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.