Tag Archive for: Victor Oladipo

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Boston in Game 4

The Miami Heat entered game 4 up 2-1, and the Celtics were clearly desperate.

But the issue with that: the Heat looked the exact opposite of desperate.

Much like the theme of this series, one team dominated the game, which in this case was the Boston Celtics.

So, here are some takeaways on what went wrong for the Heat…

#1: I can count the Miami Heat’s first half buckets on one hand…

6 of 32. What do those numbers portray? Well, that’s the Miami Heat’s shooting from the field in the first half, excluding Victor Oladipo. They didn’t have a made field goal for like 3/4’s of the first quarter, leaving them with 11 points over that initial 12 minute span. Jimmy Butler didn’t look like himself, Bam Adebayo’s aggression wasn’t there and they were collapsing on him in the lane, and the perimeter players like Kyle Lowry and Max Strus were being absolutely blanketed. The Boston defense deserves credit for flattening Miami out, but bunnies wouldn’t even drop for the Heat in that half. Short on floaters and mid-range pull-ups, which was the spot on the floor they kept funneling them to. No Tyler Herro created extra half-court hurdles, but that wasn’t the absence. It was a complete team offensive absence. Actually, except Victor Oladipo.

#2: Well, Victor Oladipo showed up.

Why is Oladipo being mentioned briefly throughout the beginning of this piece? That’s because he was the only player who made a first half appearance, as he scored 18 points off the bench in that first half. For one, it’s sometimes just as simple as saying he got in a rhythm and hit some shots, but he created those things himself with his early approach. Right when he entered, his mindset was clear: I’m going right at defenders to get to the basket. That line of thinking puts so much stress on an individual defender, leading into his success in iso ball. The Heat didn’t have one workable set or functional player, so they allowed Dipo to work some magic in isolation. They saw good results there, especially in contrast to the rest of the team. The last time Herro missed a game, which the rest of the team missed as well, Dipo dropped 40. And now we see this. He looks comfortable, but maybe it’s time to give him some more on-ball time.

#3: Could Miami eventually give Robert Williams the Bam treatment?

Marcus Smart was ruled out in game 4, but Robert Williams made his return to the lineup. It’s clear his impact is felt every time he plays, not just defensively, but as a vertical threat on the offensive end. His size and rebounding skill has given the Heat some trouble, but the true topic with him is on defense. And well, it’s clearly adjustment time for Erik Spoelstra and the Heat. Yet while watching him operate on that end by covering ground and protecting the rim, it brings you back to the way other teams treat Bam at times. Could the Heat find ways to pull Williams away from the play? Playing 4-on-4 could be positive or negative depending on context, but finding a way for a shooter to draw that switch and clear could lead to some good outcomes. The focus is offense, but I’m interested to see Miami get to that more.

#4: So, how can the Heat adjust their offensive approach?

Instead of evaluating the 48 minutes played in this game, let’s make a quick shift and look ahead to the next 48 minutes of this series. Heading into this match-up, one thing was clear about this Heat team in terms of blaring weaknesses: the half-court attack could become problematic. And looking at tonight, as I touched on earlier, it’s one thing to miss open shots and another to generate a poor shot profile overall. The latter feels like the more important element here. Tyler Herro is a major part of this team’s offensive success, but do you know the only way to make up for that? Jimmy Butler rim pressure combined with kick-outs to shooters. When neither of those things are clicking, it’s going to be a long night. Bam Adebayo also followed up his aggressive showing with a quiet night, but it definitely was a focus to flatten him out. Shooting being a non-factor means less room for Bam to operate, plus he just wasn’t aggressive. So an offensive adjustment must be on the way.

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#5: So, it’s 2-2 by the way.

It’s no doubt that this was a horrible loss. But so was game 2. And so were games 1 and 3 for Boston when eyeing the context. Moral of the story: this is a long series. After the Celtics stole one back in Miami, the task for the Heat heading up to Boston was pretty clear. Just steal one. And they did just that in game 3, while the Celtics came out in game 4 with the necessary urgency. Momentum just isn’t a thing in this Eastern Conference Finals. Right when you think one team possesses it, the opposing group kicks you right in the mouth. But now it’s a clean slate. The Heat are currently tied with the Celtics 2-2 in the series, turning into a best of 3 to get to the Finals. They positioned themselves to have home court advantage, and now it’ll come in handy. Now it’s just about taking care of business back home on Wednesday in game 5.

 

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The Main Victor Oladipo Element for this Heat Team

No Jimmy Butler-no Kyle Lowry on Monday night against the Boston Celtics. What is the product of that equation? Well, it shows an offensive game-plan that lacks one of the Heat’s most crucial elements: rim pressure.

Tyler Herro was pretty much the only one who could semi-do it on a very awkward offensive night, but he’s clearly a complementary driver and attacker at this stage in his career, and not a primary reliable source in that way.

So, those points get you thinking. Missing top dogs on the roster? Missing rim pressure offensively? Missing that main dish on a night where guys like Max Strus provide the complementary 27 points?

Yeah, in theory, there isn’t a better filler/answer to those questions than a healthy Victor Oladipo.

And yet, as the clock hit midnight late last night, could we officially be in the return month of the Heat’s potential shiny new toy?

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The thing about Oladipo is that he can fill a lot of holes and provide a lot of things, but when discussing it this far away from actually seeing him out there, it’s tough to predict how he will look in certain aspects of his game.

Defense is the thing that’ll shoot up his minutes per game immensely, since ultimately I feel that’s what will keep him on the floor for extended time. Guys like Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent have been elite on-ball stoppers as of late, but adding in one of the better off-ball hounds, navigating screens everywhere on the floor is just another beast.

But once again, there’s a caveat: we don’t know if that’ll still be intact as soon as he returns.

While I could dissect so many different elements of his game that’ll provide a major plus to this Heat team down the stretch of the year, I want to keep this relevant to what we’ve seen as of late, and that’s the need for his on-ball attack.

The last two games from Miami have highlighted the drive and kick that they rely on so heavily. Against Toronto, it was their only good looking offense in those 3 overtimes, but the frequency of it wasn’t as high as it should’ve been. Against Boston, the Celtics wouldn’t help off the weak-side corner, which pretty much eliminates the “kick” in drive and kick.

But was it truly the “kick” that was eliminated? Absolutely not.

The thing Miami was without in that scenario was the “drive.” As pointed out earlier, Herro being the primary attacker leaves a top tier defense picking their poison, and the choice wasn’t a very difficult one.

Yet in a drive and kick offense, it’s something Oladipo is built for.

Looking at those clips up above, you see a guy that can draw multiple defenders into the lane when attacking, almost in Butler fashion when he’s rolling on a certain night. In that second clip, when facing Miami in game 4 of the Bubble playoffs, he takes the iso on Butler, gets past just enough to collapse Herro-Crowder-Bam, then makes a live skip pass to the opposite wing for a 3.

When evaluating talent, that stuff doesn’t just disappear. We can talk about potentially lacking that initial speed to get by Butler on that isolation, but those reads will always be there to stay. And that’s what’ll make the lives of guys like Butler and Lowry so much easier.

Speaking of the debate about him having that burst to make plays at the rim, I’m not so sure he relies on it as much as some think. There’s no doubt he’s an explosive player on both ends, but he uses more finesse than pure quickness.

Looking at the first two clips above, during that short stint with Miami, you can see that little euro step was his penetration go-to when getting that one-on-one under the rim.

No matter if it’s an iso on James Wiseman or a horns set into a hand-off and size mismatch down low on Dennis Schroder, there are ways for Dipo to apply that much needed rim pressure without that “burst.”

But it should be mentioned that this operation should not be looked at like the last. As many reports have shown, the injury has actually been repaired in a way that wasn’t the case when he got to Miami last season. It’s more about eliminating the degree of re-injury instead of worrying about that explosive push, but we will just have to see how that plays out.

Another part of his offensive bag that requires skill over quickness is his ability to get to the line.

In his 4 games with Miami last year, (yes, very small sample size), he got to the line at least 5 times in three of those games. He just has a knack for drawing contact and forcing defenders to make that swipe, which could be his most useful tool in a playoff series.

The Heat currently rank 24th in free throw attempts per game, but that may be one of the biggest shifting numbers once the playoffs begin. Once Lowry and Butler are actually on the floor together for longer than a day or two, while Dipo can be that “Butler off the bench” as a pace provider by getting to the line, it’s essentially the perfect fit.

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Oladipo will no doubt have to earn his spot from these high level role players like Martin or Strus when he makes his return, but there’s also no doubt that his build is the picture perfect type of player for what this team needs at this moment in time.

Rim pressure, check.

Perfect balance off the bench to the game of Tyler Herro, check.

Defensive versatility late in games to eliminate singular defenders getting picked on, check.

And just a high level talent who has done it in this league for quite some time at an elite standard, definite check.

That timer is dwindling down sooner and sooner on Oladipo’s return, and games like last night against Boston will dwindle down shortly after.

We can have the conversation about playoff rotations, and who plays where, but I can guarantee Dipo will be a part of that if healthy.

And when Victor Oladipo is your team’s 7th man come playoff time, I’d say you’re in an OK spot.

 

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The Kyle Lowry-Victor Oladipo Dynamic Has Major Potential in Miami

Exactly 6 months ago from next Saturday, basically every NBA fan was staring at their phone, computer, or TV, waiting for that next Woj bomb to pop up before the trade deadline. For many Miami Heat fans, it wasn’t as much “if” something would happen. It was “which” would happen.

By that I mean the Heat were going to try and grab a highly talented guard who plugged two of their biggest issues at the time: shot creation and point of attack defense. The two options were Victor Oladipo and Kyle Lowry, mostly since both of them were perfect choices to make yet another late season push.

The Heat ended up acquiring Oladipo due to the pricing being much cheaper than if they went all in on Lowry at the time. And well, I’d say that was a pretty great decision.

Fast forward a few months and the Miami Heat have both of those guys on their roster. Of course the Oladipo insertion will have to wait quite a while, but that shouldn’t even be a big area of focus. This team is absolutely and positively built for the post-season. So if they have to hold Dipo out for an extended period to make sure he’s healthy enough for that push, then so be it.

But when discussing these two players, it always feels like they’re evaluated individually when preparing for this upcoming season. Many picture them in a scary defensive lineup along with Jimmy Butler, PJ Tucker, and Bam Adebayo, but it’s not insane to say they can handle their own lineups with Butler and Adebayo each getting a breather.

So, that’s what we’ll be looking into here. What would a Lowry-Oladipo back-court look like this season?

A Flash From the Past

When I initially think of Lowry playing next to a shot creating guard on the offensive end, barring Oladipo comes back with that ability to a certain degree, the Lowry-DeRozan long term combo is what I picture immediately.

In no way, shape, or form am I saying that is what Oladipo will look like next season, but it translates to the way he can be utilized in a Miami Heat offense. And that all starts with the consistent 1-2 punch in specific offensive sets.

Lowry and DeRozan were fantastic at bouncing off each other throughout their tenure, but a lot of their floor time consisted of taking turns in a sense. Lowry flipping the switch into play-making mode or plummeting to the basket in PnR, or DeRozan going to work in the high post for straight bucket getting.

With a healthy Oladipo, it would be interesting to see that “taking turns” mentality with the right guys around them on the floor.

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But when looking at some Oladipo patterns, I don’t see an immediate shot creation impact upon return. Whenever he returns from injury, catch and shoot three point attempts always rise, and I’d expect that to be the case once again. Lowry has always been great at finding shooters on the perimeter with wild kick-outs or no-look swings, and that creativity may be huge for Dipo to get into a rhythm.

In a lot of ways, this will be the starting point when Oladipo makes his awaited return to the basketball court, but seeing his mentality in the past, it never takes long for him to get back into attacking mode. And well, that’s when this back-court dynamic will truly excel.

In a perfect scenario when these two share the floor, Oladipo dominates the ball and Lowry is the off-ball threat. Not to continually compare it to the DeRozan usage, but that’s why the offense was able to run so smoothly.

Looking at the play above, we see them bouncing off one another in the Spain pick and roll. DeRozan attacks, Lowry screens the screener, leading to a pop out for three. If Dipo has 75% of his attacking ability back, these type of actions can work.

Even though he was known for being an athletic player, I don’t think it’s where his offensive success derives from completely. He has great touch, can create space around the rim with his body, and can control the mid-range enough to make it hard on defenders. And none of that stuff is parallel with completely relying on athleticism.

The point is that Lowry off the ball will be huge for this duo. If they can find a rhythm late in the regular season before the playoffs, that elevates this team even more. And when getting to playoff time, there won’t be many instances where Butler and Adebayo are both on the sideline, meaning those two sharing the floor with them just leads to absolute chaos for opposing teams.

Take a look at the play above. I’m sure your first takeaway is: how does this relate to Oladipo when seeing rim rocking lob finishes from DeRozan? The answer to that question is the emphatic slam has nothing to do with why I’m showing this play. It’s really about the pacing and back-door usage in an updated Heat offense.

Even when it seemed Miami had the players built for a transition heavy offense, that never really checked out. If you’re going to be a top defensive team in the league, that should always translate to open floor buckets, and the new acquisitions should finally make that possible.

Many have brought this point up about Lowry’s increased speed and willingness to catch defenses off-guard through fast pace, but I’d say Oladipo is pretty similar in that sense. Before his recent injury, he loved to run the floor and get easy opportunities, even in his small stint with Miami.

So, if they share the floor for an extended period, I’d expect this to come to fruition.

Secondly, there’s a chance Dipo may lack that same explosiveness that he once had. The way to counteract that is using a lot of the things they used in Toronto a few years back.

Let me just say, Lowry is a fantastic passer, but an even better adjective is that he’s a sneaky passer. He’s one of those guys that gives weak-side defenders, or bigs defending PnR, a major headache on a night to night basis. To that point, the utilization of back-cuts and back-door screening should absolutely be a priority.

If they can find ways to bend a defense through anticipation of passes, they’ve already won. This is something I don’t really expect to see a ton of in the regular season, just due to the fact they can spring it on teams in a playoff series if offense becomes stagnant.

This is why Oladipo is a true wild card for this team. Not just due to his overall health, but the boost he can give to this team in every facet. And the reason I’m only focusing on the ways they can run offense is because the defensive stuff is a given.

A Lowry-Dipo defensive back-court is something the Heat have been needing for some time. And well, that’s excluding the team’s top 2 defenders, Adebayo and Butler, which could potentially be a closing four on many nights in the playoffs.

What Can the Heat Run to Maximize this Combo?

Whenever we discuss “maximizing” certain players on the floor offensively, the lineup should always include Duncan Robinson. The driving lanes just expand whenever he’s being used as a screener or sprinting off a screen of his own, which we see in action right here.

Oladipo looks like he’s about to flow into a double drag with Robinson and Adebayo screening, but he inserts the ball into Adebayo. This play transitions into a DHO back to Dipo, while Robinson turns and screens for the player in the weak-side corner.

In this case, that corner player would be Kyle Lowry.

Oladipo ended up getting position for a tough bucket here, but this could usually go in a couple different directions. He could hit Lowry on the loop-around at the top of they key, hit Robinson who is popping out in the corner, or probe through the lane for a reset.

And well, that’ll be the Lowry and Oladipo on-court chain reaction. Using the Erik Spoelstra added layers to create good looks through each other’s biggest offensive skill.

This final offensive action is something I’ve brought up repeatedly, but never in terms of Oladipo.

It’s something Toronto went to a ton when Lowry was on the floor, where he inserts the ball in the high-post/elbow, as he runs off the ball into a pin-down for a wing triple. This is where those Spoelstra “layers” come into play, since Oladipo can bring a specific wrinkle.

I’ve brought up this set since it can be run for Herro to get some good looks with Lowry in the post, but this could probably benefit Dipo even more. Even though this possession flowed into a DHO back to Lowry for a three, I see this going in a different direction.

When this is being run, all eyes are on the off-ball madness, waiting to see if the shooter gets open or the big slips for the cut. The Dipo wrinkle could potentially be a game of one-on-one on the elbow. He’s always been great in space once he gets defenders on their heels, which is exactly where this would go.

Either creating a good look for mid-range or taking a chance on a blow-by with no big in sight. This is why these two can be dynamic on the offensive end with Erik Spoelstra steering the ship.

Whenever I show specific examples, it’s important to note the possibilities are endless with how they will be positioned in a normal game flow, but they will clearly have a strong base to revert back to.

Once upon a time these two players were essentially being compared in Miami to see who could make the bigger impact. And now the comparison is whether this combo will work better with the ball in the hands of Oladipo or in the hands of Lowry.

Things can change quickly in this league, and that’s exactly what happened for the Heat. The regular season may be bright for this squad, but the playoffs are even brighter.

 

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How Will Victor Oladipo Be Used for Miami Upon his Return?

The biggest wild card for the Miami Heat this upcoming season is Victor Oladipo. After acquiring him at the trade deadline last season, the Heat resigned him to a veteran minimum following his recent injury.

With many evaluating the rotation of the Heat next season, it’s pretty obvious that Oladipo being plugged into a bench role can change the trajectory of the team. There has been mixed reporting about the timetable of his return exactly, but that probably isn’t the most important part about the next steps.

It isn’t when he will return, it is how he will return.

After repairing his right quadriceps tendon, it’s unclear how he will look once he gets back into action. But in my opinion, Oladipo at 75% helps this team at the back end of the season. As long as he can bring his base skill-set, it moves the needle enough.

So, let’s hop right into the ways that he will be used. And as we go through it, you’ll notice his role will mainly revolve around the key player that is on the floor next to him at that time…

Defensive Readiness

Before going completely into offensive usage, the defensive end must be the place we start. That was one of the main reasons the Heat wanted to acquire him last season, due to him possibly plugging the point of attack issues on the team.

And after adding Kyle Lowry this off-season, there are a bunch of projected defensive lineups that can really do damage in a playoff series. But when looking at the way he will come back from this injury, the biggest question seems to be how he will translate on the defensive end.

Lacking that same explosiveness and speed usually means taking a step back on that end, much like many are kind of expecting when Klay Thompson returns for the Golden State Warriors. But one thing that should be mentioned is that Oladipo’s defense isn’t solely carried by his speed and overall movement. It’s actually the defensive principles that carry the weight.

Look at the clips above from his biggest game with the Heat last season in that short span. These defensive highlights just further prove my point. Sprinkling in simple blitzes with Bam Adebayo, getting his hands on the ball when defending the post, and just making the necessary rotations.

None of that will change. He won’t have to carry a huge load on that end of the floor with the latest roster changes, except possibly guarding the best back-up guard when sharing the floor with Tyler Herro off the bench.

It’s just about what he will give them on the offensive end to complement others, and there’s one way to fully maximize that stuff….

Spotting Up from Deep Frequently. Very Frequently

There’s an obvious formula to working Oladipo back into play slowly. And well, that includes more spot-up shooting than explosive driving and kicking. Once again, Lowry now being a part of the roster can really allow Oladipo to take his time on the offensive end when returning, but some of this will be on Herro’s immediate role.

Although I will tough on this duo next, it’s important to mention that Herro’s utilization is going to be simplified majorly. It could be in many different ways, but the point is that putting Oladipo into catch and shoot spots at the beginning can really cater to Herro.

Aside from that, Oladipo’s spot-up shooting willingness has trended upward over the years. In the 2018-2019 season, he only played 36 games in the regular season, and shot 96 total spot-up triples on 41% shooting. Looking at this past season where he bounced around the league playing 33 games, he ended up attempting a total of 120 threes on 38% shooting.

This wasn’t supposed to be his offensive role on any team, due to his dynamic attacking ability paving the way along with his unique outside shot creation. But well, adjustments are important when a player goes through the things Oladipo has gone through.

Whenever he has been slotted back into play after an absence, catch and shoot scoring is where he always finds himself. And I’m pretty sure we will see it again with Miami this upcoming season.

Back-Up Back-Court Flexibility

As alluded to briefly in the last section, the success of the Heat late in the season will have a lot to do with the production of Herro and Oladipo off the bench. How can they produce at a high level as the key players on the floor? Well, let’s take a look.

For starters, as I’ve noted many times, there won’t be many instances that those two are the key players on the floor, due to the idea that Lowry, Adebayo, and Butler will be on the bench at the same time isn’t truly a reality.

But taking a look at the clip above, this is where Herro’s game will be simplified a bit to start the season. Playing off the catch, but obviously not in a Duncan Robinson style. He’s going to station himself on the wing or corner in shooting position, but he’s going to mix in those step-backs and side-steps to really make himself dangerous.

Looking at the second clip, this ties into Oladipo’s possible role in the offense. Herro collapsing the defense a bit off the pick and roll then making decisions from there. That is another part of his game that could really use a boost, and if he can read rotations at a high level in this way, by making skip passes under the rim, this combination elevates.

In a very small sample size last season, the numbers with Herro and Oladipo on the floor weren’t very good. But with the recent roster construction, lineups will benefit when both of them can play against opposing back-up back-courts.

Oladipo may be the wild card of the team, but the wild card tandem is definitely the development of these two as possible reserve killers.

Adebayo-Oladipo Immediate On-Court Chemistry

Before discussing this from Oladipo’s perspective, it should be noted in a general sense. Why was is that Adebayo worked so well with Oladipo in a short span?

As good as Oladipo is, it wasn’t just because of him. It’s what comes from a shot creating guard who can score at all three levels following a screen or a hand-off from Adebayo. It’s why the Lowry addition is more important than some may think.

Spacing wasn’t off in these games, off-ball actions were fluid due to the amount of eyes on the strong side, and their skill-sets matched up. If multiples shot creators are put on the floor with Adebayo, it’s clear that good things will come out of it. Very good things.

Other than that, the first clip just shows how much the team elevates if he has even the slightest ability to get to the rim in a smooth fashion. That would mean Lowry and Butler could take a breather together on the bench, while Herro, Oladipo, and Adebayo bounce off each other to create good offense.

Oladipo at the top of the key with Adebayo and Robinson as screeners. It turns into an Adebayo hand-off for Dipo as Robinson screens for Herro in the corner. No help can drop down due to the pull that off-ball action puts on the defense, leading to an easy bucket for Dipo.

That’s the effect Oladipo has on the team. It’s the reliever for a 35 year old Lowry and a 31 year old Butler. These lineups with Herro-Dipo-Robinson-(insert corner spacer)-Adebayo will be a creative frenzy for Coach Erik Spoelstra, before transitioning back into the main thing with Lowry and Butler running the show.

It’s simple: Oladipo changes the game for them.

The Kyle Lowry Effect

Finally, Dipo wouldn’t just be a Lowry filler. We’ve talked about the way they can bounce off each other defensively at the point of attack, but there’s one offensive point to be made: pacing.

The Heat were a heavy half-court team this past season, even when shifting into a top 10 defense after acquiring Trevor Ariza. Transition offense didn’t ever look bad, it was just that possessions were always slowed down or pulled out to await the initial action.

A big like Adebayo with his guard-like skill-set should take advantage of that area, Butler loves to bull-doze his way to the cup, and of course, Lowry can get down there whenever he chooses and manipulate the whistle in different ways.

But the same may go for Oladipo.

He’s another guy who likes to push tempo, and if Butler or Adebayo are unwilling to, just know Lowry and Oladipo will make sure to change that rather quickly. That also does wonders for shooters like Robinson, since if the ball can be sprayed in the open court to collapse the defense a bit, transition threes will come often.

Looking back at the Warriors’ outside shooting over the years, it felt like every game, open looks were being generated just through that open court pressure. Draymond Green or Andre Iguodala would take control at times, and Miami has a few of those types that can mirror that transition shooting creation to a certain degree.

The most essential part about a player like Oladipo returning from injury is that he is versatile. If one part of his game eases up, he will put more weight on an attribute that can benefit in the short-term. This new roster is much more diverse, but for that to truly be seen, Dipo will need to take advantage of the role Coach Spo drums up for him upon his return.

And that could be sooner than originally expected.

 

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Answering Your Questions on the Miami Heat

There haven’t been many practices for Miami this season, as well as other teams, but the Heat were able to get one in this morning after having the second day off in a row. They will hop right back into it on Saturday night, then follow that up on Sunday, which is why these two days off are so crucial.

Anyway, this piece is about you guys. Let’s take a look at some of the questions about the Heat’s current state…

Even though the headliners today for Victor Oladipo include “injury update,” there really wasn’t any update on his injury status. Coach Erik Spoelstra did not add anything differently, other than the occasional, “He’s making progress,” which people seem to be running with right now. Spoiler alert: Don’t do that from that single comment.

I can’t give a direct answer if he will play again this season, since honestly, I don’t believe that the Heat know at the moment. But, due to your question asking whether he will play another game with the Heat, I’d lean yes, being you didn’t mention anything about this season.

The off-season will be quite interesting, and although Oladipo’s contract may not be the primary focus right now, it’s lingering throughout the higher ups. There won’t be many teams throwing themselves at the likes of Oladipo this off-season, leading to the overall answer that Miami could have him back next season on a very generous salary.

Ah, the KZ Okpala vs Precious Achiuwa debate.

I don’t think there’s any question that both of these guys need time and G-League, which is why the adjective “potential” is currently being linked to them. But, when looking at the way this Heat team is constructed, KZ Okpala seems like the clear answer.

Not only do I believe he has more potential, but I believe he has a much higher chance of having a role on this Heat team in the future. Precious Achiuwa has had his moments and has a chance of becoming a solid back-up big for Bam Adebayo, but the fact of the matter is Okpala doesn’t have a franchise centerpiece standing in his way for the starting spot. (No I didn’t forget about Jimmy Butler and yes I believe Okpala would play the 4)

Even though Pat Riley said on draft night that the goal is to play Adebayo and Achiuwa together, that boat seems to be docked and doesn’t look to be sailing anytime soon. The only way that becomes a viable option is if Achiuwa develops a trusted jumper, which is not the developmental programs current focus.

So, Okpala wins the potential battle.

The interesting part about talking role players on this Heat team is that there is a lot of them. Emphasis on a lot.

When I hear role player, I think about anybody not named Butler or Adebayo, meaning Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, and Kendrick Nunn fall under that category. But well, I’m not going the route of any of those guys.

When thinking about playoff situations, I immediately think about who is closing games for this team. While last year Andre Iguodala was that guy many nights, there were many restrictions on what he brought offensively. And well, that leads us into my answer.

Trevor Ariza.

They’ve got their guy at the four spot that they can trust on both sides of the floor. And the price to obtain him? Oh yeah, for nothing. And if I’m going to bank on a role player stepping up in a post-season match-up, it’s going to be one that is playoff tested, like Ariza.

To be honest, I just don’t think there’s one single thing to improve this team’s offense. For one, Oladipo would do wonders to input that secondary attacker that they’ve missed, which is why they went after him in the first place. But when looking at current personnel, it’s just about the half-court offense, and frankly, the Duncan Robinson effect.

They must be a team that gets into transition more, since that is when the offense really starts flowing. They have the defensive tools to do it, but being 17th in the NBA in transition frequency just won’t cut it. And 29th in the NBA in field goal percentage in clutch time basically seals that conversation of half-court trouble.

Now, you may be wondering what the Duncan Robinson effect is, and other than the offensive rating going from 118 when he’s on the floor to 103 when he’s off of it in the month of April, it’s about that guy being inserted for him. Obviously his gravity is tough to mirror in the NBA, let alone this Heat team, but all they need is one bench player to give them something from the outside.

Can it be Herro? Can it be Dragic? I’m not sure, but it has to somebody if they want to see some gradual changes in production.

The Heat have done a pretty good job of maximizing their small guards on the defensive end. The 2-3 zone was basically an introduction early on that they were going to hide their weaker defenders, and even the constant switching means that there are limited possessions that they’re stuck on an island.

Now, maximizing them on offense is a different story. It’s not only about individual skill-sets, but also the Heat broadening those skill-sets, like they did with Robinson on the fly this season. We’re beginning to see that with Nunn as well now, especially in the lineups with Dragic. The reason for that is he’s playing a lot more off the ball, and almost running Robinson-lite type of actions.

We’ve seen how point guard Herro turned out, and he faded into a bench scorer. We’ve seen point guard Nunn who has played the role well, but shows to be a much better scorer. And although Dragic has taken on that duty, as he’s aging off-ball catch and shoot threes will be his best friend. If Miami continues this trend, that’s how they can maximize them this season.

This one is pretty simple: it’s very vulnerable from that aspect, but it has it’s pros and cons. Although many question the switching scheme on night’s when the win column has an L, it should get the same level attention after a win.

Yes, some nights the constant switching against two bigs, like Nikola Vucevic and Daniel Theis, becomes a major headache for Miami, but what about the nights against Brooklyn or Portland or Golden State? Do you find anything similar between those teams? I do.

They all have star point guards, and that is when Adebayo just has a field day out on the perimeter. You can live with a pocket pass to Blake Griffin since you know the rotations will be there on the help side. And most teams that they will see in a playoff series will run their base offense around a perimeter player.

So, it does take a hit in the rebounding section, but there’s a huge boost in defensive efficiency, or as pointed out in a question earlier, third in opposing points per game.

It may have pros and cons, but the pros outweigh the cons with this personnel.

Could Kendrick Nunn Actually Benefit from a Victor Oladipo Return?

When Victor Oladipo rose up to the rim and came down grabbing that knee, there was only one guy who saw a glimmer of hope and opportunity. Kendrick Nunn.

When talking about a player that has gone through a tremendous amount of ups and downs, Nunn would have to be pretty high on that list. G-League player to immediate NBA starter. NBA starter to non-rotation player come playoff time. Out of the rotation to NBA starter again. Then starter to out of the rotation for yet another brief period, before returning to that starting point guard spot after the unfortunate Oladipo injury.

Oh, and this has all occurred in a matter of months.

Even when hearing the traditional and unoriginal quotes about his work behind the scenes and ability to stay ready, that is not an overstatement, since going through that type of roller coaster is not easy to continually come right back and produce. But he has, and it’s important to discuss what could be next for him barring a returning Oladipo.

Although there is still so much uncertainty around Oladipo’s injury status, let’s just take a brief moment to picture as if he will return at some point this season. Miami’s in a first round match-up as their returning two-way acquisition plugs back into the starting lineup. Where does Kendrick Nunn go?

Well, that answer is as clear as ever at the current stage. One of Miami’s issues lately has been bench production, since Goran Dragic has struggled, Tyler Herro hasn’t been the initiator many envisioned, and guys like Andre Iguodala and Precious Achiuwa are offensively limited. If anything has become blatantly obvious, it’s that Nunn could actually be the perfect piece in the area that Miami is lacking right now with that second unit.

Another element to this being possible is the fact that they’ve been willing to go to these 3 guard lineups night in and night out, some even including Nunn, Dragic, and Herro, which I’m not so sure is the right answer. The point is that they are capable of working them all in, especially since Nunn is probably their most consistent guard when referring to these three guys.

Obviously it’s hard to truly project on rotations and lineups when there is still so much unknown about the health of Oladipo. But if he somehow makes a return this season, the reason for Miami turning it around won’t be due to Oladipo’s two-way play. It’ll be the puzzle pieces falling perfectly into place, inserting guys into roles that’ll allow them to play to their ultimate strengths.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Memphis

The Miami Heat’s winning streak ended on Tuesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. After some early open looks from beyond the arc for the Grizzlies, following that up with a third quarter Dillon Brooks explosion, led to Miami playing from behind throughout. So, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Bam Adebayo comes out with early offensive aggression.

Some may point to a certain ESPN ranking, which placed Bam Adebayo at 9 among the top player’s potential under the age of 25, for the reason of this early aggression. Others may just call it inevitable when he’s facing favorable match-ups in certain areas. Jonas Valanciunas was basically begging Adebayo to shoot a wide open mid-range jumper throughout, so he did just that. But he really looked to attack in spurts that many have been awaiting for quite some time. Forcing that defense to collapse benefits the shooters on the floor, which is why both Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro had some good looks early on. Coach Spoelstra always has that interesting offensive card in his back pocket to throw down in a playoff series, and that may just be unleashing Adebayo to play as free as can be.

#2: The one negative defensive aspect on display.

Defense has been quite the topic when discussing the Miami Heat as of late, but the negative side of things must be harped on. Adebayo switches in the pick and roll may have been cured a bit with the newest defensive acquisitions, but now it’s a new obstacle for him. As I asked him following the past game, it seems to be more about reading the defender in the PnR than it does the offensive player. Although he may be able to switch when the PnR includes Jimmy Butler, who is very capable of guarding a big, other guys on the roster aren’t as capable. As he responded to my question, there’s a heavy reliance on that backside rotation, which may not consist of the correct guys while Adebayo is eliminated from the play on the perimeter. That exact mindset led to 10 first half triples for the Grizzlies, while most of them being wide open due to that exact defensive takeaway.

#3: Tyler Herro finding an offensive rhythm.

As I already touched on Adebayo’s early offensive explosion, Tyler Herro followed that right up with a very efficient start of his own. The two of them combined for 21 first quarter points on 82% shooting, which is very impressive. Herro was doing it in many different ways, including some catch and shoot threes, as well as mid-range floaters out of a pick and roll. Although he showcased this all for many stretches, it’s apparent that he fades away in the offense during other spurts. When other creators, like Victor Oladipo, are on the floor with him, it’s alright to allow them to run some things while he plays off the ball, but when he’s rolling like he did tonight, that decision is questionable. As I’ve mentioned since Miami picked up Oladipo, the most intriguing aspect will be the fit next to Herro. Oladipo has been super unselfish since joining the team, but Herro has to be able to control the offense and read a situation when he truly has it going.

#4: The Jimmy Butler third quarter comeback becoming a common theme.

Jimmy Butler third quarters have become a common theme recently, and I’m not so sure it’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s a positive element when discussing his ability to flip a switch to attack the basket and score with ease whenever he wants, while the negative aspect is letting two quarters pass by may lead to it being too late. Victor Oladipo will become a crucial part of Butler’s effectiveness for one reason: lineups. Butler and Adebayo continually have their minutes staggered, as they’re asked to lead their respective lineups. But once Oladipo can create consistent offense and score the ball, Adebayo and Butler may be able to play together for longer stretches, without allowing the lead to expand and continue to play from behind.

#5: A quick Victor Oladipo observation following first full practice.

This was going to be an interesting game for Victor Oladipo, since he was able to practice for the first time on Monday afternoon. Now, that may not mean he’s able to immediately fit into the offensive scheme since it still takes time, but it definitely gives an added feel for the scheme. Although he had his moments throughout the night, the one thing that seems to be holding him back has nothing to do with scheme. It’s actually his personal play style at the moment, which is a bit tense a lot of the time due to his unselfish play. Much like I’ve discussed with Butler and Adebayo, selfishness is needed in many spots of the game, and Oladipo has shown to be that type of player over his career. Once he gets fully acclimated with the offense that may come, but it’s important to monitor since they need him playing freely offensively for him to be at his best.

5 Takeaways from Miami’s Win Over Golden State

The Miami Heat extend their winning streak to 3 games on Thursday night against the Warriors. Victor Oladipo’s debut may not scream from the stat sheet, but this is the exact debut that the Miami Heat organization loves. Just lots of defensive impact, and resulting in a win. So, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: The initial Victor Oladipo observation.

Victor Oladipo made his debut tonight, and it’s clear that offense won’t be the initial takeaway. Pat Riley’s first conversation with him was about “defense, defense, and defense,” and there’s a reason for that. He wrecked havoc on the perimeter early on, mostly since he is capable of locking on an opponent without relying on a switch. This works both ways for Bam Adebayo as well, since he doesn’t feel that he must switch every screen. The offensive side of the ball for Oladipo was a bit passive early on, which is not surprising, since he’s trying to find his fit into this unique motion offense. Once he becomes comfortable after a few games, the offense will look a lot smoother with him as the ball-handler, while the defense can be plugged in at any time.

#2: Miami’s identity is clearly defense, but it might be scheme more than personnel. 

To further the discussion about defense, it’s not all about the addition of Oladipo. And honestly, it’s not all about the versatile personnel pieces including Butler, Adebayo, Ariza, and Iguodala. It’s mostly about the differing schemes, which becomes even more deadly when you are even average in individual man to man sets with Oladipo at the point of attack. The reason that scheme stuck out tonight was many plays where guys like Robinson and Herro would trap together on the baseline, forcing turnovers or transition offense. And although it’s very true that they’re improving from a team defense stance, the main element is that the Heat’s coaching staff is placing them in areas that they know they will thrive, or at least not get picked on. This team has a chance to be really special with the amount of weapons to swarm the perimeter, and that begins with the team’s young and versatile centerpiece, Bam Adebayo.

#3: Rotations become interesting, including Kendrick Nunn role and substitution timing.

It seems necessary to discuss the Heat’s rotation after tonight, since there were quite a few things that stuck out about it. For one, Goran Dragic being out meant the Kendrick Nunn situation wouldn’t be addressed at the moment, but I guess it was. Gabe Vincent got his name called before him even though he was cleared, but maybe he just didn’t feel 100% once the game started. The second part of this is Nemanja Bjelica getting the backup big minutes instead of Precious Achiuwa, which worked out pretty well due to Belly finding himself in the offense pretty quickly, while also spacing the floor. The last part of this includes the main guys, since Adebayo and Butler’s minutes have continually been staggered since it’s hard to survive stretches with both of them on the sideline. Although they’re capable of going to it more with Oladipo, it’s just never ideal since Adebayo’s game is not easily replicated, not only on this team, but in the entire league.

#4: It’s not about Duncan Robinson’s three point makes, but actually what comes next.

The recent talk involving Duncan Robinson has been strictly the shots he’s making, as well as the areas of growth that he is showcasing. That includes defensive instincts, a willingness to put the ball on the floor and attack, among other things. But when evaluating his jump-shot, it’s not so much about the three-point makes, as it is what comes next. One play in the first half stands out, when a possession following him making a three, led to two defenders flying high on him at the perimeter, as the ball found an open cutting Butler, which ended in an open Herro three. Those are the plays that are generated when his shots are dropping, and can ultimately impact Miami’s newest acquisition very heavily. I’ve discussed that gravity opening up the floor for an attacking Butler, since well, that was their only attacker. But surrounding Robinson with players who can penetrate may be the fix to the offensive roller coaster.

#5: Bam Adebayo continues to have flashes, especially late in games.

Enough defense has been discussed in this piece, which leads with Adebayo most of the time, but now it’s time to talk offense. Oladipo and Butler didn’t even have to be on the floor for a good amount of the fourth, since they trusted Adebayo to keep them afloat. Not only did he do that, but he gave them a major boost, sparking a run through his ball-handling abilities and active defensive hands to gain extra opportunities. This also refers back to the discussion about spreading the minutes between the three, since trusting Adebayo to lead lineups, and ultimately be aggressive when most needed in the fourth, changes a lot of things for this team in the big picture.

How Does Victor Oladipo Elevate the Miami Heat?

Victor Oladipo and the Miami Heat. It just rolls off the tongue since it’s the team that has been placed next to his name more than the four other franchises he’s actually played basketball for.

And as we get closer and closer to the trade deadline, it’s a name that will continue to be linked to Miami, as they’re searching for a shot-creating boost at guard, while Oladipo’s current team just went on a 20 game losing streak, before being snapped when he wasn’t even playing.

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Now, while the Kyle Lowry situation continues to be the headline, as I highlighted his fit with Miami previously, Oladipo fills some of those same holes as well.

Instead of diving into the many angles of a possible trade, since it can change by the minute leading up to Thursday, the actual areas of elevation seems to be the part to dive into.

The first part is the addition of that point of attack defender that gets harped on time and time again. Miami’s interchanging defensive scheme may have placed them at the top of the defensive rating statistic since Jimmy Butler returned, but there are still clear breakdowns that occur with the Heat’s defensive guards.

Miami’s 2-3 zone may be looked at as a natural change for the Heat’s approach, but a major reason for that has been to hide some of Miami’s poor defenders and allow them to thrive on that end. It’s the same situation as a Lowry insertion, since it automatically flips the identity of this team.

The offensive side of the ball has been a major issue for Miami, and you may think bringing in a 32% three-point shooter since joining Houston may not be the right call. But it’s not just about the shooting.

It’s pretty clear that even if Miami loses some shooting on the current roster, they can play the buy-out market, which will continue to heat up more and more with shooters. To that point, the actual need is a guy who can score the ball on his own. And by that I mean without the reliance of his counter parts.

The construction of this team is to place Butler and Bam Adebayo in spots for them to get to their peak level. And I honestly believe a shot-creator is the one piece that forces another Adebayo leap, and gives Butler the needed help to lift some of the weight off of his shoulders.

It seems like the Oladipo ordeal will be a situational thing for Miami once again, as they await some pieces to fall in place. But if there’s any general question marks next to the actual fit, other than the long-term uncertainties by waiting until free agency, there shouldn’t be.

It must be simplized to a player’s want to play for a certain team and the team’s need for an elevation in certain parts of the game. So the answer is yes, Oladipo does elevate this team at the current moment.

Tag Archive for: Victor Oladipo

The Defense Manual: Miami Heat Edition

After the Miami Heat expanded their winning streak to 3 games on Thursday night against the Warriors, on the same night Victor Oladipo made his Heat debut, the defense is what truly stood out. Miami has the option to run lineups with 4, or even 5, of the most versatile defenders in this league, which was absolutely extraordinary to watch last night.

So, let’s take a look at every positive takeaway from the defensive end in that game, including player spotlights, team defense, and more…

– Victor Oladipo:

It would be offensive not to start this piece with Victor Oladipo, especially since he had so many great defensive flashes.

He eliminates any possible pass to the cutter as the play begins, then immediately switches onto Andrew Wiggins on the screen. He angles him to the baseline, knowing that he had Bam Adebayo for the cut-off on the backside. It leads to a turnover and Miami possession.

But that wasn’t the only thing that stood out on this play. They aren’t even one minute into the game, and Steph Curry is seeing his third different one-on-one match-up. Yes, third. From Trevor Ariza out the gate to Victor Oladipo the following possession to Jimmy Butler on this play. This told us the identity of this team right away, that they have defensive options now.

One thing that stood out about Oladipo in this game was that he is not easily beat when he’s on his heels, which is a terrific attribute. While it seems as if the ball-handler may be able to find an opening baseline on this possession, Oladipo stops him in his tracks. He then forces him to lose the ball, which could’ve led to transition offense.

And although I’ll dive into Duncan Robinson a bit more later, just take a look at this contest on Curry, forcing a miss to cap off a great defensive possession.

The part to watch on this play is the amount of switching Oladipo does in a matter of seconds, guarding three players in less than a 10 second span. The reason the switching is less problematic now is due to it being a revolving door of good perimeter defenders. If Oladipo noticed a weaker defender in that spot, he would probably fight over the screen.

Although the main part of this possession for him is the final contest, it’s about him being able to predict the offensive player. He notices Kevon Looney unwilling to utilize his size on him, which leads to him awaiting the jump-shot on the DHO. These are the attributes that make up a good defender.

Now, this was one of the plays that stuck out to most people when watching Oladipo’s debut. This team has gradually increased in the team defense category, but they’ve missed this one-on-one point of attack defender.

It’s far from an easy task to guard the greatest shooter to ever play this game, but he did it rather effortlessly. Aside from looking at Oladipo on this play, take a look at Adebayo, since that’ll tell you the level of defense Oladipo is bringing. If that was Kendrick Nunn or Goran Dragic on Curry here, Adebayo would not be standing on that side of the paint, since he would force the extra pass and rely on backside rotations.

And well, that right there is why Oladipo elevates this team on that end of the floor.

Here’s yet another example of predicting the offensive player, since it’s usually a good choice to take the charge when a big is running the floor, due to the lack of body control. Well, unless your name is Bam Adebayo.

He takes the hit at a crucial point in the third quarter, which seems to be a recurring theme lately, where the third quarter defense sparks offensive runs. And there’s nothing like drawing a charge to give the offense a bit of a boost, since gaining possessions is one of those things players always discuss as sparks.

 

Let’s take one last look at Oladipo’s defense in this game, and it’s pretty intriguing to acknowledge the difference in movement when a guy is taking you off the dribble, compared to other Heat guards. Possessions like this always end in a reach in foul, since foot speed is always an issue when they get you on your heels.

But as mentioned earlier, his recovery speed when back-pedaling is fantastic, and he doesn’t even need to use the slightest advantage with his hands, since he relies so heavily on his movement. He cuts him off, jumps in the air, and forces a risky kick-out which led to a Butler deflection.

– Bam Adebayo:

Other than this Adebayo block passing Udonis Haslem on the franchise blocks list, this play showcases something unique with Adebayo. Most shot blockers are guys who camp out on the bottom box, then rise up for easy swats when players attack. The difference with Adebayo is that most of his blocks in his career begin with him defending on the perimeter, and there’s a reason for that.

Even though every player is aware of Adebayo’s freakishly unique defensive skill-set for his size, it never seems to click until a few possessions like this. Guys see a big switched onto them and immediately think to themselves that they can beat this guy off the dribble. Well, until this happens.

It’s the Adebayo effect, and it leads to indecisive movement from guys when he switches onto them more and more.

Other than the result of this play being a Draymond Green score, it’s just yet another moment that defines Adebayo. Take a look at him blanketing Curry off the ball on this possession, starting way above the top of the key, following him to the corner, and flowing right over two off-ball screens. It’s just not a normal thing for a big man.

It also seems like Tyler Herro has been taking some Andre Iguodala defensive lessons, since he’s utilized that swipe down more and more. The only difference is that he may not get officiated on those plays the same way a veteran Iguodala does, but it’s pretty promising to see Herro finding ways to improve on that end.

And now, the play of the game, which ended up being the ultimate closing possession for Miami. Adebayo switches onto Curry without hesitation, while knowing his only option is a three-point attempt.

He has great body control on the final behind the back cross-over to continue into a strong contest, and leads to a Curry air ball. Once again, these just aren’t normal occurrences for big men to defend guards to close out games, but Adebayo is just that guy.

– Trevor Ariza:

Although the key point of attack defender for Miami has become Oladipo, Trevor Ariza has done as great of a job as anybody on smaller guys since joining the Heat. He tips the Curry pass 10 seconds into this game, while Bally Sports still hasn’t even placed the scoreboard on the screen.

He stays right with Curry on the second switch, and his lengthy wingspan allows him to get a nice block on his mid-range jumper, kicking off the Oladipo defensive era with quite the bang. And honestly, I wouldn’t be shocked if Coach Spo has Ariza begin on talented point guards instead of Oladipo, especially if Oladipo gets into a real rhythm offensively, which could lead to taking some pressure off of him.

Guards aren’t the only position he can cover, since he did a pretty great job on guys like Draymond Green as well. He awaits the Curry drive so he can cut it off, which would pretty much put him out of the position for a Green drive after receiving the ball.

Except he somehow turns and recovers, while angling himself toward the basket for quite the contest on a Green runner. When Ariza begins to truly find himself in the offensive scheme, which he began to do slowly in the first half of this game, it’ll be an interesting choice for Coach Spo when deciding between him and Iguodala in certain situations.

– Jimmy Butler:

I figured we should limit Jimmy Butler defensive talk to one clip, since it’s something I dive into almost every single game. The one thing that I wanted to point out here is Butler’s ability to guard bigger guys, especially in the post.

Obviously his savviness allows him to poke the ball free like he did here, or pull the chair when they try to overpower him, but his overall strength is really impressive. He has continually been able to handle post players, especially since Adebayo never feels the urge to help when he’s in that position. And it’s the one thing that basically covers up some of Adebayo’s soft switching on the perimeter, since Butler is capable of handling it on the backside.

– Tyler Herro/Duncan Robinson:

You may be wondering how Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro found themselves on a defensive piece, but it’s extremely important to track their development, especially on a night where both of them had plenty of good flashes.

It’s necessary to begin with this impressive Robinson block, not only because it’s a highlight play for him, but also why it occurred. When I discussed his development on this side of the ball recently, I mentioned the need to utilize his length to his advantage. And he did just that here, since even though it looked as if Kelly Oubre had a step on Robinson, his reach allowed him to recover and send it back.

These are the plays that weren’t happening a few months ago with Robinson on the defensive end. He gets put on an island at the top of the key, covering Andrew Wiggins, and not only does he not get beat, but he forces a kick-out to Green.

When he’s capable of making defensive plays like this consistently, it makes this team’s defense even more elite when he’s surrounded by four above average defenders. This play also refers back to the Ariza discussion, since he stays on Curry even while Green sets the immediate screen, and somehow keeps a hand in his face forcing the miss.

This possession is another moment that solidified a point I mentioned in my past piece. Defense elevates when shots are dropping, and it can make below average defenders at least average. After a Robinson three, he eliminates the rolling Looney as Bjelica lags behind, then flies back out to the wing at Kent Bazemore.

He swipes down and forces a jump-ball, mostly due to that made shot on the other end. As much as the phrase is defense to offense, this team seems to feed off offense to defense much more.

To further that earlier point about Robinson defending on an island out on the perimeter, here it is again, and here is Robinson stepping up in that area. He drops down on Green to await the rotation from Herro, then pops back out to Wiggins.

Once again, a few months ago, Wiggins would probably get a pretty good look on this possession, but Robinson seems to know exactly where he is going, and contests the shot to perfection. And another recurring theme: using his length to his advantage.

Teams are still finding ways to pick on Herro as much as possible on the defensive end, but it always seems to end late in the fourth. When things begin to clamp down at this point of the game, he always seems to make some of his best defensive plays, which may be a bit of awaiting the pass to the guy he is guarding since that’s usually the plan.

Even without a lengthy wingspan, he keeps his arms up to try and eliminate the pass to the cutter, but Green passes it anyway. He deflects the pass right into Butler’s hands, which was a big moment when Miami felt they pretty much had this game in their favor.

– Team Defense

Now that we addressed many of the individual plays that Heat players made, let’s finish this off with some of the team defense that is constantly harped on.

As Green fakes the DHO and dives to the rim, he gets stuck since Looney isn’t running in his direction. He still is forced to make that pass, and Herro, Butler, and Ariza collapse at that middle point to force a turnover. Also, these moments of slight overplaying just shows the level of confidence that they have in their rotations, which is a major element.

If you want a look into what Miami’s perimeter switching looks like when they have multiple versatile defenders on the floor, here you go. Adebayo crashes onto Poole to extract any possible dribble penetration, while Oladipo switches comfortably on Looney.

Oubre tries to take Iguodala off the dribble but is unsuccessful, so he kicks back out to Poole with Adebayo still blanketing. They roughly flow into a DHO as Adebayo pops out on Oubre, forcing a miss, and creating quite the glimpse of how good this Heat defense can be.

On this play, Adebayo reads the offense to slide over and cut off any possible lay-up for Wiggins. He uncomfortably kicks it out to a swarming corner with Butler and Ariza, which Butler saves it into him leading to a foul call.

Now, although Adebayo made this play, go back and watch it again, while focusing on both Butler and Ariza. They both knew where that ball was going next, which just shows the IQ of this Heat defense at this stage. When rotations are as crisp as this, it won’t even matter what personnel is on the floor, due to the scheme carrying the way.

One of the ways Miami handled Curry in the first match-up with him was by blitzing him on every screen, basically forcing every other player to beat them. And although they relied on individual defenders much more this time around, they sprinkled it in once in a while.

That occurred on this possession, as Bjelica flashed high and deflected the pass. While Bjelica reverting back may have seemed like a breakdown was coming, they recovered rather quickly, forcing the Warriors to reset. Curry receives the hand-off, which is something Iguodala has seen way too many times before, and blocks the shot. Although this play ended in a foul call, which was a bit interesting after the replay, it just shows the different things this team is capable of on that end of the floor.