the reason I bring up the word appreciation is that while his defense was evident, he played a big role offensively. Yes he was 2 of 6 from the field with 5 points at half, but most of the Heat’s first half runs included him providing second chances and playing the “Bam role” at the 5. Then to start the third, it was even more Tucker. Forcing turnovers, creating for Bam off the slip and dime, hitting tough shots, and most importantly, getting them second chance opportunities. He’s been outstanding.

#4: Bam Adebayo showing up big time.

As I hinted at before when I mentioned the Herro-Bam dynamic, this could potentially be a Bam series before the Embiid return. There are mismatches all over the floor, for both face-ups against slower guys like Jordan or post-ups against smaller guys like Millsap. After being utilized a ton early than disappearing in that second quarter since they weren’t finding him, he began to be found to start the third when they went on their run. The point is not to harp of Bam’s shocking scoring punch in this one. It’s to showcase that he needs to be used like a top player on this team on the offensive side of the ball. I can understand aggression conversations, but there’s a point where he should be consistently have sets run for him. Whether it’s on the ball with guards screening, or backdoor stuff to feed him with mismatches down low, it’s the key to Miami taking that next step on this playoff run.

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#5: The real reason the Heat are true contending threats.

When looking at this Heat team in the first round, there were glaring holes. Herro wasn’t himself, Adebayo wasn’t being used, Lowry going down changed things. Moving onto game 1 tonight, Butler wasn’t great, shooters were inconsistent, Oladipo lineups were in the mud frequently while finding themselves. Yet through all of that, the Heat keep finding ways to win. How? Well, I’m glad you ask: this Heat defense is stifling. They can go through a second quarter span where they forget how to run offense, yet still come out even. They have enough bodies to throw at any position 1 through 5, created a helping scheme due to the team being elite with rotations, and found a way to stop top talents. So, back to why this team is a true contender. Combining a defense that is elite of the elite with an offense that can go on wild runs is a good enough to be in that top tier.

 

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Heat-76ers Second Round Playoffs Preview

The Miami Heat-Philadelphia 76ers second round series shifted majorly over the last day or so, and it’s much bigger than just a change in the injury report. When a guy of Joel Embiid’s caliber is predicted to be out indefinitely with an orbital fracture, it forces a total change in the schematics both offensively and defensively.

Yes, it’s possible that he could end up returning at some point. But coming back in game 3 as Miami would have a hopeful 2-0 lead, means that Philly would have to win 4 of their next 5. Clearly not an easy path.

It isn’t a free injury report on the Heat’s side though either, since it still isn’t really expected that Kyle Lowry plays to kick off the series. Yet as we’ve seen, they’ve got guys ready to step up.

On the defensive side of the ball, like I said, there’s a total change in plans. Instead of worrying about the stress Embiid puts on the defense inside, it’s a full turnaround back to perimeter play.

And well, the Heat have had pretty good luck with that plan as of late.

Is it as simple as saying keeping execution similar to the Trae Young game-plan? Eh, I wouldn’t go that far. In simple terms they will blitz out in similar fashion, force the ball out of James Harden and Tyrese Maxey’s hands, and force the surrounding cast to beat them.

This will be an offensive based outlook piece, but I must start this off with some of the expected match-ups defensively.

It’s possible that the 76ers go small with guys like Paul Reed and Paul Millsap, but it feels inevitable that they blend right into DeAndre Jordan. Bam Adebayo will get that match-up on paper, but with the switching scheme, he won’t see much time on him.

PJ Tucker will start out on James Harden, not just because he can generally slow down his ex-teammate, but since that Tucker-Adebayo PnR switch can be abused even more. Now Adebayo is on Harden while Tucker waits to double down low as Jordan plants in the dunker spot, which is a win-win for the Heat.

But the other three 1-on-1 match-ups could get tricky. It’s pretty easy to say Maxey-Vincent, Green-Strus, and Butler-Harris, but I see other possibilities. Yes, that may be the initial look, but keep an eye out for Miami pressuring Tobias Harris into being a primary force with a “mismatch.”

Just like they did with Gallinari and Collins, putting a Lowry, Vincent, or Strus on him can work when the guy isn’t a true inside powerhouse. The goal is to force the opposing offense to worry about feeding him constantly, which plays into their scheme.

This would now allow Jimmy Butler to size down to Tyrese Maxey, which is ultimately the goal. Just like he did down the stretch in the final match-up, he will be searching for Herro’s and Strus’ off the switches.

But can I tell you the difference in a planned playoff series?

Jordan in place of Embiid means those switches won’t be as easily operated. There will be dip off opportunities to pressure him, which circles back to wanting that Tucker switch down to the box.

So, aside from all of those Erik Spoelstra adjustments to the adjustments that are coming, let’s take a bit of a look into some of the offensive stuff that will be a primary focus. Much of this is the three primary players on this Heat squad, but let’s start off with the soft spot in the defense…

Corner Shooters Getting a Call

We talked a lot about spot-up shooting in the last series against the Hawks, since the goal was to put pressure on the defense as much as possible, since once they were forced into rotations, Atlanta was basically in a horrible spot because now it’s swing-swing-drive-kick.

For this series it isn’t the same factors. It isn’t about moving East and West to force rotations. It’s about moving North and South to force the pull-down.

Looking at the first clip above, this is the base look. Four guys spaced out on the perimeter with one screener coming out.

Vincent and Dedmon run the pick and roll, Maxey slides down, and now it’s a kick to Strus for the open corner three. By design, this Philly defense will consistently help down heavily for tags, which calls for constant on-ball threats who can create for others. (Hello Victor Oladipo)

It’s one thing for the primary shooting threats to take advantage of their open opportunities, but how about when Philly’s adjustments become making a certain guy work?

And well, when a team has threats all over the floor to open up, PJ Tucker is going to be the guy they choose to sag off of. Looking at the second clip above, we can see the beauty in slowly backing down to that bottom box.

Part of this play had to do with the scramble switches happening all over, leaving Maxey on Adebayo, since a quick slip and feed down low led to an easy bucket. But forgetting the outcome of this play, just look at Tucker in that weak-side corner.

That extra kick will constantly be sitting there in this series. I’m going to talk about the main guys contributions now, but it’s not crazy to say that a big Tucker/Strus game could be enough to keep Miami’s offense afloat.

Jimmy Butler’s Jumper Being a Shift?

Jimmy Butler has been shooting the ball extremely well from deep down the stretch of the season, and he knocked down 7 threes on 44% shooting in the opening series.

The other part of his game that looked elite over that 5 game span was his driving game. He shot 30 of 41 less than 10 feet from the rim, just through complete dominance and control off the attack.

Yet if we were picking out the very minor section of negatives in his shot profile so far, the mid-range pull-up wasn’t at its best in that period of time. So far in the playoffs, he’s taken 23 middy pull-ups, while only knocking down 7 of them.

That’s 30%.

I’m not mentioning this to say that’s a major worry, but it’s to say that’s the shot that’ll be sitting there for him to take all series long.

Let me start with the obvious: getting away from the “pull-up” aspect of it for a second, there’s nothing Butler loves more than a post-up with a small on his back. Not because he enjoys overpowering them with size, but due to the fact he can shoot over the top of them with ease.

Maxey will be the guy he’s eyeing all series. In that first clip, it’s bump-bump-turn-rise up. Pretty simple formula for him, but I guess that’s the hope for opening up the deeper momentum pull-up game.

He wasn’t asked to attack smalls as much in the opening series as I personally expected. He definitely went to it, but the spam wasn’t needed since the overall offense was flowing for the Heat all series long.

Going back to that second clip above, you’ll notice something immediately: yes you may see a tough Bam bucket in traffic, but the screen navigation from the action has been pretty consistent.

They’re going to go under.

If Jimmy Butler can knock down that specific shot early in the series, it’ll honestly be a hard thing to both adjust and recover to, since it basically blows up the whole defensive plan.

Once you’re being asked to fight over screens against Butler, that’s when he has you. He can keep you on his back, go 2-on-1, and convert or get fouled on almost every trip. It’s one of his strengths.

And as Erik Spoelstra said after practice Friday when I asked him about the Philly match-up, “It’s about who can get to who. Who can get to whose strengths.”

Tyler Herro is on Philly’s Mind. Yet it Still Falls into their Hands.

Tyler Herro didn’t have the greatest first round offensive series, but guess what: it wasn’t supposed to be a Herro series. As noted before that opening round, it was a time for Butler to turn it up with the defense falling into his strengths, and a match-up for shooters to prosper.

Both happened.

Yet now it’s pretty clear that this match-up will allow one thing with or without Embiid: Tyler Herro to shine.

No matter if it’s Embiid or Jordan standing under that rim, Herro will be eyeing that elbow to get open shot after open shot. But actually, the 76ers won’t allow that either.

When zooming out a bit from numbers, I personally felt that some of Herro’s most promising moments came against Philly this season.

Why is that? Well, Philly had adjustments for him. It was that they wanted to chase him as much as possible to make him uncomfortable. Yet Herro had in-game adjustments for those adjustments, and never seemed in any form of discomfort.

Looking at the clips above, it’s two huge examples of smart, instinctive basketball plays off the ball. First one looks like he’s going to flow into a hand-off from Butler out of the post split, but he dips on that idea quickly. Swift cut, catch and settle, and now it’s an easy one hand floater in the middle of the floor. Yeah, right where he wants to be.

Fast forwarding to the last match-up, we saw something similar. These aren’t coincidental occurrences. It’s watching enough film to know how the defense will treat you. Or better yet, recognizing that the defense knows you fit into their defensive weaknesses, so it’s the initial adjustment.

In that second clip, Herro sets the baseline screen for Butler so Tucker can make the entry pass. Herro appears to be clearing out, but then out of nowhere, he changes direction and finds space under the rim as Butler finds him.

I’ll say it again: this will be a Herro series. On the surface we can acknowledge the drop, but when diving in deeper, it’s about the responses available. (Plus speaking of responses, though Herro was abused late in that game defensively, they now have the all defense late-game adjustment in their pocket if needed.)

Looking at the winnable match-ups for Bam Adebayo……….Oh, All of Them

When entering the offensive tablet of Bam Adebayo’s scoring approach in a particular series, it usually starts in the same department of actions that should be run.

Finding ways for guards to screen for him as he is the headliner of a certain set, allowing him to find favorable switches off the attack.

For instance, that would be the mindset heading into a first round series against the Atlanta Hawks, yet in this Philly match-up, it isn’t about finding the mismatches. They’re already sitting there ready to be taken.

Like I said earlier, Jordan would probably be the big that slots in for Embiid, but other than him, it’s a whole bunch of smaller options at the 5. Reed is next up, Millsap behind him, maybe some Georges Niang thrown in there as well?

The point is that Adebayo doesn’t have the all around size advantage like this on many occasions. So this is the time to take advantage.

Looking at the two clips above, he showed in the latest match-up without Embiid that he wasn’t afraid to go at these match-ups. Embracing the bump off the face-up against Niang for the bucket, then bodying Millsap until a wide open lane opened up for him.

Those two clips are fun examples, but I think the obvious tweak would be not to turn into that face-up too early. Don’t bail out the opposing defender by letting them recover. Using some of that shoulder size to get a deep seal and operate in that low post will be ideal for this series.

Not having Lowry early on makes this a tad tougher since he’s the guy that can constantly feed him in those spots, but now the next person to set him up on the roster will have to be the coaching staff.

Instead of placing him higher in the offense to run actions or drive down the right slot, this may be an early sign to let him screen, roll, and baseline roam before finding position on either block. Last series was one that I labeled as a perimeter one, yet this has the chance at being quite the opposite. Well, at least until the Embiid injury status shifts.

Battle of the Zones?

Finally, I wanted to close this thing out with one of my additional thoughts. We know Miami has the option to go to their 2-3 zone, which is even more likely when Vincent and Martin share the floor together, but it feels like there will be some extra openings for that to be used.

For one, Miami potentially going small early in the series without Embiid could blend into this idea as well.

We saw it really flatten out Philly’s guards early in the season, which by the way, it must be noted that “Philly’s guards” did not include James Harden all season long which could make prep a bit more layered.

When I say flattened out, the non-Harden minutes could lead to stagnant movement North and South. There’s no big down low to begin their action with, meaning it’s a whole lot of reliance on Harris mid-range play and Maxey highlight maneuvers.

For example here, if you look at the second clip first, the stagnant perimeter standing is on display. This isn’t a zone possession for Miami, but it gives you an idea of how this can counteract some of the 76ers’ lineups.

Now it allows guys like Martin and Vincent to operate as free safeties when the ball swings to the corner or deep wing, which is exactly the move Miami’s defense wants you to make.

The reason this could be the “battle of the zones” is due to the 76ers playing a good amount of it in past Miami-Philly match-ups this year. In the first clip above, the defense was pretty much out of place from the start, but it’s a good showing of why Miami likes this look.

They can just play the back-line. One of the main themes of Martin’s good games the past 3 times he faced the 76ers was because of his baseline roaming. All that is needed, as seen above, is one entry pass in-between that low man and the big in the middle.

Once that pass is made, a guy like Tucker or Butler can facilitate from there as the defense is forced to turn their backs on the play. Butler throws the bounce pass in the middle, Adebayo lays it in with ease. And that’s with* Embiid sitting in the middle.

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This should be a pretty intriguing series with or without Embiid, and I’m not saying through pure competitiveness, but just simply the adjustment battle that will take place after the Heat just leveled off Young in the series prior.

“There is no 9 man rotation right now. This is a playoff rotation,” Erik Spoelstra said back in Atlanta about a week ago. The reason that’s true is while they do like to rotate 9, it’s probably going to be different from game one to game two. And even crazier, it’ll probably be different from the second quarter to the third quarter.

But if I had to give my expected nine to open up game one, I’d say the starters would look like: Vincent-Strus-Butler-Tucker-Adebayo, while the bench is Herro-Oladipo-Robinson-Martin. Yet if they want to counter some of Philly’s small lineups with a big, or just want extra rebounding, Dewayne Dedmon will be waiting to provide competent minutes.

My quick recap though: if that drop big is sitting there, spam the dribble hand-offs with shooters like Strus and Robinson. When they go small, run sets for Adebayo to feast in the low post. And well, go to Tyler Herro a lot. He will have plenty of advantages in the gaps of this defense, and I’m sure that he will be the shining piece in this round.

 

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Meaningful May in Miami Sports is Here

May is setting up to be a memorable month in Miami sports.

It’s an exciting time as May ushers in multiple post-season series for Miami sports fans.

The East in both the NBA and NHL runs through South Florida.

Hell, even the Marlins are giving us hope (for now).

 

Not to mention a great end to the week with the Miami Grand Prix at Hard Rock Stadium.

 

The Miami Heat and Florida Panthers will each be in the spotlight this week.

Starting Monday the Heat and Panthers alternate game nights, including four consecutive South Florida home contests.

These are two teams that are stylistically different yet similarly effective, these matchups offer something for everyone.

Heat match up with Sixers in East semifinals

The Heat begin the second round of the NBA Playoffs against a weakened Philadelphia 76ers squad.

 

Without Embiid for the time being, this becomes a drastically different series.

Philadelphia will need more offense from James Harden, who averaged just 14 points-per-game versus Miami this season.

The Heat want teams to try and beat them from beyond the arc, and in this matchup Philadelphia will likely oblige.

That may not always work out for Miami as Philadelphia shot 40.8% from deep in the opening round.

The emergence of Tyrese Maxey has given the Sixers another option on the perimeter.

Maxey has played well in the playoffs and against Miami (21.3 PPG), how the Heat defend him could be a key to the series.

Is the the Panthers’ year?

Across the county line in Broward, the high-flying Florida Panthers open their post-season Tuesday against Washington.

Fresh off their first ever Presidents’ Trophy for the NHL’s best record, expectations are at an all-time high for the Panthers.

 

Unlike their colleagues on Biscayne, the Panthers are not terribly worried about defense.

The Panthers simply attack and overwhelm opposing teams with line after line of skill.

 

Washington played the Panthers tough this year; each game was decided by a single goal with the Cats winning two out of three.

The status of Alex Ovechkin is something to watch as he missed the final three games of the regular season with an upper body injury.

Ovechkin has never missed a playoff game due to injury, and if he is close to healthy expect the NHL’s third all-time leading goal scorer to play.

The Panthers have two superstars in Sasha Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, who just led the NHL in assists.

No team scored more goals or took more shots than the Panthers, with any semblance of goaltending the Cats should advance easily.

So relax, crack open a Biscayne Bay Brew, and enjoy this week for the ages Miami sports fans!

Make sure to check out our daily fantasy partners PrizePicks! Use promo code five for 100$ deposit match, www.prizepicks.com.

 

 

 


 

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss in Game 3

The Miami Heat played in a back and forth battle in game 3 in Atlanta, and man was it a back and forth.

Jimmy Butler three to Trae Young three to PJ Tucker three to late Young floater to go up 1.

But here are some takeaways from this one, mostly focused on pre-late-game execution, which I’ll focus on later…

#1: Heat’s offensive first half recap: a little bit of Jimmy Butler, a lotta bit of Tyler Herro.

The Heat scored 54 points in the fourth quarter, yet exactly half of it was scored by Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro. Things weren’t fully going their way for a majority of that first 24, but it really was a transition of those two that I named. Butler came out in attack mode, basically spamming both ends of the PnR. Getting to his spots as the ball-handler, while forcing Trae Young to make a decision as a roller. Both were working, which put Miami in a comfortable spot early. Then as Miami tried to counter the Hawks run, it was solely Herro who kept them afloat. Playing a bit more off the ball and his catch and shoot three ball was falling, but he looked really free-flowing in terms of getting to his spots in the mid-range. After some were questioning his effectiveness a bit, he came out firing in game 3 for 15 first half points.

#2: The Hawks with the game 3, home team boost: collective shooting.

Looking at the first half stat sheet, it felt like the Hawks were shooting the ball from the outside at a much higher clip. The Heat struggled from three, shooting 6 of 23, which is 26%, while the Hawks were 5 of 14. But like I said, it felt like that number should be much higher. The reason was that it wasn’t the three-point shooting that was hurting them. It was a bit of interior play, and a lot of mid-range play. Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and De’Andre Hunter seemed to make it a priority to flow right into that face up jumper. Like most game threes go after trailing 2-0 in the series, that home team tries to make that big push in that first half out of pure desperation. But as I mentioned before this game, it wasn’t Young that was the worry. It was collective shooting, which is exactly what they provided.

#3: It’s clear the Heat do have a reliance on role players.

The way the Heat have gotten to this point as the 1 seed in the Eastern Conference has been through complete contributions from player 1 to player 17. Depth has been killer for this group, and the Heat have had big moments so far from their role guys. The big Duncan Robinson game 1, while PJ Tucker took over that third quarter. Full Gabe Vincent dominance on both ends of the floor in game 2, as Dewayne Dedmon provided a big second half. Yet in game three, that reliance showed a bit. Robinson, Vincent, and Max Strus were shooting 3 of 10 from the field, while almost all of the shots came from deep, which contributed to the poor shooting early that I mentioned. But we saw it begin to turnaround, as Strus caught some fire to begin the second half. The ups and downs of the game had a lot to do with the ups and downs of the role guys.

#4: PJ Tucker: the ultimate impact player being showcased again.

When you hear PJ Tucker, you think of impact. Being trucked in the corner as the close-out guy tries to get to the shooter, setting solid screen after solid screen, and locking up Trae Young as the primary assignment. For one, that needs to be the starting factor, as Young kept trying to throw him around with his maneuvers, and he wouldn’t bite. Not many guys move their feet like that at his size, but he just battles like no other, which was obviously bothersome. Now, on the offensive end, he gave a monstrous third quarter, much like he did in game 1. In that game it consisted of 3 corner triples in a 6 minute span, yet in this one it was just calculated slips for his signature floater in the middle of the floor. Two will fly to the guard each and every possession, and he’s the guy that can swing a run. He’s the ultimate impact player, and you can tell his game is rising.

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#5: Jimmy Butler takes a blow, Kyle Lowry goes out late. Just about getting out, yet they came out down 2-1.

Early in the game, there was a play where Butler drove and converted on the and-1, but there was deeper meaning to that play. Butler was laying on the floor holding his mid-section, which had people probably thinking worst case scenario. He ended up getting up and staying in the game, but that’s one of those things that possibly linger. Now, later in the second half, a report came out that Kyle Lowry would not return to the game due to a left leg injury, which kind of came out of nowhere. As the potential second round opponent Philadelphia 76ers took care of business late in their game 3, they should have a good amount of rest before that series would begin. And as the Heat continue to account for some scratches and bruises, rest themselves would be pretty ideal. But now they find themselves down 2-1 in the series…

 

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Miami Heat-Atlanta Hawks Schematic Series Outlook

The Miami Heat finally know their first round opponent about 38 hours before game 1 tips off at FTX arena, and that team would be the Atlanta Hawks.

They took down the Cavaliers on Friday night in a pretty uneven game overall, showcasing both the strengths and weaknesses of this Hawks group.

They can score with the best of them, behind Young’s second half masterclass which landed him with 38 on the night. Yet, it’s simple to say their defense is pretty atrocious.

Now that we’re here, and have no time for dragging things out as the game is edging closer, let’s take a quick dive into the specifics of this Heat-Hawks match-up…

Defensively:

Pick your Poison with Trae Young:

Trae Young the scorer and Trae Young the passer are two completely different beasts, yet equally elite. He can set others up by collapsing the defense like he did against Cleveland early on with 9 assists, then explode in the second half as a scorer for 38 points on the night.

So, how do you stop that? Or more importantly, which do you choose to stop?

Heading into each individual game, that choice has to be made. Are you going to make Young’s life miserable by blitzing pick and rolls, doubling him on isos, and getting the ball out of his hands? Or, do you stay home on shooters and allow the in-action defenders to handle Young while eliminating the backside?

It’s a legitimate argument for sure. And the key to it all is being a “game-by-game” thing. Coach Erik Spoelstra is one of the best in the business at mid-series adjustments, including feeling out a player early on then piling on the counters.

Looking at the play above, we saw Miami’s plan in that first half about a week ago was to stay home on the shooters and eliminate weak-side kicks. For further reference, watch Duncan Robinson and Gabe Vincent in that clip.

Young gets to his spot in the middle of the floor, and they simultaneously step up for the cut-off on the perimeter. In that game, Atlanta shot 8 of 34 from deep, which is 24% shooting.

He does eventually score on this play, (which should’ve been an up-and-down), but it’s clear Miami likes their odds with a guy of Caleb Martin’s caliber trailing him after a ball screen.

Which transitions me into my next topic…

The Shifting Match-ups with Atlanta:

PJ Tucker takes the guard, Bam Adebayo trots next to the upcoming screener. Tucker slides down, Adebayo locks up the perimeter, and they collectively crash to help out on the boards.

In a single regular season game without the counters to your counters, that works perfectly fine. Yet at this time of year, you need a bit more padding than that.

Not that Spo was showing his cards in that meaningless Hawks game a week ago, but we got a glimpse of something that will stick.

Looking at the play above, take a look at those match-ups to begin the possession.

Martin on Young, which will be a staple for extended periods. Adebayo guarding that screener in Capela, who could potentially miss time. Jimmy Butler in his happy place of weak-side looming. Oh, and there’s Kyle Lowry battling it out in that mid-post with Danilo Gallinari.

With a 1 guarding a 4, they must’ve forced a switch, right?

Wrong.

When a team contains a stretch 4 like Gallinari, who isn’t known for his inside presence, the Heat’s coaching staff have shown that they aren’t afraid of those initial match-ups to begin a possession.

Lowry can deny an entry pass just enough, help down off a baseline drive, and have Adebayo cover all of that up with a perfect contest up top. That’s what this Heat defense is.

In simpler terms, the anti-Hawks defense. The rotations are always picture perfect, they have more counters for the hunting than you may think, and the versatility of this group defensively is greater than ever.

Adebayo, Butler, Tucker, Martin, Lowry, Vincent are just a couple names that could potentially see time on Young in theory, and that just speaks not only to the depth of this group, but what this one seed was built off of.

Obvious Blitzing:

It doesn’t take a video of Miami’s pick and roll dissection against Young to realize that he will see blitzing at some point in this series.

But it’s not if he will see it, it’s when he will see it.

In terms of game preparation, one of the hardest things to try and get ready for is the timing for an adjustment. You can watch all of the game film in the world to know exactly what’s coming, but when that card is played in the third quarter of game 3, it isn’t easy to swiftly transition into.

With Spo, he won’t be eager to overplay this. This ties back into picking the poison of him as the scorer or the passer, but a lot of the time blitzing is utilized to hide something within the defense. Whether it’s to avoid the attack on a weaker guard, or send out a guy like Omer Yurtseven like they did during the season so he can’t pick apart drop, it just gets you further and further away from predictability.

Yet in this series, timing will be much more crucial than actual cards being played.

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Offensively:

Attacking the Bigs…Differently than You’d Think

When bringing up the attack on the Atlanta Hawks front-court, it should be noted quickly that this isn’t a normal Hawks front-court. No John Collins, and possibly no Capela, means that we should be seeing a lot more Gallinari, Onyeka Okongwu, and Gorgui Dieng.

We can attack those 3 names from three different angles, but I’ll start with Gallo, since that’s the one Miami has shown the most interest in exploiting.

A lot of the time we sit back and talk about attacking Young, which I’ll address later, but Miami has found a liking to drawing Gallinari out and going at him, specifically during times of need in the clutch.

Looking at the plays above, Lowry was able to force the switch and break him all the way down for the eventual spin around jumper late in the fourth. A staple of his game in these scenarios.

But on par with “staples” of certain guys games, there’s a common thread when Herro sees an uncomfortable big drawn out to the perimeter: a jumper from deep.

That usually isn’t the product of seeing that develop in front of most guards, since they quickly rely on a burst to the rim for obvious reasons. Herro, on the other hand, gets the feeling that he can rise over the top of him with zero way to a fast recovery, which he displays in that clip above.

Now, Okongwu could end up bringing a bit of a different look to this Hawks defense, but the striking weakness with that would be inexperience, quite simply. And when a guy like that gets bumped up a spot, somebody behind him is doing the same thing.

In this case, that guy is Dieng. After Duncan Robinson has so often seen flying doubles when getting schemed against, the play-book may be opening up for him in this first round.

His minutes would seem to be mirrored with Dieng early in the series, leading to a drop big sagging way back for Robinson to take advantage of. He’s one solid screen away from an open triple off a curl, which has made him so effective up to this point.

And getting him going early in this playoff run could be major.

Shooters Celebrating:

Now zooming out a bit from specifics, guys like Max Strus, Robinson, and other shooters have to be enjoying this outcome. Well, at least they should be.

If you watched the Cavs-Hawks play-in game, you may have walked away from the game with an abundance of takeaways. But one of the main ones had to be that this Hawks defense ranks in the bottom 5 for a reason.

Not even looking at personnel, they just allow open three after open three, strictly based off poor help decisions and even worse rotations. Most of the time they turn around watching that shooter take their time before the triple, just as you or me are while sitting on the couch at home.

The point is that shooters will thrive, and guys like Butler and Herro will be the reasons.

Just take a look at this possession for example, as four defenders collapse on a Herro drive, leading to an incredible find for a Vincent corner three. This isn’t one of those random plays that pop up that you won’t see again.

Trust me, we will see a lot of this, which has me eyeing increased assist numbers from both Herro and Butler in this series. The question becomes: who will be the shooter who steps up more than the others?

Robinson? Strus? Tucker? I guess only time will tell.

Hunting Trae Young or Eliminating Trae Young…Both are helpful for an offense:

Lastly, we must finish off with one of the more widely used phrases when bringing up playing the Hawks, which is the idea of hunting Young defensively.

It’s definitely something that will occur, which will be hugely based off Butler’s inverted pick and rolls, so he can get him on his back in that mid-post before continuing to make a play.

But a twist from Atlanta’s side in that last game against Miami is an important element, yet equally as exploitable.

Late in the game, the one guy who wasn’t a true offensive shot creating threat was Strus, who was in there solely for spacing purposes. So, they consequently placed Young onto him in the corner, basically eliminating the idea of him being hunted in theory.

But the thing about that is that could be used to your advantage just as well. If Young is in that weak-side corner, what does that also mean? You guessed it, that Young is also the weak-side helper. It allowed Miami’s lanes to open up much more in that game, which is another scenario of picking your poison.

Would you rather force the attack onto him, or allow a spaced out 4-on-4 on that back-side?

We will see what they choose once we get there, but the point of all this is that they have plenty of options on both sides of the basketball. When heading into that first round series against the Bucks last year, there weren’t a variety of choices on both sides.

It was a whole lot of individual match-ups with holding your ground, plus trying to dissect drop at the elbow over and over and over. Yet if the defense stopped that, we saw they had nothing else to get to.

This team, though, has a whole lot. And while we may not see it all in this first round, it’ll all be laid out there at one point or another.

 

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A Walk Through the 2nd Day of Miami Heat Practice Before Playoffs

As the Heat completed their second day of practice before the start of the first round series Sunday at 1 pm, the goals of this team are clear:

Forgetting the past.

By that I don’t just mean leaving the negative stuff behind them, such as the sweep against the Milwaukee Bucks a year ago in the first round. It’s also about leaving the good stuff for when it really happened.

When Jimmy Butler was asked about some of the similarities between this team and the one that made the late push in the bubble, he quickly brushed them off.

He quickly made sure to note that this is a completely different team, which in many cases is true.

It may be a different team, but it’s the same Jimmy Butler. Going at it on the other side of the practice court in a king of the court session with Heat veteran Udonis Haslem and young two-way Javonte Smart.

Yelling, competing, exchanging words after stops or buckets…

He loves to battle, and he leans towards guys that love to battle as much as him. One being Haslem, who we all know. And two being Smart.

I asked Butler after practice about Smart’s potential in general after battling with him. “He’s a really good player, he works incredibly hard,”Butler says, then follows that up with: “He can’t guard me 1-on-1.”

Those are the type of words from Butler when you know somebody’s legate. When they are tough enough to compete, and already getting slandered in a fun way, they’re on the path from two-way to a normal contract.

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Now, if you’re looking to cement some bets on the Heat’s +1200 championship odds, the first bet promos for Caesars Sportsbook will give you an advantage on that bet because if it doesn’t play out accordingly, you’ll at least be getting your wager back in credit. Though, if you’re not the one that’s confident on that specific bet, just know that Tyler Herro is focused on shifting the future.

I asked Herro after practice about the major differences in his game when zooming out, comparing where he stood entering that Bucks series last year compared to now.

“I’ll be much better this playoffs, I’m sure of that.”

Not only is Herro ramping up right about now, but Kyle Lowry is piecing stuff together as well.

I asked Erik Spoelstra if he’s noticed an uptick with Lowry’s approach at this moment in time, where he highlighted one word to describe the main area that he’s been elevating:

“Detail.”

And well, that’s Kyle Lowry. You’re getting a much improved Herro, but the way for that to all fit in place is for Lowry to settle them, and provide that detail in every inch of practice and the game.

Finally, and most important of them all, I had to ask the important stuff to Butler as this will be his last time speaking to media before Sunday’s game.

After consistently saying the shooting sleeve is the reason for his hot shooting down the stretch of the season, I asked if it would be making a playoff appearance.

“I don’t know, I gotta find a way to keep my teammates smiling. So maybe double sleeve like Jae Crowder does it, who knows.”

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