Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Raining Jimmy Buckets
Miami’s persistent turnovers from Wednesday’s loss to the Cavaliers continued through the first half, accumulating 10. Any sign of a deep shot vanished as well.
Before the intermission, nobody could restrain Donovan Mitchell from slashing into the paint or force a miss on his contested 3-point makes. Through this period, he logged 25 points, making nine out of 12 shots.
The only other Cavalier with at least three converted field goals in the first half was Caris LeVert (3). He scored on a one-on-one break against Gabe Vincent, hit a four-foot fadeaway over Herro, and a right-wing triple when his defender sagged off thanks to the extra help on Spida’s dribble penetration.
In the first half, Miami made 41.5% of its tries from the field. The role players dropped nine out of 27 baskets, while Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler carried the team offensively. Adebayo glided down the court in transition for two points, swished two fadeaways from the baseline and paint, plus he slammed two dunks running pick and roll with Victor Oladipo and Tyler Herro.
Butler scored on a coast-to-coast layup, he logged two more in transition, hitting a six-footer with Lamar Stevens in front of him, and he finished a soft bank-in under the rim when the defense doubled Adebayo.
In various half-court sets, the Cavaliers sagged off the corners in man-to-man coverage to help on Miami’s rim attacks. As a result, the Heat shot 19.9% below league average at the rim and 5.5% under in the lane non-restricted area in the first half.
Entering the third quarter, Miami was down 59-50. Butler only had 10 points so far, but he quickly became possessed, notching five out of seven baskets in quarter three and recording an untarnished four in the fourth quarter. He attacked Mitchell for multiple baskets and scored at the rim and low post against Jarrett Allen too.
In the last minute of the third quarter, Butler made a triple in the right corner, his lone attempt from deep. His jab step created separation between him and Stevens for the jumper. On Miami’s next possession, he dribbled into the arc, guarded again by Stevens for a long two-pointer.
The Heat was up one point at the start of crunch time. A pick by Adebayo at both wings blocked Mobley from disrupting Butler’s successful drive past Allen and Mitchell. JB also rejected #13’s screen on the left side, defended by Mobley, and got a floater off in the low post over his man. With under 25 seconds left and Miami up one, Caleb Martin’s ghost screen helped Butler get down the elbow for a pull-up jumper in Stevens’ face.
Subsequently, Mitchell was fouled on his next rim gash by Adebayo and made both his free throws. Miami’s turn to the stripe followed, Martin’s first trip of the night. Unemotionally, he made both.
Butler then intentionally fouled Mitchell at midcourt to prevent an opportunity for Cleveland to tie. Spida logged one out of two. Butler took his last free throw attempts of the night, closing the deal after the purposeful foul.
At the postgame presser, coach Erik Spoelstra said his team usually doesn’t foul when up three points and the opponent has the last shot. This occasion was different because Butler mentioned Miami got burned by Boston and Cleveland, facing the same situation earlier in the season.
Spo said, “It’s a philosophical thing, but when a team doesn’t have a timeout, and then you have the smartest, quickest player making those decisions, you feel comfortable with it. I felt fully comfortable with Jimmy making that decision…”
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