Game Breakdown #7: Butler in the Post & the Struggles, Duncan Cutting, Herro’s 1 Key Play

Insightlast month5 min readJohn Jablonka

Ah, I almost thought they’d blow it. I almost did. They got way too comfortable again in the fourth and it was too close that they almost let it slip. If only LeBron James had Kobe Bryant mentality and would’ve taken that step-back jumper in multiple defenders’ faces, right?

But this didn’t feel like much of a close game. Although the Heat only had a five-point lead or less throughout the game until the end of the third, it never felt like the Los Angeles Lakers were in control at all.

You also had one of the best performances from Bam Adebayo with 22 points, 19(20! I don’t care, he got his 20th rebound) rebounds, 10 assists, and four stocks. And what he gave on defense was also elite.

Unfortunately, it was again their offense that almost killed them in the fourth. This was even worse than usual. They had a 72.0 offensive rating in the fourth and that dropped to 53.3 with Jimmy Butler on in the last 7:24 minutes. Whereas the Lakers had a 116.7 offensive rating whilst having 70.9% TS.

A big reason why was their usual offense slowing down to beyond slow levels. With both Jimmy Butler and Adebayo on, their offensive pace was 18.3 seconds. That needs to be fixed. Those are struggles that have nothing to do with personnel or talent.

Regardless, this was still a fun game with a few things to go through.

I mentioned Adebayo’s defense, well here it is.

In the first clip, he recovers well to kick Duncan Robinson off of Anthony Davis and contests the shot well in the paint — that was almost an airball.

The second clip was the most impressive. He gets back in transition. Butler with an awful decision to close out like that against Cam Reddish in the corner. Adebayo quickly recognizes that, gets back in the paint on time, prevents a drive, and stays down as Reddish tries to euro around him. He ends up getting the block. Saving the possession himself.

In the third, Davis tries to test him in the post and that doesn’t go well. Can’t get a better position inside and ends up settling for a fading shot almost outside the paint. Somehow that shimmy and fade still didn’t stop Adebayo from blocking it at its apex — he followed that block by handling the ball and finding Butler in transition. A true 2-way monster.

Another game. Another Robinson masterpiece when it comes to cutting, driving, and providing rim pressure.

In that first clip, that’s Robinson taking Taurean Prince off the dribble. He gets by him, uses his off-hand, and gets right to the rim. I don’t think this will ever not be fun watching.

The rest of the possessions are him cutting perfectly. He is an amazing cutter. He always moves non-stop and has a great feel when to do it. That feel comes when he’s setting screens initially. He knows when to hold and when to let once he has a position to go for the cut. He’s made so many good reads like that.

That doesn’t stop with him finishing either. He’s also capable of cutting, getting the pass, and making reads himself on the kickouts.

This individual play stood out. This is one of those plays where both Butler and Adebayo are involved and it works to perfection — especially when Haywood Highsmith is also involved.

With Butler and Adebayo on that one side, Austin Reaves is NOT getting past. Those are two guys that won’t allow any penetration inside. Highsmith does fall asleep with his man cutting, Robinson takes his man inside, but that opens up a skip pass. Highsmith reads that perfectly and makes a huge recovery play in the passing lanes.

Another play that stood out is this. I talked about this improvement from Herro against the Boston Celtics. He has developed a good habit of keeping his dribble alive on his PnRs. Instead of going for a score or picking up his dribble, he probes around and sees what’s available. Here this works to perfection.

He snakes around to the paint, sees that there’s nothing available, but still keeps the dribble alive. Now, he has Davis switching on him. He drags him out on the perimeter, taking a rim protector out of the paint. Thomas Bryant has a mismatch because of it, that draws help, and Herro makes a perfect skip pass to the corner. He wanted to get it inside to Bryant, then quickly recognises another option. Elite stuff — I see even some manipulation to move defenders.

Finally, this kind of stood out with Butler going to work in the post. There were a couple of good possessions — like in the first one quickly getting position vs a mismatch in D’Angelo Russell in the post. He draws help and makes the skip pass.

But there were plenty of bad ones and the bad ones show the issues with both Adebayo and Butler on the court together in the same space. Having Adebayo in the dunker spot is killing the spacing. Butler can’t do anything inside whether that’s to make a play for himself or for others because those options die out with Adebayo there.