Game Breakdown #5: Plenty of Elite Defense, Bam Drawing Defenses, Poor Bench Offense With Butler

Insight7 months ago6 min readJohn Jablonka

Side note before these breakdowns. I am catching up on them a week after, some of these may be shorter than usual or may not have a particular focus. A lot of this will be picking things out that caught my eye.

Of course. Of course, the Miami Heat were going to lose to a short-handed Brooklyn Nets at home after blowing a 16-point lead and an eight-point lead entering the fourth. You already know what happened.

This has been an awful trend for the Heat where they just can’t close games in the fourth. Their offense disappears. They go away from everything that works. Everything is slower. No one is moving. There’s a lot of ball pounding.

There’s a reason why they had an 88.0 offensive rating in the fourth — though that went up to 107.1 with Jimmy Butler on the court. But that didn’t do much exactly, considering their defense was 121.4.

Looking back at it now, they got hurt on both ends. That’s the worst thing about the Heat’s offensive struggles — it bleeds into their defense and it puts so much pressure on that end for them to be good. Because if they’re not perfect on defense and they can’t score points, you can’t win like that then.

Two of their first 3s allowed came on a mistake. Going under a screen early in the defense gave the shooter space and by losing a guy off-ball and taking a long way back. That’s six easy points and now the lead is 5.

When I say their offense bleeds into their defense, when they can’t put the ball in the basket, they’re not playing against a set defense. Off a miss, the Nets had a 70.7% TS. Off a make, that dropped all the way down to 51.7%.

I lost count of how many times the Heat had a bad offensive possession and the Nets responded by pushing the pace and getting an easy look at the rim or for an open 3. Their transition defense was just awful. But that’s what you’re going to get if you can’t score. You will have a lot more possessions having to run back on defense.

But, in the half-court, especially in the first half, I liked their defense:

Look at that first clip with Bam Adebayo switching on Mikal Bridges. He stays with him at all times, prevents a deep drive, and forces him to pick up the ball and pass it off. That kind of defense where the opponent’s best player can’t even get a shot off is the best defense you can have. Deterrence is elite defense.

There were a lot of hustle plays, particularly with Kyle Lowry stripping guys and having good hands to stop breaks.

But I loved the third clip. The defense with both Butler and Adebayo is something else. When they’re involved in the same actions or are on the same side, they’ll cause havoc. Simmons attempts to attack Adebayo, but his drive falls short. Butler follows Cam Thomas and anticipates that pass perfectly to play the passing lanes and get the steal. You can’t get any better than that.

The last clip might be my favorite. It’s fun watching guys execute perfect, snappy, quick rotations. That’s exactly what both Haywood Highsmith and Tyler Herro did. They both knew exactly when to help and call for the switch.

Continuing on defense, Jaime Jaquez Jr did a great job in this game. I’ve talked so much about Jaquez in all of these game breakdowns. A lot of it has been on offense, but he’s been impressing me on defense too.

In the first clip, he makes a great effort play to strip the ball.

He had some great possessions defending Bridges and Thomas, stopping both of their drives very well. His on-ball defense has been pretty good where he has held his own comfortably.

But I liked the last two clips specifically. Both times he’s the low man helping out on a mismatch. He knew where to be. He knew he had to be early. He rotated well to stop the advantage and even deflected the pass and forced another turnover in the last clip — that last clip was the best defensive possession.

He has been one of the best 2-way players for the Heat so far this season.

Now, let’s to offense:

This is something I never wanted to see — until I did in the Memphis game this week. A Butler plus bench unit on offense. There’s honestly nothing worse than that at this moment.

When you’re watching those clips, you’re watching either Josh Richardson, Thomas Bryant, Highsmith, or Duncan Robinson trying to create something as Butler sits in the corner or the dunker spot not getting involved at all. He’s there to observe and be a vibe.

The last clip was concerning because he tried to set up the offense, but it seemed like no one knew what was meant to happen, so he went back to his dunker spot and chilled there.

Finally, we also had plenty of possessions with Adebayo drawing extra defenses in the post. The Nets switch a lot, so that will in turn cause a lot of mismatches — now Adebayo can also punish those mismatches fairly easily, so that requires more help.

Though similar to what happened with Butler and Damian Lillard, I wasn’t impressed with how they executed those advantages for two reasons. One of them is on Adebayo for not recognizing certain help coming earlier and not being able to process where the open man is quicker. That forces him to make a pass to Butler cutting first then Butler makes the extra pass to the open man — that extra pass can be the difference between there being a shot or not.

The second clip is a good example of Adebayo not recognizing where the open man is and instead focusing on where Butler is. Kind of like he had a pre-determined decision on the short roll. Whereas you can see once he draws help, Jaquez cuts inside, there’s a wide-open skip pass to Lowry in the corner.

Finally, on the last two plays, that’s more on the Nets being elite at kicking out mismatches. But I think that’s also on everyone else to recognise that and to punish that some,