The Launching Pad: Justise Better, Whiteside Owning The Wizards, Miami’s Second-Half Woes

Insight5 years ago8 min readNekias Duncan

Welcome to The Launching Pad, a weekly roundup of Miami Heat basketball. Who’s playing well, and who should pick it up? What numbers should you be watching? What was that beautiful play Miami ran in the second quarter? You can find all of it here, every Monday.

The Stats (weekly stats in parentheses) 

• Record: 7-9 (1-2, 11th place in East)

• Offensive Rating: 100.1 (98.4)

• Defensive Rating: 103.9 (109.9)

• Pace: 99.05 (94.24)

• True-Shooting Percentage: 54.4 (52.4)

All stats through 11/20/17

Lineup of the Week (min. 10 minutes)

Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Hassan Whiteside

• Minutes: 11

• Offensive Rating: 93.5

• Defensive Rating: 75.9

• Pace: 91.1

• True-Shooting Percentage: 62.0

The Big Number: 21

The Heat have struggled with turnovers all season long. They’re averaging 16.5 turnovers per 100 possessions—so far, only the youthful Philadelphia Sixers have a higher mark (17.1). That number rose for Miami this week (17.3), and opponents made them pay.

Opponents averaged 21 points off of turnovers against the Heat last week, well above their season average of 18.7. Both numbers rank towards the bottom of the league, but it felt worse last week because Miami wasn’t returning the favor. The Heat only averaged 13.3 points off of turnovers last week, compared to their season average of 16.8.

Miami won’t win many games turning the ball over like they do. They won’t win any games if they can’t offset their live-ball turnovers by forcing some of their own.

Weekly Trends

1. Justise Winslow is flying around

Winslow’s numbers won’t “WOW” you. He’s averaging 6.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals with a 36/29/82 (!) shooting split since joining the starting lineup. His numbers jumped a little bit last week, averaging 7.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.7 blocks with a 42/29/83 shooting split.

While better, what’s been most important is that we’re starting to see Winslow gain a little bit of freedom with the ball. It isn’t nearly enough for my liking, but it’s a start.

The biggest offensive leap from Winslow has come in terms of his finishing. Winslow only converted 47 percent of his shots in the restricted area last season. Playing with a bum wrist certainly impacted that, but he also struggled with body control and finishing through contact. He’s looked more comfortable on drives this year.

Check out this isolation drive against Otto Porter, a solid perimeter defender. Winslow shows solid burst, absorbs the contact, keeps the ball high and kisses it off the glass:

Of course, having a little craft in the arsenal doesn’t hurt either. Those euro-steps he flashed in his rookie season have made a resurgence this year. Poor John Wall didn’t know what hit him:

Winslow has done his most impressive work defensively, switching across the perimeter, being active and battling on the defensive glass. Here’s Winslow switching a pick-and-roll, keeping his hands up and being rewarded with a deflection:

Here’s Winslow on the weak side, keeping his head on a swivel, keeping his hands up and coming up with another deflection:

That’s simple stuff, but it takes Winslow a long way. He’s smart, aware and active. He’s also pretty small, which became a problem against Washington.

Markieff Morris had his way with Winslow on the low block. On Friday, Winslow got subbed out less than two minutes into the game because Morris scored on back-to-back post-ups. That’s not Winslow’s fault. In fact, he defended both shots pretty well. But that’s the downside to starting him at the 4. Winslow wasn’t the reason, but he was a big reason why Miami’s starting lineup got blitzed (minus-35.7 net rating in 31 minutes) over the week.

Overall, Winslow has done his job. The starting lineup is still a positive overall (plus-7.1 net rating in 71 minutes), and they’re owning the defensive glass (82.4 defensive rebound percentage).

More pick-and-roll touches would be nice, though. More minutes, too.

2. Death, taxes, and Hassan Whiteside destroying the Wizards

I’m not sure what it is about the Wizards, but Hassan Whiteside loves playing against them. Here are his stat lines in the last five meetings against Washington, excluding last week:

• 25 points, 23 rebounds, two blocks

• 18 points, 18 rebounds, three blocks

• 17 points, 16 rebounds, two blocks, one steal

• 30 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks, two steals

• 24 points, 18 rebounds, two blocks

Averages: 22.8 points, 17.4 rebounds, 2.4 blocks

Those are 2K numbers.

Whiteside had a modest showing against the Wizards last week. He had 14 points, 21 rebounds and a block on Wednesday. He then followed that up with a 22-point, 16-rebound and two-block performance on Friday.

Looking back at the film, one thing becomes evident: Whiteside absolutely hates Marcin Gortat.

Just look at this.

Look. At. This.

If only he faced Gortat every night. Sigh.

3. Second-Half Woes

Miami blew a fourth-quarter lead against the Wizards on Wednesday. They blew a double-digit lead in the second half against the Wizards on Friday. They were demolished in the second half against the Pacers on Sunday.

For whatever reason, the Heat just forget how to play basketball after halftime. We all point to the third (turd 💩) quarter, and for good reason: Miami’s minus-3.8 net rating in the third quarter ranks 24th in the league. However, they’re actually much worse in the fourth quarter, posting a minus-7.3 net rating (29th in the league).

Overall, Miami has a net rating of minus-12.6 in the second half, easily the worst mark in the league. Only the Sacramento Kings have a net rating worse than minus-10 (minus-10.3). Shockingly, Miami was even worse last week, posting a minus-27.9 net rating in the second half.

Coach Spo looked (and sounded) fed up in the post-game press conference on Sunday. Maybe some lineup changes are coming. Regardless, something has to give. There are too many veterans on this team for such lackluster efforts after the intermission.

Set Play of the Week

Flowing out of HORNS Flare

HORNS Flare is one of the most common sets run across the league. A double screen is set by a perimeter player and a big. The perimeter player then pops out on a flare; if the big sets a good enough screen, it should lead to an open three-point attempt.

Here’s an example of the Wizards springing Bradley Beal free on Wednesday:

Miami ran similar action earlier in that quarter, showcasing two other options that can materialize.

Josh Richardson pops out on the flare here. Whiteside made solid contact on Kelly Oubre; it also helps that Oubre played the screen about as poorly as possible. The 3-pointer was open for Richardson, but he bypassed the shot.

The flare then flows into a Richardson-Whiteside pick-and-roll. Whiteside dives hard to the rim since Oubre hasn’t recovered to Richardson yet. Gortat has to step up in containment. Since Oubre has no shot of stopping a hard-diving Whiteside on his own, Beal drops down to “tag” Whiteside on the roll.

Dion Waiters sees this and relocates higher on the wing. Richardson recognizes that Beal dropped down and hit Waiters with the pass. Waiters cashed home the open three —something he’s been doing more of lately.

Here’s the play in real time:

It’s worth noting that none of this is possible without Whiteside springing Richardson free on the flare, or diving hard to the rim when the pick-and-roll action started. It feels like a broken record at this point, but he can have such an impact without touching the ball if he commits to the little things.