Heat

Things Must Change for Heat to Have a Chance

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Sitting with a two-game deficit against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the 2021 playoffs, the Miami Heat are at a devastatingly low point.

The Heat have been awful in those two games, but it isn’t too far gone for the team to turn it around and compete in this series. Here’s what needs to happen:

The Stars Need to Play Like Stars

There is no other way to say it: the Heat are being failed by their stars. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have simply not come to play. In Game 1, Jimmy and Bam shot a horrific 8-37 as a duo. Quite literally, the Heat were kept out of the game by their stars.

To fully understand how underwhelming the duo has been, let’s examine the statistics side by side. Listed below are their playoff averages on the left, compared to their season averages on the right.

Jimmy Butler

  • 13.5 PPG — 21.5 PPG
  • 6 APG — 7.1 APG
  • 6 RPG — 6.9 RPG
  • 25% FG — 49.7% FG
  • 22.2% 3PT — 24.5% 3PT
  • 64.3% FT — 89.7% FT

Jimmy came into this series with a lot of hype behind him, including being “stupidly locked in“.

Through two games, however, he has done nothing but disappoint. This isn’t like him, especially in the playoffs. Even in his abysmal Game 1 where he shot 4-22 from the field, Jimmy still sent the game to OT with a clutch layup as time expired.

Throughout the past two seasons, Jimmy has shown what he is capable of, and that is why this is so frustrating. Statistically, his field-goal percentage in these two games compared to the season is down 24.7%. He is even struggling at the line, something Jimmy is extremely proficient at. For the Heat to have any chance at all, he needs to turn it on now.

The reason for Jimmy’s poor performance is that he is being guarded by last year’s Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis didn’t defend Jimmy last year, hence last year’s success. With Giannis guarding him, his game is almost completely eradicated. He can’t pull up like he usually does, and getting to the basket has been a rough ask due to Giannis’ length and recovery skill. The Bucks’ addition of Jrue Holiday has had an effect on Jimmy’s play as well.

For Jimmy and the Heat to become more successful, there are a few things that need to happen: Giannis doesn’t stay attached well, so Jimmy’s movement will have to be ramped up, and the Heat have to exploit that Giannis is out of the paint and on the perimeter. If he can manipulate the matchups correctly, Jimmy can get a different defender on him through screens and switches and can then play his way.

Despite his awful play through the first two games, have faith in Jimmy Butler. Remember one thing: this is the same player that carried this team to the Finals one year ago. This is the same player that singlehandedly went toe-to-toe with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Bam Adebayo

  • 12.5 PPG — 18.7 PPG
  • 4.5 APG — 5.4 APG
  • 7.5 RPG — 9 RPG
  • 34.6% FG — 57% FG
  • 70% FT — 79.9% FT

Nobody knows what has gotten into Bam, but he isn’t playing like himself. He is playing with a lack of aggressiveness and refuses to take open shots, either opting for a closer shot or looking to pass. Bam is an effective mid-range shooter and should be taking these open shots.

This is so puzzling because this is the same player that put up 26 games of 20+ points, including a 41-point game in the regular season. He has shown his aggressiveness previously, but he is lacking it now. Bam has too many possessions where he gets the ball just inside the three-point line, and he, and his defender, already know that he is passing the ball away.

Bam needs to understand how dominant of a player he is and attack the basket. If he has a realization, this series could turn around because of him.

The Starting Lineup Needs An Adjustment

There’s no more time to waste. The starting lineup needs to change. The Nunn-Robinson-Butler-Ariza-Adebayo unit has been extremely underwhelming, and some players could get a boost by playing as starters, as well as other players playing better as reserves. After getting obliterated in Game 2, what will Spo do?

Goran Dragic

Through the past two games, Miami’s the best player has been Goran Dragic, yet he has been coming off the bench in favor of Kendrick Nunn. The Dragon is leading the Heat in points at 21.5 per game, as well as shooting an efficient 53.6% from the field and 40% from deep in just 29.3 minutes per game.

Nunn, meanwhile, is averaging 9.5 points on 33.3% from the field and 27.3% from beyond the arc. Nunn has no reason to be playing over Dragic, and should be demoted to the bench.

https://twitter.com/BallyHEAT/status/1396220179147890693?s=20

Dewayne Dedmon

Dewayne Dedmon was the lone bright spot in Game 2, aside from Dragic. The backup big put up 19 points, nine rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes of game time. Dedmon was able to impact the game on both ends, and he gives the Heat a floor-spacing 5 that can defend the paint adequately. Through two games, he is averaging 10.5 points on 69.2% shooting despite playing just 16 minutes per game. He certainly needs to play more than the low amount of minutes that he’s had thus far.

The strong bench sounds like a great idea, except putting inferior players like Nunn and Trevor Ariza and to start the game can lose it almost immediately. That isn’t a knock against either one, but as we saw in Game 2, the game was lost in the first quarter.

Proposed Starting Lineup for Game 3

PG: Goran Dragic

SG: Duncan Robinson

SF: Jimmy Butler

PF: Bam Adebayo

C: Dewayne Dedmon

This lineup gives the Heat a much better matchup defensively. Inserting Dedmon into the starting lineup will allow Bam to guard Giannis without having to worry about Lopez in the paint. So far, Bam has struggled guarding the bigger opponent in Lopez, but he has previously shown that he can contain Giannis.

While Bam and Dedmon haven’t played much together this season, Dedmon is eager to play alongside him.

Things Better Change, Or It’s Over

If these things don’t change, the Heat will go from Eastern Conference champions to a first-round exit. Jimmy and Bam need to play like the players we know they are, and the starting lineup needs an adjustment to better matchup with the Bucks. If the Heat’s social media page is any indication, the Heat know that this series is a best-of-seven series.

It’s not over yet.

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About Blake Malick

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