On Wednesday, the Miami Heat had their best performance of the season. Forty-eight hours later, they were embarrassed by the Dallas Mavericks on national television.
That’s been the story of the 2022 Heat. Up and down. On and off. Hot and cold. If their season through 47 games were to be summed up using only one word, it’d be this: Volatile.
We can continue to pin this on health, but it’s way more significant than that. Something is broken. In reality, most of Miami’s wins during this ‘hot stretch’ have come against tanking teams or teams facing many injuries.
I know that hurts to hear, but it’s the truth. And in moments like this, truth is not the enemy. With 35 games remaining in the regular season and the trade deadline quickly approaching, it’s time to ditch the excuses.
So, where do we go from here? Well, before anything gets fixed, it must be addressed. I’m going to throw the ‘injuries’ excuse out with the trash and shine a light on a few issues the Heat must correct if they want to make another postseason run.
Three-Point Shooting (Or Lack thereof)
Miami led the entire league in 3pt% last season (39.7%). A few games past the midway point, they are 26th (33.7%). This a problem. Especially considering Miami is among the slowest-paced teams in the league and relies heavily on their half-court efficiency.
It’s gotten so bad lately that Miami won’t even shoot them. Over the last two games, they’ve attempted only 28.4 threes – a number that would put them dead last in the league.
This was evident against Dallas on Friday, as Miami went into the half with two three-point makes compared to the Mavericks’ 11. Two. You can’t expect to win many games with a discrepancy like that. Fortunately for the Heat, Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo were aggressive offensively and kept the game *somewhat* close. This trend continued in the second half and Miami wound up being outscored 4-18 from three-point land.
It appears that Miami knows this is its Achilles heel. So much so, that there were few times when guys simply passed up a good look. This has resulted in oversharing and, ultimately, poor-quality looks with the shot clock winding down.
Take this example from Oladipo. Miami is down by 16 points midway through the third (turd) quarter. Kyle Lowry pump fakes, collapses the defense, and kicks out to Oladipo on the perimeter. Rather than taking the three in rhythm, Oladipo pump fakes and settles for a contested 19-foot jump shot.
Situations like this must stop. If teams are going to double-team Jimmy Butler like the Mavericks did last night, guys have to be ready to shoot. It’s all fun and dandy to have talented mid-range assassins on your team in Bam Adebayo, Herro, and Oladipo, but when teams are taking double the amount of threes and making four times as much, you have a problem.
What is a Kyle Lowry?
Are you ready for Lowry’s numbers over his last 8 games?
6.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists on 35/20/75 shooting splits.
I’m not even going to mention any hypothetical trades or suggest that Gabe Vincent should start ahead of him. Put simply, the Heat have to get him going.
It’s clear that his impact has been diminished with Butler, Herro, and Adebayo handling the ball a bit more, but Lowry has also been a potato off the ball. If he’s not going to shoot, as evidenced by his eight total FG attempts over the last two games, it completely neutralizes Miami’s offense.
I will give Lowry his flowers for pushing the tempo and getting the Heat out and running after misses, makes, and turnovers. That was evident in his return against the Pelicans on Wednesday. But the role he is needed for at this point in his career requires him to be a threat offensively. If he won’t (can’t) do that, then I propose this question:
What do the Heat have to lose by starting Vincent?
Max Strus Needs To Get Loose
It’s been a long time since we’ve heard the catchphrase, “the Strus is loose”. Max is shooting less than 32% from long range over his last 10 games and a hair over 33% for the season. As Miami’s only true “sniper”, this can’t happen.
His lack of efficiency is even more troubling when you consider that he’s often being hunted on the defensive side of the ball. Pull up the tape from Friday’s loss to the Mavericks. Luka Doncic was going at him early and often and each time resulted in either a made basket or a foul.
You could say it’s up to Erik Spoelstra to get him going, but it simply comes down to Strus hitting shots. According to Synergy, Strus knocked down 47% of his unguarded catch-and-shoot threes last season.
That number has fallen to 42% this year.
For the crowd that says teams have scouted him and that’s led to his decreased efficiency – Strus has been left unguarded 1% less this season according to Synergy. A small decrease, but it goes to show nothing drastic has taken place from other teams.
It’s quite simple: Strus has to be more efficient from downtown.
Have Some Guts
Remember Game 5 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Semifinals? Heat vs. Sixers. Series tied 2-2.
Miami had just lost two straight after going up 2-0 and Philadelphia had all the momentum. Things looked bleak. Miami’s back was against the wall. How did they respond?
Miami won by 35 points.
How about a round later in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics? Facing elimination in Game 6, Butler drops 47 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, and four steals to force a Game 7.
I bring that up because this organization thrives in these types of settings. At present day, it’s been an up-and-down roller coaster of a season. It’s tough to be optimistic about this team as currently constructed. I get that.
But one trade deadline and a few spots of positive regression later and this team are more than capable of rolling into the playoffs with home-court advantage. And we already know how teams feel about playing the Heat in the postseason.
In the words of fellow Five Reasons contributor Greg Sylvander, “Have some guts!”
We’re within striking distance and Pat Riley knows that.
Besides, winning feels so much better with a little adversity.
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