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5 Takeaways from Heat’s Impressive Win Over Portland

The Miami Heat took down the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night to kick off their West Coast trip. After it appeared it may be a long night for Miami following the first quarter, they turned it around completely to get a solid all-around win. So, let’s take a look at five takeaways from this game…

#1: Bam Adebayo showing peak Adebayo levels early on.

Bam Adebayo’s impact against Portland began on the first play, as a deflection led to the first turnover of many for the Trail Blazers tonight. Although defense is always the hot topic with Adebayo, his offense in the first half specifically must be harped on. This isn’t just because of his 15 point box score in the first half, but actually the importance of those 15 points. Miami had a rough first quarter, with extra emphasis on rough. The offense wasn’t clicking for anybody, except Adebayo. Attacking the drop bigs, getting to the free throw line, knocking down turn-around late shot-clock jumpers. He did it all, and it’s just further assurance that he’s more than capable of doing it on a consistent basis, but it’s up to him.

#2: Tyler Herro playing his role, thriving against one specific defensive scheme.

Tyler Herro gave Miami an efficient 10 first half points tonight, but it’s important to discuss the specifics of this scoring run off the bench. He’s mentioned many times that he is more than comfortable against drop coverage, and that statement is not an overstatement. High pick and rolls with Adebayo as the screener should make anybody comfortable, but giving Herro that many options that fit his strengths are the clear indicators. He showed the ability to hit the open pull-up mid-range, make the lob pass, and most importantly, make the pocket pass after some shots begin to drop for him. It may not be as much about comfort against the scheme as it is about overall confidence when he sees it, since a lot of the time it’s more mental than physical, especially when talking about Herro.

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#3: Duncan Robinson’s defensive flashes may be minor, but they’re happening.

Duncan Robinson’s improvements on the defensive end may not be incredibly loud, but that doesn’t mean it’s not progressing. Something that is constantly talked about is his high IQ from a team defense perspective, and that was on display tonight, especially in the first half. Nunn-Herro-Robinson lineups don’t sound like the most effective defensive lineup, but Robinson basically saved them from completely falling apart. When Nunn defensive breakdowns would occur for example, Robinson predicted the rotation to get into position, either leading to kick-outs or drawing a charge. This not only increases the comfort level and willingness to keep him on the floor late in games, but it also makes the off-season contract discussion even more interesting, since a functional defender changes a lot of things.

#4: Trevor Ariza’s fit with this Heat team becoming clearer and clearer.

When talking about Miami Heat player acquisitions that just completely embody everything that they’re about, Trevor Ariza would probably be pretty high on that list. Aside from his growing comfort level in the offense as a catch and shoot guy, while sprinkling in an obvious ability to put the ball on the floor to get to the rim, his defensive impact is the true headliner. When talking about high impact guys like Andre Iguodala whose stat lines don’t tell a thing, Ariza is in the same category, since he just constantly wrecks havoc, even without discussing steals and deflections. His rotations are crisp, his length is an offensive player’s nightmare, and most importantly, he can handle his own against the best point guards in the league. He’s more comfortable on smaller guys that lengthier wings, which means this team’s confidence rises against perimeter oriented teams in the East.

#5: Kendrick Nunn back as a starter, Kendrick Nunn back producing.

Kendrick Nunn is like a revolving door on this Heat team, since he goes from starter to out of the rotation to an opportunity rising, as the cycle begins again and again. A key piece to that as well is that he always finds himself back into his role playing at a high level, since he’s surprisingly become a pretty consistent player on the offensive side of the floor. He quickly showed some of the things that he can improve for Miami, beginning with a guy that can attack bigs in drop coverage. The half-court ability is a known element, but he has proved to be pretty great in transition, which Miami has missed with their current personnel. And with the amount of turnovers they’re forcing in this swarming defense, transition offense is necessary, which Nunn brought to this team upon arrival.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Lakers

The Miami Heat beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, sweeping the season series with them. Although I’ll address five takeaways from this game, all eyes will turn toward the Victor Oladipo injury situation that occurred in the fourth quarter. But, let’s take a look at some takeaways from this game specifically….

#1: The Jimmy Butler experience, a common theme but an interesting element.

Although Jimmy Butler’s first half consisted of only one missed shot, the continued theme showed up once again. He was the leading scorer at the half with 11 points, but the team still thrives off his aggression. As he got some much needed buckets early on, it sparked some scoring runs from Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic, which will always be the case with this team. This isn’t to discuss the drop-off when he exits the floor, but instead the moments in which he slightly fades away into the corner to be an off-ball player. It’s not the ideal situation for Miami to need an ultra-aggressive Butler against a highly depleted Lakers team, but that was the case tonight, especially since they weren’t getting the Bam Adebayo aggression early either.

#2: Tyler Herro making leaps off the ball, which is needed in his role.

Tyler Herro had his moments in the first half, but the real takeaway is what has transpired over the last few games for him. He’s been highly productive on the ball since moving to that sixth man role, but his off the ball fit is the actual essential part due to the guys he is surrounded by. One example is his reads off the ball, since he seems to watch his sole defender’s eyes a bit more, leading to instinctive cuts to the basket for easy points. But getting back to the areas he showcased tonight, it was mostly from beyond the arc as a catch and shoot threat, which is key in those lineups next to Victor Oladipo as the ball-handler. The next part to the development of these two on the floor will be Herro playing as the ball-handler more, while Oladipo can become the threat off the ball who can attack in motion.

#3: Plain and simple, the ups and downs are a normal part of this team. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s no offense, like it’s been for many games this season, or an ineffective defensive game, as portrayed against the Memphis Grizzlies, this Miami Heat roller coaster is just pretty normal at the current stage. When evaluating the overall issue tonight, it’s just the overall sloppiness and lack of consistent play on each end, while throwing in the lack of energy that was much needed in a game that they were supposed to handle easily. Now, Miami has always had trouble competing at that level in these majorly winnable games, but these type of games are very important in a season where the Eastern Conference is as closely packed as it is. If Miami wants to take that next step as a team, aside from the development or fit from individual players, team consistency is the one and only thing that fits that category.

#4: Victor Oladipo finding his offensive fit game by game.

It’s pretty obvious that Victor Oladipo’s offensive fit would progress the more games he played, but the leaps he made tonight were very crucial for the upcoming steps. Other than the simple scheme understanding, the next part of it becomes lineup fits, certain players he bounces off, among other things, which is why Coach Spo was able to experiment with that a bit after some life was shown by him in the third quarter. He was tied as the leading scorer for Miami at the end of the first quarter, and he didn’t attempt a field goal. They need him as an aggressive figure on this team, especially since the aggression levels are up and down with the Heat’s two stars, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. The attacking was important for Oladipo early on, but the falling jumpers off the ball will be the area that he’ll find himself in more and more. And the injury that occurred in the fourth quarter will be another thing to monitor, which could change this entire topic of rhythm, as an added obstacle could be given to Oladipo.

#5: Nemanja Bjelica back-up big in first half, Precious Achiuwa back-up big in the second.

Bam Adebayo’s foul trouble forced Miami to look at different options in the big man department, which is pretty limited as Dewayne Dedmon isn’t available to play yet. Nemanja Bjelica obviously had his name called early on, and he gives them a surprising drive and kick ability, with the emphasis on kick since he is more than willing to give the ball up. The issue is that his offense, particularly the shooting, isn’t what many may have expected at this current moment, since the catch and shoot ability should be the easiest part for him to slide into. Precious Achiuwa ended up getting the nod in the second half, since Miami needed more of an interior presence who will at least battle with athleticism. He got into some foul trouble of his own, but he had some flashes that gave Miami what they needed in those minutes, but these exact flashes reiterate the fact that his development in a Summer League or G-League would be so helpful for him right now.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Charlotte

The Miami Heat lost to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night, which originally began as an absolute blowout, but ended as a close battle. Although the main takeaways are negative tonight due to the Heat’s poor play early on, it’s a constant theme of playing in a consistent fashion for 48 minutes, since they were really solid down the stretch. So, here are five takeaways from this game.

#1: Well, let’s start with allowing 72 points at the half.

Now, this clearly won’t be the most positive post-game piece after Charlotte pulled away much earlier than ever expected. Open triple after open triple led to the Hornets expanding their lead more and more, beginning with Malik Monk looking like the team’s owner, Michael Jordan, when he plays the Miami Heat. When evaluating the issues on the Heat’s end, it’s just clearly the definition of the second night of a back to back on the defensive end. Late rotations became the theme in the first half, while the effort on that end was not up to the expected level to begin the game, which is needed against the offensive firepower in Charlotte.

#2: That one player not able to break away from the pack in points category.

When scanning through the box score at the half, the biggest takeaway is that one player wasn’t able to break away from the rest in the scoring column. Butler and Nunn led with 10, while Ariza, Adebayo, and Robinson followed behind with 6 points. But on a night like tonight, they need that one guy to takeover for different stretches. Adebayo and Herro did that for Miami against Portland last night, but they combined for 10 points at the half tonight. Obviously Victor Oladipo, Nemanja Bjelica, and Goran Dragic are still not playing with this Heat team yet, but it’s no excuse when evaluating this team as a whole. They’re built as a team with a bunch of options, but none of those options seemed to have it tonight.

#3: The optimistic perspective.

After diving into each of Miami’s issues on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, is there anything positive to draw from this game? Well, I don’t know about the description positive, but this definitely puts some things in perspective, which is hard to do while the team is on a 6 game losing streak. So, take a look at the rotation tonight, since although they had more than enough guys to step up, the bench makes it quite interesting. For one, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent are getting consistent minutes, which isn’t a terrible thing since they’ve played well, but it’s a role that they won’t ever play for this team. Also, Precious Achiuwa is still the Adebayo relief guy, which may not be the case once Miami solidifies their signing from the buyout market. The point is that this rotation might look a lot different on Monday night, which may force you into a bit more of an optimistic view.

#4: Trevor Ariza’s high minutes changing Andre Iguodala’s role.

When discussing a change at a position, this does not consist of some young guys battling it out to stay in the rotation, such as a Kendrick Nunn. The actual positional battle I’m referring to is the two veteran wings, Andre Iguodala and Trevor Ariza. Aside from Ariza being inserted into the starting lineup next to Adebayo recently, there has seemed to be high trust levels in Ariza since he first joined the team. It’s widely known that Iguodala isn’t the biggest fan of regular season play, which makes this certain insertion even more effective, but some of the newcomers make this interesting. Not just Nemanja Bjelica, but also a possible LaMarcus Aldridge addition links some question marks to the rotation moving forward. Although it may not hold much importance at the current moment, it will for Coach Spoelstra as the season progresses, and he must choose between the better shooter and the better defender, who can each sprinkle in the opposite element.

#5: Miami battles until the final buzzer, showcasing some grit to fight back.

Although it’s still not the result many may want, it was a pretty impressive run that this Heat team went on beginning late in the third quarter. Although the offensive side of the ball will be looked toward first after they went on a 25-8 run, the defensive rotations were night and day compared to the first quarter. They were locked in on that end of the floor, didn’t foul as much, and contested well on those same Charlotte triples. The offensive side of the ball was a slow grind with a three here and a three there, but Tyler Herro was the headliner for a short stretch. He showcased that same confidence in his scoring abilities, but then it began to tail off as the fourth quarter progressed. Those same triples were not falling late in the fourth when they needed it most from him, but then Adebayo stepped up late in the fourth for an exceptional stretch under two minutes to go. This then leads to the constant eyebrow raises about Adebayo not realizing how talented he is all 48 minutes.

A Breakdown of Tyler Herro Against Portland

Post trade deadline Tyler Herro was out in full effect on Thursday night against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Miami Heat had only 9 available players last night, while one of the guys out was Heat’s star Jimmy Butler, it was clear that Tyler Herro was going to need to step up as a scorer.

He not only did that, but he continued to show flashes in all facets of the game, which will be highlighted here. Although this game was a loss, it was a moral win, which is what we’re going to dive into here regarding Herro.

– The play-making abilities shine

One or two clips from last night’s game wouldn’t be able to fully explain the play-making strides that are being made. To start it off, he checks in the game in the first quarter, and immediately receives the ball on an off-ball screen to get downhill.

As Trevor Ariza’s man tries to eliminate that immediately, Herro makes a great read to pass it across his body back to the wing. Some of the issues involving his play-making lately has been the need to force certain passes, especially when he seems afraid to shoot. But that wasn’t the case last night, since he played with as much of a flow as ever.

As the game progressed and the number of attacks for Herro increased, which will be discussed later, the defense began to collapse. A lot.

On this particular play, all eyes are on Herro as he penetrates against the drop, which is his favorite time to attack the basket and play-make. A key element here is the patience he has when he gets to the basket, since that has been another area of struggle. He also doesn’t get stuck in the air, which leads to a perfect bounce pass and a perfect dunk.

Now, this sequence was by far the most impressive passing by Herro of the game, and maybe all season.

He runs a high pick and roll as both defenders try and trap, which pretty much leaves an open rolling Bam Adebayo, forcing the defense to rotate. Except, Herro didn’t make the pass to Adebayo on the roll, mostly since McCollum edged over and they probably would’ve recovered. He threw a cross-court pass to Gabe Vincent for a great look, which ended in three points.

The second play wasn’t as much Herro instincts since it was a designed play, but it’s still important to highlight. There’s a certain trust level in him to make these reads, especially in the fourth quarter of games when he is at his best.

Here’s another designed play where Duncan Robinson bunches up with Adebayo, as he goes to the three point line and Adebayo sets the screen for Herro into a pick and roll.

Yet another situation where Erik Spoelstra is putting the decision making in Herro’s hands, which is what he tends to do even more often when they’re without key players, since he wants him to take the reigns.

Herro reads the personnel well, since it’s an athletic freak rolling to the basket wearing that blue and pink, while a slow footed Enes Kanter is defending. He lobs it up and Adebayo throws it down, which was a bit risky at this back and forth point of the game.

– The two different aspects of his mid-range game

There are two elements to Herro’s evolving mid-range game, and the first one was on display here. And that element is separation, since it’s an ongoing discussing regarding his need for a constant screener.

When taking a look at this possession, there’s a slight dip he gives before pulling back, which gives him a total advantage. Once he develops these slight movements as a creator, which develops over time, it’ll make all the difference.

Herro mentioned in the past that he has watched film on his past two match-ups, Devin Booker and CJ McCollum, which is exactly what I asked him about following yesterday’s game:

The second element to Herro in the mid-range area is embracing the contact. This also is important to note when addressing his attacking abilities, since he seems to avoid contact often when shooting the ball, which could end up on a highlight reel or fast-break points for the opposing team.

After taking the contact on this play, he flows into a floater, which has been something he’s trusted a lot more lately. Decision making is very essential for young players, and that has a lot to do with choosing between different types of shot attempts. And the second level basically forces players to make quick decisions on their shots.

– Developing that gravity

The word gravity is used quite frequently when discussing this Heat team, either with Robinson beyond the arc or Butler on the drive. But sequences like this show clear flashes that Herro has a capability of holding a great amount of gravity on a defense.

The first clip shows Herro receiving the ball to begin the play, and he immediately pulls it since nobody is defending him. The second clip is the following play, which looks a whole lot different from the last one. He gets the ball in the same exact spot, except this time both defenders blitz him in the PnR, leading to an easy dunk for Adebayo.

– The downfall: the snake dribble

Although this possession ended in a bucket for Kendrick Nunn, the overuse of the snake dribble for Herro has been quite apparent. Most of the time when running a PnR, he either avoids the screen to go the opposite direction, or do what he did here.

Miami’s two bigs, Adebayo and Precious Achiuwa, are energetic and athletic figures as above the rim threats on the roll, but this one movement basically eliminates that. It creates poor spacing most of the time, since the defense knows how to cut it off, due to it probably headlining the film session early in the day.

It could have something to do with that mid-range confidence and contact layup hesitance that forces it, but either way it is something that must be addressed to maximize his offensive abilities.

 

Now, let’s take a look what happens when he flows normally in a pick and roll set. He patiently waits for the screen then explodes toward the basket, and as the defender lags behind, he goes immediately into that floater I discussed previously.

Not only is that floater hard to guard from the center’s perspective, but more importantly it puts the recovering guard in an awkward situation, which as seen here led to a foul. If this becomes his primary attribute in a PnR while sprinkling snake dribbles to find dead spots, it leads to a much cleaner offense.

– Some iso flashes?

A major reason the Victor Oladipo acquisition was so crucial was due to the lack of on-ball creators on this team’s current roster. But if Herro can bring that element even slightly off the bench, it absolutely changes everything for their offense.

That little step back to the left that was seen on the play above is one of his shots that he finds the most rhythm. And although the need for separation beyond the arc wasn’t even created on this play, he showed his ability to knock down contested jumpers, which honestly seem to be more natural than the wide open ones at this stage.

– Oh, by the way, the confidence is back

Confidence and Tyler Herro go together like country music and Jimmy Butler. And when he’s attempting shots from the logo in a tight game in the fourth quarter, it’s pretty obvious that confidence is fully back.

If it has something to do with escaping the trade deadline or not, this team just majorly needed that confidence and joy for the game to return for him. When diving into the mechanics of this play a bit more, it has everything to do with the one element I discuss every time involving Herro’s jumper: his lift.

When he rises up over the top of defenders like this, a miss becomes a rare occurrence. And the next thing that should become rare is Herro shying away from the ball throughout the game, since even though Butler and Oladipo will be added in pretty soon, this team needs their young spark to continue firing.

5 Takeways from Heat’s Late Loss to Portland

The Miami Heat fell late to the Portland Trail Blazers, after a foul was called with 1 second left to put Damian Lillard on the line. Although it was a tough result, Miami showed incredible grit with only 9 available players. So, here are five takeaways from the game…

#1: No Jimmy Butler leads to early Bam Adebayo aggression.

In a game that Miami was without their star Jimmy Butler and newcomer Victor Oladipo, Bam Adebayo was clearly going to be needed. Not only as the primary play-maker and focal point of the offense, but also as the needed scorer. And well, that’s exactly what he was early on, getting to those 10 foot push shots that he loves, while also competing on the defensive end each and every play. An efficient 15 point first half is one thing in a short term view, but it’s quite interesting to dive into it in the big picture. As much as many may think this will lead to even less Adebayo scoring with Oladipo joining, I believe it’ll be just the opposite. It eliminates teams sending constant doubles when Adebayo receives the ball in the nucleus of the offense, which could lead to an even more ideal situation for him.

#2: Post trade deadline Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson performances.

Now, before discussing Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson early on in the game tonight, maybe it’s important to address a primary reason. It’s not an overstatement to mention trade rumors getting into the heads of certain players, and it’s no surprise that it played a role in the recent struggles. Robinson came out immediately with an apparent confidence in his jumper, while Herro began to heat up as the game progressed. He kept Miami going when Adebayo exited which was key due to the many players Miami were without. Although many will harp on the three-point shooting being the only change for Herro tonight, I believe it had more to do with the on-ball situations. He attacked consistently throughout which led to easy buckets, and that’s the area that will fully elevate his game over this next stretch of games. And well, a Lillard range three pointer in the fourth quarter against Damian Lillard pretty much solidified the point about relief occurring after trade rumors, leading to Herro’s comfort zone of straight confidence.

#3: Oladipo may have been most useful on the defensive end tonight.

Not to link everything from tonight’s game to Miami’s newest trade acquisition, but CJ McCollum’s scoring explosion made that come to mind immediately. Although the Heat’s interchanging defensive schemes may hide some of Miami’s weaker defenders at times, it has still been clear that point of attack defense needs a boost. McCollum’s 29 first half points shouldn’t be completely pointed to Miami’s guards, since they actually contested well on many possessions, but when it’s his night, there’s basically no way to slow him down. This is where Victor Oladipo comes into play though in the big picture, since Butler is constantly the guy who is forced to guard opposing team’s best guard on a nightly basis. Other than the scoring boost, it’s a great amount of weight off Butler’s shoulders through the different defensive match-ups.

#4: Trevor Ariza looking quite impressive in all aspects of the game.

I think there is general confidence that Trevor Ariza can become an ideal plug and play guy at the 4, mostly as a a catch and shoot threat. But in only his fourth game with the Miami Heat, he looked to show other areas of his offensive package, headlined by an ability to put the ball on the deck and get to the basket. He has some length to him and seems to have a great ability to utilize that length when slashing down the baseline. Now, the more important aspect is the element he brings moving forward, which is the perfect balance at the wing spot for Andre Iguodala. This gives Erik Spoelstra some options to decide between a versatile offensive player who can defend and an elite defender who can facilitate offense. Either way, the Ariza acquisition looks to have an even bigger impact than originally expected.

#5: Oh, the Heat will insert Jimmy Butler, Victor Oladipo, and Goran Dragic into this.

A major takeaway from this game, other than individual boosts from needed players, is the heart they showed with only nine available players. Not only through the trade deadline being over, but this game being a scheduled loss basically propels this team to play freely. But other than that being noted, a clear takeaway is that Butler and Oladipo will be awaiting to be inserted into this starting lineup, while Dragic can be thrown into that scrappy bench group. And that’s not even mentioning Nemanja Bjelica and a possible LaMarcus Aldridge pick-up. The reason this is being noted is to highlight the ceiling of this team, which is far from being seen, but much higher than many may expect.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Pacers

The Miami Heat lost to the Indiana Pacers on Friday night, due to Miami’s rugged offense and Indiana’s explosive offense. Miami loses two straight games for the first time since the West Coast trip, but they will play this same Indiana team on Sunday. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Miami’s defense struggles early, but offense somehow stands out more.

Although the Indiana Pacers scored 68 points in the first half, while the Heat put up 58, the issues on the offensive end seemed much more important to note, even though Miami pretty much allowed Indiana to skip through the lane to get to the basket. The reason for that is due to the overall perception of the offense, from inconsistencies to the lack of three point shooting all of a sudden. Miami shot 19% from beyond the arc in the first half, which has become a common theme for this team as of late. This reflects onto Miami’s plethora of guards, mostly the two in the starting lineup, in Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson. Nunn has looked to lose that overall scoring confidence with the ball in his hands that he regained when being inserted into the starting lineup, while Robinson has struggled in the adjustment from the sprinting DHO’s to other unique spacing. Until those two things are cleaned up, it’s hard to see Miami’s offense coming together.

#2: Tyler Herro keeping Miami afloat in first half, in an interesting way.

If there’s been anything that I’ve reiterated time and time again about Tyler Herro’s next big step, it’s that getting to the line elevates his game. Now, 3 for 9 from the field through 16 first half minutes may not scream keeping a team afloat, but the 6 for 6 from the free throw line does. He has a natural trait to avoid contact when taking it to the basket, instead of drawing the contact when defenders rise, but he actually drew more fouls with his jumper today. Not even through a pump-fake, but just through his natural shooting motion off the dribble. He was one of the few players for Miami that flashed any sense of an offensive run, since once the game flows into a rhythm in Miami’s favor, it’s when Herro truly begins to thrive on that side of the ball.

#3: Bam Adebayo early aggression was much needed for lack of spark.

Other than Herro’s short spurts discussed previously, Bam Adebayo was actually the guy who kept Miami going throughout. For one, he started off the game with 8 straight points, but I’m not so sure that’s a positive thing when evaluating the team as a whole. He also had 5 free throw attempts in the first half, which is when you usually know that’s he’s being aggressive on that end. When the team is shooting that poorly from deep, it’s even more important for him to generate offense through his individual actions with the ball in his hands. But even when he shoots 6 for 8 from the field in the first half, there are still moments that the offense must work through him instead of the repetitive drive and kicks. When he flashes that free throw jumper early, it seems like a good call to alter the offense a bit to find him at that free throw line to work from there.

#4: Indiana’s shooting catches fire, not only in third quarter, but throughout entire game.

The Indiana Pacers are one of those teams that just have plenty of options, and are a clear representation of “depth.” And well, that deep shooting rotation was shown tonight, since the efficiency numbers were through the roof from a shooting aspect. For one, Miami was giving up clear drives early on, mostly since tough offensive possessions result in poor defensive follow-ups. But the three point shooting was actually the aspect that began to kill Miami, since Indiana began to catch fire, while Miami couldn’t knock down one. I’m not exactly sure the high percentage shooting from Indiana can all be due to Miami’s defense, since they actually had some pretty good contests on a lot of their jumpers. Either way, this ties back to the first takeaway involving lack of offense and playing to Indiana’s pace.

#5: Kelly Olynyk struggles offensively, but that can be fixed with one change.

One of the main points I’ve made involving Kelly Olynyk proved to be true following Adebayo’s absence in that recent stretch. The offense ran through him on the perimeter, which basically allowed him to thrive in other facets of the game than three point shooting. Now, although the numbers say that the fit next to Adebayo is effective, it seems like a minor change may do him justice, as well as everybody on the team. It’s hard to truly evaluate Trevor Ariza after his short stint, but it seems like some type of small ball 4 can alter some offensive struggles, especially since Spoelstra loves to go that route come playoff time. When evaluating the current roster for changes, aside from the trade market, that may be the only possible rotational change that can make the difference.

A Breakdown of Tyler Herro Against the Magic

It’s been a roller coaster of a season up to this point for Tyler Herro, going through contact tracing protocols, playing in games with 8 available players early on, and enduring injuries as well. That almost held him out of Sunday night’s match-up with the Orlando Magic, since he was questionable with a shoulder strain, but ended up playing.

And well, it was the type of bounce back game many have been awaiting, so let’s take a deep dive into his performance.

– Three-point shots falling for one reason

Herro’s shooting from beyond the arc this season hasn’t been his best attribute, which has had many people wondering the exact reason for that. His catch and shoot percentages haven’t been terrible, but are down from his rookie season, while his pull-up triples have been the main issue.

But taking a look at these two clips, there’s a mutual takeaway, which is that he’s getting back into his regular motions. By that I mean he’s utilizing the two main individual moves that lead to a successful jumper for him. The first play showcases the pump-fake into a one dribble side-step, which usually allows him to get into his most comfortable set-shot rhythm.

The second play is the most ideal Herro jumper that you will see. He receives the ball in motion into a pull-up, which is by far the most effective motion for him. If you’re wondering why, take a look at the amount of lift on that second shot. And when he’s shooting over the top of his defenders instead of being flat-footed, it usually ends in good things.

– Some differences in transition offense

Now, I’m not showcasing this play because it was a Herro fast-break alley-oop finish, which is impressive in itself. The actual reason is because of the difference in outcome compared to earlier tries.

A main issue with his transition scoring at times is that he allows his crafty rim presence to takeover in moments when it shouldn’t. Creative up and unders to avoid contact could make a highlight reel, but it also could end in  transition offense for the opposing team.

He must be more aggressive on these types of possessions, since drawing contact in fast-motion usually ends in two free-throws. Herro basically had no option other than to throw it down, since Goran Dragic forced him to rise up, ending in a flashy play. But once that semi-Butler kicks in to draw contact in transition, things will change for him as a player.

– Unique offensive set due to Butler’s gravity

Although this play wasn’t totally generated by Herro, it’s definitely worthy to discuss. Miami’s actions have looked a bit different with Bam Adebayo out, which is natural since he flowed them into most of their sets.

On this play, Butler and KZ Okpala run a pick and roll at the top of the key, while Olynyk sets an off-ball screen for Herro to wrap around to the basket. But take a look at the amount of eyes on the attacking Butler, especially since the switch didn’t occur to slide down on the cutting Herro. That leads to an easy dime under the basket for a score.

Guys like Herro have a real advantage on the offensive side of the ball when sharing the floor with Butler. The amount of pressure he puts on a defense allows others to play freely to find open space, which is impressive since it has continued with Adebayo out as well.

– Attacking mismatches through iso-ball

A big part of Herro’s evolving offensive game is the ability to take guys off the dribble one-on-one, especially when a mismatch is created.

On this possession, Herro creates the match-up that he wanted, and slowly backs out to reset while the team clears out. He then immediately begins to break his defender down, getting to that elbow shot which has been his friend since he entered the league.

Attacking switches is another one of those Dragic lessons that must be instilled into his game, especially since Miami is pretty limited on individual shot creators. If he can be trusted to get a bucket in a spaced out offense in a one-on-one setting, those late-game Tyler heroics will be even more dangerous.

– A need to utilize the PnR more

The pick and roll has been an interesting thing for Herro this season, since it shined most in those bundled up games against Philadelphia early on with eight available players, but has been a bit inconsistent since.

This play shows why that should not be the case, since he has a very unique and creative ability to get downhill. The issue has been actually utilizing the screen instead of avoiding it, since it only makes his job easier.

As he snakes back into the paint on this possession, which is usually his go-to so he can eliminate the guy who got screened, he attempts a very unorthodox floater that is never unorthodox for Herro. This ties back to my point earlier involving the avoidance of contact, since PnR sets will really takeoff when that occurs.

– Fourth quarter defensive impact

Miami’s defense has been absolutely extraordinary as of late, and it’s not all because of Butler, even though he deserves most of the credit. They have been playing incredible team defense, altering between man to man, 2-3 zone, and a 2-2-1 full-court press.

And when offense isn’t clicking late, you must utilize the defense to create offensive opportunities. Herro did that early in the fourth quarter, making two defensive plays, showcasing two completely different things.

The first play just showed his active hands, which looked a little Andre Iguodala-esque on this play, since he was determined to force Terrence Ross to make a play, instead of just sliding out to the corner while Precious Achiuwa stepped up.

The second clip really put Herro’s defensive awareness on display. It was obvious that Orlando would try to work the offense through Nikola Vucevic at this point, especially since he had a mismatch with Iguodala defending. Herro begins to edge over, and when he notices Vucevic is not aware of his back-side, he jumps the pass to force a turnover for the Magic.

And if anything has truly stood out from this breakdown, it’s that defensive growth in a team setting.

 

– More late-game jumpers to ice it

This is once again generated by the pressure Butler puts on a defense, since the defender slid over on the backside to eliminate the attack. Kelly Olynyk pops out immediately, which Butler swings it to him leading to the ball finding the hands of Herro.

And to evaluate his jumper once again, did you notice anything different? Well, I did, which was absolutely zero hesitation. The reason for shots falling more often down the stretch is the rhythm that he shoots with when it matters most.

To further that point, why not find Herro to put the game away, up 1 with 2 minutes left?

It basically looks like the same play as the last one, except Butler generated this one off the attack instead of out on the perimeter. Once again, the ball finds Olynyk, which then swings to Herro, due to yet another bad rotation due to the natural worry of a Butler score.

Herro catches it and lets it fly, which is the best and only option for him in those situations.

As I said at this point of the game, the Heat need one player other than Jimmy Butler to hit a big shot down the stretch for them to come away with a win. And that guy was Tyler Herro by no surprise.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Victory Over Magic

The Miami Heat beat the Orlando Magic to begin the second half of the regular season on Thursday night. Jimmy Butler stepped up in every facet for the team with Bam Adebayo out, which is no surprise after his recent play. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: The continued quest to survive the non-Butler minutes.

The non-Butler minutes have been something that I’ve discussed for the Heat for quite some time. It’s a bit of a different story when Bam Adebayo is on the floor to fill some of those holes, but clearly Miami didn’t have him tonight. That basically means Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro would be looked toward to step up in that stretch, and Herro was trying to find a rhythm when he entered and shots weren’t falling much for Dragic. Offense became stagnant with that group, and there early defensive moments fell off rather quickly. It seems like there’s always a discussion about filling holes with this team, due to constant rotational changes, but on nights when it’s a banged up Orlando Magic team that you’re facing, it’s necessary to adjust and thrive.

#2: The KZ Okpala experiment to Moe Harkless experiment to Chris Silva experiment.

As mentioned earlier, Adebayo did not play against the Magic tonight, which made that starting spot next to Kelly Olynyk interesting. As expected, KZ Okpala got the nod, since starting Precious Achiuwa doesn’t make much sense with the lack of bigs behind him. Okpala showed some early flashes on the defensive end, leading to impressive transition offense, but three quick fouls sent him to the sideline quickly. Moe Harkless then checked in, and gave pretty much the same exact thing Okpala brought, with a bit less perimeter aggression. After Achiuwa entered for a short stint, Coach Spo threw in Chris Silva for a spark, and he actually didn’t look bad. When going that deep into your bench, the player probably won’t be very reliable, but Silva knows how to play his role in limited minutes, battling in a similar way that Achiuwa does.

#3: One fallen Tyler Herro jumper early alters his game.

Tyler Herro appeared a bit lost offensively throughout the first quarter in a game he was needed to step up. But once again, a similar theme came up with Herro involving his confidence. When the shots aren’t falling, he finds himself fading to the corner, becoming a floor spacer. But after a shot or two begin to fall, his game begins to operate from the top of the key or the wing with the ball in his hands. One three-pointer on the wing once Jimmy Butler checked in seemed to be that spark, leading to a timeout for Orlando. From that point on, he had much more bounce in his game, which means his ball-handling, play-making, and scoring abilities increase majorly. It just furthers the point that Herro’s confidence is not an overstatement, and holds much value for this team’s current success.

#4: A Jimmy Butler third quarter step-up necessary, but not ideal in big picture.

It was a tight game throughout the night, but Jimmy Butler stepped up in the third quarter to sustain a close score, which can be looked at in a number of ways. For one, it shows the overall dominance of Jimmy Butler to turn it on whenever he chooses. Doubling guys down low for steals into transition offense, working the offense through him in the post into back-door cuts for layups, and much more sparked this team for a short stretch. But it can also be viewed in a negative way, since Miami needed him to do that to tie the game at the end of the third quarter against a depleted Orlando Magic team. Now, obviously Bam Adebayo was out, which means an adjusted offensive and defensive scheme, but Miami’s other role players should be capable of stepping up in these spots. Once again, it does provide extra clarity on both Butler’s ability to flip a switch, and Adebayo’s overall impact.

#5: Some interesting Coach Spo adjustments late in the game.

Coach Erik Spoelstra’s adjustments were fluid in the fourth quarter tonight, finally finding a spark for Miami. They went into a 2-3 zone for the first time, which seemed to throw the Magic off a bit. Miami usually chooses to sprinkle it in throughout the entire game, so the opposing team can dissect it by the time the fourth quarter comes around, but that changed tonight. Another interesting Coach Spo adjustment involved the rotation, since Precious Achiuwa never reentered the game after an early insertion. On a night that Miami lacked any type of big, it was far from expected that Achiuwa would not be utilized. These type of games without Adebayo seem to be the best time for Achiuwa to find any type of NBA level rhythm, but Spo went the Silva route, which actually wasn’t a bad option.

What is the Next Step for an Improved Miami Heat Offense?

While the beginning of the season for the Miami Heat seemed as if there was no true identity on either side of the ball, that has turned as of late.

The Heat are the number one team in defensive rating over the last 15 games, which is as big of an improvement as possible. Some may point to a more consistent Jimmy Butler in the lineup, but the defense has been strong even when he’s been out.

And that’s a big reason Erik Spoelstra deserves a lot of credit, since he’s been forced to use some players at the bottom of the roster and put them in spots to thrive. Gabe Vincent made a jump in minutes, mostly since he realized his unique ability at the top of the 2-3 zone and full-court press.

But although their defense has been consistently good, that hasn’t been the case for their offense. Over the last 15 games, they’re 20th in offensive rating, and somehow still ended up going 11-4 in that stretch. And quite frankly, a portion of those losses were winnable, including the LA Clippers game without four starters and the Golden State Warriors game with a decent lead and a struggling Stephen Curry.

So if there’s been success as of late with a struggling offense, what is the next step for Miami’s offense?

Well, the obvious answer would be a consistently healthy roster, but that can never be relied on this season. Miami’s played 36 games up to this point, while only 9 of those games included Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Goran Dragic all playing.

From a systematic perspective, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact reason. They’ve proved to move the ball exceptionally well, since a good portion of their field goal makes on a nightly basis are assisted on. Miami has gone slightly away from constant DHO’s, leading to much more back-cuts, which is essential on a team that prides themselves on off-ball screening.

But the true fix to improve Miami’s all-around offensive success will be to decrease the load from Miami’s veteran go-to guys. Butler and Goran Dragic are two unbelievable offensive players that are capable of sparking the entire offense, through attacking off the dribble, setting up others, and scoring down the stretch when it matters.

But if these two guys have been Miami’s only offensive hope in many games, how does it make sense for them to take a step-back?

Well, that’s where Miami’s young guys, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, come into play. This doesn’t mean Butler and Dragic need to take a step back, but less reliance on these guys in a half-court offense will allow this team to truly thrive.

There have been flashes from both Adebayo and Herro this season by taking over on their own, Adebayo in the Brooklyn Nets game and Herro in the Philadelphia 76ers game with only 8 available players. But when all four of them can play in the same game and all thrive in their own roles, that’s when the leap will occur.

Waiting for Adebayo to take offensive initiative has been discussed frequently, since his unselfishness leads to him trying to set others up, while Herro has struggled lately just through a lack of rhythm and flow after missing time.

When Adebayo can begin to find his favorite spot at the free throw line for mid-range jumpers consistently, and Herro can attack the basket without hesitance and kiss the ball off the glass with confidence, this team will be hard to beat.

In many ways, the rise of Kendrick Nunn has been a major reason for Miami’s offense landing 20th, since without his consistent play, the rating would be significantly worse.

The reason I’m discussing this in a broad fashion is because it seems pretty obvious that these two guys will be the only way large improvement will be seen. Instead of diving into the film today to breakdown certain possessions, it’s time to evaluate the first 36 games as a whole, and how to move forward in a positive manner.

If Herro can regain that bubble confidence with the ball in his hands, and Adebayo can attempt more shots per game than the number on his jersey, it’ll allow Butler and Dragic to have much more freedom in the regular season, instead of forcing them to do too much before the post-season even begins.

Now that the entire team gets a week off at home, that second half push will be ready to be made. And with a healthy Butler, a continued strong defensive effort, and the increased aggression from the guys discussed, there’s a good chance a .500 record will be the last thing they’re thinking about.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Hawks

The Miami Heat lost to the Atlanta Hawks this time around, in an absolute nightmare of a game. Erik Spoelstra has discussed playing games in the mud this season, but they played this game in something much worse than mud. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Miami’s offense no where to be found early.

Well, there’s not much to dive into when discussing the Miami Heat’s offense in the first half, other than shots just not falling. Good looks were being generated throughout beyond the arc, but somehow Miami ended up with 37 points in the first half. The biggest reason for Miami’s offensive struggles was the lack of a guy who can consistently get downhill. Jimmy Butler is usually that guy, but in a game where he was watching from the sideline, that issue became more apparent. This type of offensive play early says a lot about Butler as a player, but it also says a lot about this team. It’s clear they rely on Butler a bit too much at times, since it’s a lot of standing around until he generates offense. Goran Dragic helps that a bit, which was the only type of flow that they had, when he was attacking and kicking.

#2: Bam Adebayo needs to step up amid big time struggles.

When something is going wrong for a team, it’s natural to look toward the best player and leader for that particular night. It was obvious Bam Adebayo wasn’t having his best game in the first half, but 2 shot attempts through 16 minutes of bad basketball should never be the case. As I mentioned previously, dribble penetration and rim pressure was a big issue tonight, which is why setting screens for more pull-up jumpers should be altered a bit. The Clint Capela match-up favors Adebayo from an offensive perspective due to quickness, but that advantage was never really looked to. Butler definitely makes Adebayo’s job a lot easier in most of Miami’s sets, but when Adebayo has to carry a lineup come playoff time when Butler takes a breather, there must be a high amount of trust.

#3: Andre Iguodala may be the only reason things stayed close.

Andre Iguodala is the only guy on the current roster who can replicate some of the things Butler does, mostly from a facilitating perspective. Even though he was directing traffic, shots still weren’t falling, but his continued activity on both ends sparked them in some spurts. That Iguodala-Gabe Vincent tandem continues to impress many on the defensive end, due to both of their extremely aggressive mindsets to get on the ground for loose balls, pick up full-court, and more. A couple stops began to get Miami into transition offense, which seemed to be the only efficient offense early. There’s an immense amount of confidence when Iguodala is running the break, due to his high IQ play-making abilities, which was the only reason Miami trailed by 7 at the half, after a horrific performance early on.

#4: Duncan Robinson sparks third quarter run.

Duncan Robinson found a good time to get free on the perimeter for some three point makes, since it was the spark Miami was waiting for. But it wasn’t just Robinson finding space out of nowhere, he actually generated it himself. He put the ball on the floor a little more to begin the third quarter than he usually would, which was necessary in a game where shots weren’t dropping. Although he wasn’t scoring off the dribble, it gave the defense something to think about, and surprisingly they were thinking about it. Those triples weren’t the traditional dribble hand-off either, since he even utilized some pick and roll sets in which he’d pull up off the dribble. Seeing Robinson have the ability to score in a variety of ways when not being absolutely swarmed, is a healthy reminder after the recent defenses he’s faced.

#5: Tyler Herro finally flips a switch late in the third, but it wasn’t enough.

Tyler Herro stepping up late in the third quarter, after Robinson played a big part early, was all Miami needed to find any type of offense. As I discussed after last game, Herro has an ability to flip an individual switch, leading to increased confidence and more aggression. On a night that he struggled, one shot going in the basket is all it took for him to get back to himself, which led to him straying away from his passive ways early. Those passing abilities made an appearance in the fourth quarter once again after he had a quick scoring run, but that’s when play-making is most effective for him. Herro is not a natural play-maker, he’s a natural scorer. But he can be a trusted facilitator once defenses begin to target his scoring time and time again. Even when he attacked, though, play-making can’t be harped on when the players around him were struggling with uncontested jumpers.