If you are not sure what to do HeatThose who are only 10-11 in the quarter of this NBA campaign, don’t worry. Really, none of us do at this point.
In their last 16 games, the Heat, running into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, lost two in a row, then won twice in a row, then lost twice in a row, just three straight wins, then four straight losses. They are currently in the middle of a three-game winning streak as they prepare to take on a two-time challenge with the fiery Celtics, the club that eliminated them to reach the Finals last season in Boston before heading to Memphis. to play with the Grizzlies next week.
It’s hard to know what, or even who, to get from one night to the next in this Miami suit. Rosters are constantly changing as they are the second most explosive unit in the NBA, with Heat players missing a total of 76 games to this point in the season, according to Spotrac.
Deficiency Jimmy Butler especially costly for them, Miami looks great on offense when Butler is on the field (119.9 points per Clear Glass, 100 positions), but is terrible outside of him (103 points, a rate that would place last on the team scale).
Alongside Butler, who has missed the last six games and continues to rise, Tyler Herro, who has been in the top five for the first time this season, recently returned after missing eight competitions. Duncan Robinson recently suffered an ankle injury. And guard Victor Oladipo, who was brought back after returning at the end of the season in 2021-22, has not played yet this season as he is dealing with a problem with his left knee.
Continuous injuries have weakened the team incredibly, perhaps most clearly in a brutal one-point overtime loss in Washington, where only seven of the Heat’s players are available this month. Kyle Lowry, 36, who is fifth in the NBA with 763 minutes recorded so far, played 51 minutes alone that night. As a result, five of the seven players who played that night – Caleb Martin, Max Strus, Haywood Highsmith, Orlando Robinson and Jamal Cain – were not drafted.
Unfortunately for the Heat, however, the determination and hard work that defined the club’s hallmarks throughout the Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra eras aren’t always enough to secure wins in the talented NBA. Especially when a handful of absences, including the loss of PJ Tucker to Philly, deprive you of a recognizable identity night after night.
The result was often frustration. Prior to Sunday’s Atlanta victory, the Heat had lost seven consecutive away points. (As a side note: Did you notice that the other two conference finalists – champions Golden State and Dallas – had even worse away scores than Miami’s 2-7 at 2-9 and 1-7, respectively?) was included. 0-4 journeys in Spoelstra’s coaching career. Miami was close to breaking in a series of competitions and tied for league lead in the last five minutes of decided clutch matches (like 15 so far). Butler and Herro’s absence is most felt when we need the basket. Butler played in nine of these close games, and Herro in seven.
That doesn’t mean the team is completely devoid of their bright spots so far. If Butler’s missed games created a kind of offensive power vacuum, this provided more opportunity for Bam Adebayo to be much more aggressive, registering almost 30% usage in the last five games as he tried to rise for short-range shots. right through the paint. (In his last two games, Adebayo averaged 35 points and 10 rebounds on a 66.7% shooting rate.)
Defending below the free throw line without Tucker at times lacking in muscle, and Adebayo often playing higher due to overtakes and the team’s use of space, the defense fell back into the league’s top 10 for efficiency and sent his opponents to the line. The lowest rate in the NBA. Interestingly, the club’s man defense was brutal throughout and through the rim; only Sacramento lost more points per possession in this alignment. But the Heat are setting up a staggering 30% zone defense – almost twice as often as any other team in the league and quick to set a watch-period record, according to Synergy Sports – which has been quite effective. limits opponents to a 47.2% effective shot rate per season.
“This is what we pride ourselves on. We are slowly getting there,” Spoelstra said earlier in the month about the defense. “We are not where we want to be on defense. But at least we understand what our identity should be.”
Playoff standings often seem like an afterthought for this club, and perhaps rightfully so, because the Heat were #1 last season and also managed to reach the Finals in fifth place in 2020. Spoelstra seems to know that other dynamics are important. more when it comes to preparing for the post-season. Specifically, some of the team’s players, namely Martin and Strus, have made their bones primarily as perimeter shooters, putting the ball on the field and using the ball more often this season to keep the defense a little more honest when needed.
This experiment may have a slight regular season cost. The Heat, for example, were one of the league’s 10 most productive teams in changeovers last season, but are now in the last 10, with Robinson and Butler stepping aside. At the same time, the role players’ attempt to quietly expand their offensive play is wise and can yield real payoffs. Hell, Martin alone is already enjoying these benefits and has scored 20 or more in each of his last three competitions, shooting well over 50% in all of them.
The results were certainly not pleasant for this Miami team. But if the players who have to hold the rook can grow from the moment they are forced to play without the Butler and other weapons, this could be a slightly more inclusive club as the postseason approaches.
Meat and potatoes: good reading last week from SI and elsewhere
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