Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Thunder
The Heat walked into this game against OKC without 4 starters in Lowry, Herro, Adebayo, and Martin.
The margin for error was slim, but Jimmy Butler was willing them offensively to a reasonable point. Then closes it off with the game winning bucket.
#1: The Dewayne Dedmon situation…
I’ve sat here in many post-game pieces discussing “Dewayne Dedmon situations. But well, I’d say this one was a bit different. Let me start at the necessary point: the Heat were getting absolutely cooked in the 2-3 zone after he entered. The Thunder’s offense was as simple as sending a free-lancer baseline every play, as Dedmon and the guy on the box turned to each other in confusion. Sitting a few rows up watching, I wasn’t as confused, the problem was evident. Shortly after, Erik Spoelstra and Dedmon got into a heated discussion on the Heat bench before he stormed off toward the locker room. On his way, a flying massage gun hit the court. Dedmon punched it off the table in anger, leading to an ejection. On-court problems bleeding into…
#2: Jimmy Butler’s game-plan was evident pregame, and he executed immediately.
As I put my PrizePicks slate on Twitter before the game, there was one pick I mentioned made too much sense: Jimmy Butler’s free throws. Set at 6.5, he ended up with 14 in the first half alone. This wasn’t just a coincidence, it made too much sense heading into this setting without much of the roster. Butler was going to just attack the weak-spots of this Thunder defense, and he did that time and time again. Getting defenders up in the air and throwing himself into them at the rim. And let’s be honest, the ending to that last Heat game with the non-call made this even more likely that he would get a decently friendly whistle. He showed some early activity defensively, and got to the line a bunch: the two elements of a locked in Butler. When the threes start flying, you know it’s a laid back version. But this really kick-started the offense.
#3: Max Strus’ early rim attempts lead him right back to his game.
As we talk game-plans early in this game, Max Strus was the other guy with a clear focus tonight. Yes, he’s the shooter on this team, but the lack of creators meant he would have to shift the defense just enough to allow him decent looks. That shift came in the form of rim attempts to begin the game. Not the usual forced pick and rolls either. They were more timed pump-fakes and attacks to get into his favorite crossing scoop lay-up. Once that connected and got to the line, he was perfectly setting himself up. Now he began letting Butler and Oladipo do all the work, flooding in the catch and shoot stuff shortly after. Many players were given individual benchmarks to hit tonight, and that was Strus’.
#4: The offense wasn’t pretty.
As much as I talk about some of the Heat’s individual performances tonight, it should be noted the offensive structure wasn’t pretty. Why would it be? Missing three of your primary initiators is never a good blueprint, meaning more guys having to do more things. (Including more screening for wing players, leading to the offensive foul surge) But as for Victor Oladipo, his offensive layout almost always felt like a bail-out bucket. He came up big at times in the first half one all else failed, leading into tough buckets at all three levels. Butler having 20 free throws through 3 quarters is also a good representation of the offense not being “pretty.” As I said before, the moving screens was a momentum killer for a large stretch of that third quarter, and we saw the whistle really slip sides for giant chunks of time. After Dedmon’s ejection, Orlando Robinson was the sole big available and he was having foul trouble. Cain/Highsmith at the five, yeah, there were offensive limitations.
#5: The fourth…
Eight minutes to go, down 5, the offense is slipping, and Erik Spoelstra struts down the bench to tell Butler to walk to the scorers table to enter. Simultaneously, Oladipo throws an awful pass for a turnover, then absolutely hunts it down for the cleanest steal. Clear path foul. Two free throws and a giant and-1 triple from Gabe Vincent later, the Heat were up 1. The Heat answered shortly after with an inbound to Butler for the dunk, as the run was cemented by an Oladipo attack and kick-out to Jamal Cain in the corner for three. Heat up 4. The Thunder answered with a run of their own due to the Heat becoming stagnant offensively for a short stretch. Back at a tie game. A Shai Gilgeous Alexander step back triple put Miami right back on the ropes, as the search for offense wasn’t looking too clean. As the Heat trailed by 5, they finally got a stop with 50 seconds left, playing into the open floor. Oladipo steps comfortably into a transition triple and nails it. 2 point game. The Thunder got a quick whistle on a turnaround that Spoelstra immediately challenged, which ended up being unsuccessful. He goes 0 for 2, the ball is loose, Oladipo swipes it and goes. Butler gets it in the low post, and-1. Ball game.