Mateo’s Hoop Diary: The Miami Heat Are Stuck
Decent teams don’t lose at home by 20 to a six-win group in December. Congratulations to the Detroit Pistons for its seventh win of the season. This is a genuine compliment. They did a tremendous service to observers watching the home outfit.
Whoever follows the Heat, if they needed another reason not to take this team seriously, they now have one. It doesn’t matter that Miami was missing Jimmy Butler. Detroit only had two road wins before they rolled into FTX(?) Arena and the visitors delivered the Heat its fifth home loss of the year.
Let’s not forget how last season, the Heat didn’t have that many Ls in its building until Jan.15.
It was dreadful enough that on Monday night, Miami couldn’t hang with a Grizzlies team down three starters. On Tuesday, the Heatles started the game shooting well from the field, ending the period with a 16.7-point differential in shooting percentage in their favor.
Yet, after 12 minutes, Miami was just up five points because they were recklessly taking care of the ball.
Defensively, Miami’s 2-3 zone was about as fierce as a golden retriever. The Heat barely had a three-point lead at halftime, thanks to Herro making all seven field goal attempts for 21 points in the period.
In the second half, Detroit connected on half of its 3-pointers, making 10. Six of those triples were splashed by Bojan Bogdanović. His pump fake at the top of the key even got Adebayo to leave his feet. Bojan then found Killian Hayes in the right corner for a give-and-go he finished as he avoided taking a charge under the rim.
While Detroit was inbounding under the basket, Miami was set up in its usual zone. Hayes noticed Herro too far from Bogdanović in the left corner and zipped a pass to his man. Tyler, too, bit on the Croatian sniper’s outside fake, leaping into the personal space of his teammates on the bench. Bojan dribbled to the post and converted a jumper over Max Strus and Herro, who managed to get back to the frame.
What the Pistons did to the Heat was a humbling reminder that botching defensive assignments will make solid players like Bogdanović resemble an all-time marksman like Klay Thompson. Debacles such as this often send supporters home frustrated over why they paid good money to see that when they could have stayed at home.
Victor Oladipo’s return was upstaged by a team who will likely pick at the top of the lottery in late June. In his 18 minutes, his speed was still there, and he could create separation easily. He made 2/5 jump shots and missed some makeable layups under the cup. He finished 3/9 from the field.
The hope traffickers might cling to the fact that only 30% of the season has passed and that picking up lost ground is achievable. Perhaps. But a few more nights like their last two is a fail-safe course on having guys mentally check out.
For more on the Heat’s struggles, check out the latest episode of Five on the Floor.
What’s most concerning is that this season is starting to feel similar to the Heat’s 2020/2021 campaign. Through 25 games that year, Miami’s record was 11-14. The same as what it is now.
The Heatles’ window, if it isn’t shut already, can’t afford to waste the precious time Butler is still a top player. Part of the reason he is still in that condition is because he’s played fewer chunks of the season each year since he arrived. Miami doesn’t have enough firepower to have continued success without him. As my colleague Ethan Skolnick pointed out in early October, he’ll likely never play at least three-quarters of a year again.
Aside from a heaven-sent trade, there aren’t many options to improve because ownership’s checkbook is aching. The Heat have a couple of draft picks available to deal, but they shouldn’t give those up unless the team is guaranteed to be right back in the thick of it. It doesn’t seem likely because for Miami to take back a good player, who is probably not on their rookie deal, they’d have to attach either Lowry or Duncan Robinson with a first-rounder and Herro.
If things don’t improve with Butler, the Heat might be stuck until Lowry is off the books in 2024. JB will turn 35 that September.
The team has committed to Adebayo and Herro long-term. Keeping those FRPs should be the priority to help build around them with quality and cheap labor as they keep ascending. The Heat are going to have to get better with what they have. Don’t kill the messenger.
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