Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Positives and Negatives of the Heat’s Week Four

The Heatles improved to a 6-7 record entering the fifth week of the NBA season.  In week four, Miami played three games at home, losing one to the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday and beating the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday and Saturday.


During these three games, the Heat flashed moments of their former selves.  They also demonstrated a handful of bad habits.  Let’s examine the positive and negative aspects of the Heat through week four.



1. Seizing the passing lanes


Miami came away with 27 steals and forced 52 turnovers in their last three matches at home.   Jimmy Butler was responsible for a third of the takeaways. In total, the Heat scored 67 points off turnovers  Yet, the high volume of interceptions in the passing lanes and forced errors skewed their rebounding numbers.


Yes, Miami was beaten on the boards 50-38 in their overtime win against Charlotte. But the Heat would have had more opportunities to recover the ball off the glass if the other team didn’t lose it 20 times.  


Nonetheless, these repeated instances were a reason why Miami took more field goal attempts in all three games.  

2. Dependable at the line


In week four, Miami averaged 24 free throw attempts a night but more impressively converted 83.4% of their shots.  Butler, as usual, was the Heat’s most reliable option to get to the “welfare line.”  He logged 26/28 freebies, helping his squad by cutting the flow of the game and giving his teammates a break on defense.  


When Butler wants to, he can get to the line at will.  He’s currently averaging the third-highest volume of attempts in his career (8.3) that come as a result of his consistent pressure in the lane.  This season, Butler is averaging 66.7% of his tries from 0-10 feet from the hoop, a new career high.  


As a unit, the Heatles shoot 86.7% for the year, which puts them at  #1 in the league.  Counting only the players who qualify for league leaders, Miami only has one guy who shoots below 80% at the line, Caleb Martin (72.7).  


3. Money in the paint


Over three nights, Miami made 75/123 (61%) interior shots with a combined 150 points in the paint.  


Even on a night where they couldn’t hit anything from outside the square, like on Thursday against Charlotte, Miami was still sharp attacking the box, cashing 63% of their attempts in the non-restricted area.


Miami’s best options at attacking the interior are Butler and Bam Adebayo.  Their quick recognition of their opponent’s 2-3 zone coverage did not deter them from breaking down the scheme by attacking the middle, clenching the defense and giving extra space to shooters on the perimeter.  


4. Crisp ball movement without a starter + a role player filling big shoes


Tyler Herro hasn’t played since Nov. 4 in the Heat’s loss at Indiana.  Despite his absence, Miami still logged a 2.5 assist/turnover ratio with Max Strus inserted into the starting rotation. In the first quarter against Charlotte on Saturday, 11 of Miami’s 14 baskets of the period were assisted.  


One play that stood out during the Heat’s most recent victory was Kyle Lowry’s eighth dime of the night.  At the top of the key, he noticed Robinson on the left wing with his defender, James Bouknight, wholly turned away from the ball.  Robinson, not known for attacking inside, darted to the basket with his man draped all over him. Lowry still hit his man on the run, and Robinson finished with Bouknight behind his hip.  


Another sequence worth mentioning occurred with fewer than six minutes left in the same game.  At the top of the key, Gabe Vincent was matched up with LaMelo Ball.  Adebayo then came in, splitting a screen, and rolled right to the basket as Vincent went left, attacking the drop coverage.  A couple of steps into the lane, Gabe lobbed up the rock as Mason Plumlee was caught in no man’s land.  Adebayo reached into the heavens and powered the rock through the cylinder.  


For the week, Miami turned the ball over 10.7 times a night.  Passes were executed with precision when the opponent overcommitted on the Heat’s rim attacks or when a mismatch was identified.   


This year, Herro is a near 20-point per-game scorer.  Filling in for #14, Strus averaged 19.6 points on 42.4% shooting from 3-point range on 11 attempts a night.  Mad Max put constant strain on the opposing defense by having his man actively trail him + curling around screens and firing away in the openings of the zone.  


5. Offensively productive second unit


In week four, Miami’s bench was relied on for 35 points a game, outscoring all three of its opponents by an average of five points.  For the stretch, the Heat’s strongest reserve was Vincent. 


In overtime on Thursday, he took a pair of trips to the line and was immaculate.  On Saturday, both his buckets in the fourth quarter were difficult shots.  The first materialized from a left-wing drive.  Vincent circled toward the left low post, turned, and hit a fadeaway jumper over the taller Ball to give Miami a 13-point lead.


On his next basket, Dedmon ran a dribble hand-off on the right wing for Vincent, and Ball went under the pick.  As Vincent turned the corner of the screen and entered the lane, Ball was back on his right hip but was thrust backward by Gabe’s strong side.  Vincent picked up his dribble, faded and hit the nylon.  


Now for the other side of the coin.



1. Paint Coverage


In the past two seasons, the Heat were #1 in opponent scoring in the paint, giving up only 42.1 points in the area both years.  In this campaign, Miami has dropped to fourth after a three-game stretch conceding 51.3 paint points.  


When Miami went to the 2-3 zone, Charlotte’s Kelly Oubre had no issues getting to the middle past Robinson or Strus and finishing.  Ball, in single coverage with Martin or attacking through PNR, was also able to get to the box on his terms and convert.  

2. Inefficient catch-and-shooting 


The Heat are too skilled from deep to be shooting 33% on catch-and-shoot triples for the season and over the last three games.  


Lowry took six of these shots on Thursday, some with the help of a screen and missed five.  The lift on his legs looked fine, but he was missing makeable looks and wide-open trays.  


Robinson had the same issues all week, launching away from deep. When a pass from a teammate beat the closeout defender, he was still off target.  Against Portland, when hit with a pass by Butler on the right wing, Robinson unthinkably fired away over the much shorter Damian Lillard by fading to the side.  Clank. 

3. Not capitalizing enough on the break


Miami did make its rivals pay when they committed a lousy pass, having 18.8% of its total points for the stretch attributed to scoring off turnovers.  Although, only 9.8% of their output was created on the fastbreak.  


In the future, the Heat must maximize these opportunities by out-hustling the opponent, so they have easier chances to score on 3-on-2, 2-on-1, or any break upper hand.  Usually, the starting lineup features four players who could get down the court in a hurry.  It also has a distinguished veteran QB who is highly proficient at launching hit-ahead passes that leave defenders out of the picture.  


For the season, Miami is 25th in the NBA in this category at 10.2%.  In week four, the Heat were 18th best in the NBA in this stat, yet they had a lower percentage (9.8) than the yearly average.


4. Opponents shot well from the field


Through three games, Miami’s defensive rating was 111, and opponents recorded better than league-average efficiency from the field (50.9%, LA- 46.5%).  In the future, everyone not named Adebayo, Butler and Martin will need to show more consistency staying in front of their man and closing out to shooters on drive-and-kick plays.  


5. Too dependent on Butler to get to the line


Despite the Heat’s stellar shooting at the line, players other than Butler are not getting there enough.  JB was responsible for 43% of Miami’s free throw points during week 4. He took 9.3 charity shots, and his teammates tied for next in attempts were Adebayo and Vincent, each averaging 3.3 tries. 


That volume is too low for Bam, and it’s below what he logs for the year (4.2).  Adebayo’s percentage of shots taken from 0-3 from the cup has dropped 5.8 points and his efficiency in that spot has fallen 7.7 points as well.  


Weekly Grade: C+

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