Game Breakdown: ISOs & PnRs Not Effective, 4th Quarter Breakdown, Poor Offense = Poor Defense

Insightlast month11 min readJohn Jablonka

We are back! Miami Heat basketball is back and do you know how you know that’s back?

The Heat struggled to score against the Detroit Pistons and almost blew a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter. There’s no Heat basketball without that anxiety and stress. There’s no Heat basketball without poor execution in clutch situations — speaking of clutch, maybe this is the year they’ll break the record for games in that situation.

I will try to hold off on any strong takes but the offense looked exactly like last year because of the same issues that weren’t addressed.

That was the story of this game — bad offensive process, bad shot selection, and bad decision-making. The reason they were in the game is the Pistons weren’t doing much better on offense. It was your typical in-the-mud game.

And there were many reasons for that.

Pick & Rolls Aren’t Doing Anything

Without going even deeper where it’s the personnel and scheme issues, a lot of their offensive struggles started with their PnRs achieving nothing the majority of the time.

They typically did run some type of PnR early on in the offense but it didn’t do anything for various reasons. At times it was poor execution attempting to do it with three defenders on one side. Or it was poor execution on the actual screen. Then it was poor spacing. It was players unable to take advantage when a switch happened. There were many, many reasons for it.

Take the first two plays. What is Tyler Herro meant to do there? He’s dribbling into defenders. He’s driving baseline when there’s a defender in the corner already helping off(and that’s Jimmy Butler in the corner). Or he’s attempting to drive middle into nail help(even though that was both Kyle Lowry and Kevin Love one pass away).

The third clip with the first Butler and Bam Adebayo PnR. Butler snakes into the paint but everyone else is on the side. He’s going to three defenders. There’s no one helping off, so no kick outs available. No defensive rotations. No advantage with the Pistons guarding this well 2v2.

They did run more PnRs with Herro that did get something off but that still wasn’t leading to good offense:

When Herro sees a drop in a PnR and he goes for the 3, that’s great. That’s what you’d want from an elite pull-up shooter. The issues come everywhere else. He still was settling for many of the long pull-up 2s when he could’ve kept the dribble alive or attacked further, but instead, the decision on the shot came too soon. And most importantly, his inability to punish switches in any way still hurts the PnR game significantly. Detroit was switching Jalen Duren on him and he couldn’t do anything.

Most of their initial actions weren’t able to generate any type of offense. Combine that with them being slow in general, they already don’t have a lot of time left on the possession. Some of these actions were also late in the clock. It’s a bad process from top to bottom.

The only way they were able to generate good looks was in transition off of steals, blocks, or when pushing the pace.

That’s how they were able to stay in the game early. Herro and Butler were going for those steals. Playing the passing lanes perfectly. Great hustle plays back-to-back. And who can forget those Kevin Love outlet passes? That’s what they needed to survive.

Off a make, they scored 30 points on 34 possessions(88 offensive rating) with a 20.0-second pace.

Off a steal or a miss, they scored 58 points on 40 possessions(145 ORTG) with 11.5 pace.

That’s a significant difference and it was the only reason why they were able to stay in the game.

But Neither are ISOs

Those PnRs were one issue. I think it was the first domino to fall. Without any advantages created there, they had to resort to other actions. And that meant falling in the isolation trap.

It got to the point where their initial actions time and time again were a quick isolation. That’s not good offense when you’re already struggling. They couldn’t generate any looks, so they went let’s just settle for tough shots instead.

There was a Love post up, Butler going into a long two multiple times quickly into the offense, or it was many others attempting to do so but couldn’t even create any space for a shot.

But my main issue was with both Butler and Adebayo. Now, when watching all of those possessions, it’s not entirely on them. There is fault on Erik Spoelstra and everyone else. It’s not even that there are no off-ball actions, but there’s no movement at all. No one is cutting. No one relocating. A lot of the times in this possession, there were no outs for either Butler or Adebayo to make a read to.

With all that said, they are still elite players. They should be smarter than that to constantly be making poor decisions when the defense comes to help.

Some of these shot selections were awful, but the decision to take those shots was even worse. The defense is sending extra help. There are multiple defenders waiting for them. They do their job by drawing so much help but they decide to take shots over two or three defenders. That’s not the right aggressiveness.

There shouldn’t be a point where it’s multiple possessions where a player takes contested shots over multiple defenders. Those are objectively bad shots and aren’t a substitute when no one else can get anything going. They didn’t let anyone else have the chance to get going.

Some of these possessions were early on the clock. Those are actions that you can go to at any point and it shouldn’t be early on multiple times. That’s the key, multiple times. Sometimes you need that bail-out possession — not an almost minute compilation.

4th Quarter “breakdown”

This was the story of the fourth quarter. I have no idea what that was. As soon as Butler checked in, the Heat scored only nine points in eight minutes. They had a 60 offensive rating!

And do you know why that was? Their entire offense was Butler holding the ball for so long and then going isolate. Maybe go do a drive somewhere. Go post up. And if they struggle to get him the ball, go isolate elsewhere.

In that quarter, they didn’t need anyone else on offense outside of Butler. That’s not good at all. This was almost a meltdown of an execution. That’s both on the players and the coach.

Though I don’t necessarily think isolation in itself is such a bad thing to go to. They can be highly effective in getting the defense moving. The whole point on offense is to create advantages and force the defense to be moving. That’s when you’re able to move the ball, attack closeouts, and create better looks.

Take this possession. They go to Adebayo to the post and when he draws that dig, it’s a pass to Kyle Lowry, swing pass, and Herro beats the closeout for a look inside.

That’s what good offense is when drawing help off an isolation or post-up. That wasn’t the case any other time. And a lot of that is with the players around them doing absolutely nothing.

It’s tough to put most of the blame on any particular player because they are connected.

Poor Offense = Poor Defense

At times, this bad offense won’t matter as much because their defense might be elite enough to negate it. But the issue with having this bad of an offense is it will bleed everywhere.

Their terrible offense and being unable to score will bleed into their defense getting worse for a couple of reasons. That simply puts a lot of pressure on the defense. If they aren’t scoring, they need to get stops. Period. The margin of error is almost non-existent if you can’t do anything on one end of the floor — as much as people say defense wins, you also need to score.

One way it also puts extra pressure on the defense is in transition or early offense. You saw how efficient the Heat were off misses. That will likely be the same for the other team. And the more you miss, the more opportunities you give the opponent.

That’s exactly what happened to the Heat.

All those bad offensive possessions led to easy points for Detroit. Transition points after transition points. That’s how they were able to go on a couple of runs. And it was how they were able to cut the lead in the fourth down 19. The Pistons’ offense wasn’t great either in the half-court — in fact, it was worse. But they also got back into the game because of these easy looks.

There’s only so much you can do without scoring. There comes a point where locking up won’t save you.

Things that Caught My Eye

The two highlights of the game. Jaime Jaquez Jr and Duncan Robinson.

Jaquez Jr is no rookie, especially on offense:

He had three scoring opportunities where he cooked. He got to the rim on a blow-by along the baseline after getting the defender on his feet with a pump fake. He did that again. Worked in the post then got the defender in the air to get by to the rim. And also had good footwork to get good looks near the rim on the hook shot.

That’s our mini Butler right there.

And here, we have Robinson, where most of his highlights aren’t shooting 3s. He’s no longer a specialist. He’s no longer a one-dimensional player who can’t do anything else.

He will beat closeouts now to get to the rim. One thing he’s been more elite at is his reads on when to cut. He goes to set the pindown and knows exactly when to cut to the rim. Or he will come off a screen to curl to the rim, draw help then find cutters. He can be the cutter or the one finding them.

Elite development.

There were some tidbits on defense too. The Heat were helping a lot off of Detroit shooters and that got them so many open good looks.

Finally, both Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes were cooking in the PnR. Whoever it was guarding them, it didn’t matter. They got to their spots constantly in the mid-range, which is what you’d want for their shot diet to be if you’re Miami. But they were also too comfortable there. I didn’t feel like they got that pressure, which is why they went 12-for-21 from the mid-range.