Three games into the season, the Miami Heat are already below .500 after losing its first road back-to-back set to the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves. In both defeats, the Heat let go of the rope late.
Saturday, Jimmy Butler was the only NBA player to rest for a game, per the NBA injury report. Meanwhile, Kevin Love has a shoulder contusion, Haywood Highsmith has a left knee sprain, Caleb Martin has left knee tendinosis and Josh Richardson has right heel inflammation. The Heat is lucky trainer Jay Sabol and Co. worked around the clock to straighten out Jamie Jaquez Jr.’s left groin strain and Duncan Robinson’s left foot sprain.
The Heat were in it for three quarters, but through the game…
The Timberwolves got into the paint at will
Against man-to-man coverage and some 2-3 zone, Minnesota invaded Miami’s interior for 58 points, easily entering via handoffs, pick and roll, dribble breakdowns and crashing the offensive glass. Last season, the Heat had the strictest paint protection in the league, only permitting 46.2 points in the square. Rudy Gobert, Naz Reid, Kyle Anderson and Mike Conley were the main culprits. In total, the Timberwolves made 29 of 46 paint tries.
This is where it would have been nice to have Butler. He could have helped stop the ball outside, contest in the paint, or intercept a pass in the lane.
The Heat played faster than usual in the first half
Thirteen of 22 fastbreak points were scored in the first half. Steals and quick outlet passes pushed the pace like Love was on the court. This gave the Heat a boost because, for the game, it was only dropping 76.3 points per 100 half-court plays, per Cleaning the Glass. The second half was much slower, flowing at a pace rating of 95.0. The league average last season was 99.2.
The Heat couldn’t hit from deep or get to the line
The Timberwolves contested well against many of the Heat’s 3-point attempts after the catch and in drop coverage. Robinson found someone attached to his hip most of the night, causing him to miss eight tries. Kyle Lowry bricked over the length of Conley, Anderson and Towns. Jamal Cain couldn’t splash one either when the defense abandoned him, too. The only Heatle to shoot well beyond the arc was Herro.
The Heat was misfiring so badly that even Adebayo hoisted one up when the defense didn’t bother to leave the paint. But worse yet, the Heat couldn’t get to the line often to get the hosts in foul trouble and cut the flow of the game, giving themselves a breather. At the charity line, Miami made eight of 14 freebies.
Results of Adebayo and Herro leading in usage
Adebayo and Herro conducted 59.1% of Miami’s offensive plays and made 15 of 37 field goal attempts. In the first half, they were powering the Heat with a combined 25 points on 50% shooting.
In the second half, Herro was shut down on drives by Gobert and KAT at the rim. Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker forced him into tough jumpers, finishing the second half, making three of 12 field goals.
Adebayo was more of an offensive lineman than a scorer in the last 24 minutes, only taking five shots and making two. Before the game got out of reach, his last two dimes were feeds to Herro at the top of the key.
Collapse in the fourth quarter
The Heat entered the fourth quarter down seven points and proceeded to convert six of 25 field goals. In a six-minute stretch, the visitors missed 11 shots in a row. The offense was predictable, with minimal movement on the perimeter by off-ball players, allowing the Timberwolves to sag off, clogging the lane. Bad shots were taken early in the shot clock that prevented the Heat any chance at an offensive rebound.
Defensively in the last interval, Miami gave up four above-the-break triples and one in the corner because of unnecessary overhelp. Reid and Anthony Edwards took over, totaling 19 points on 88% shooting.