Playoff Breakdown: Protecting the Paint, Duncan’s DHOs, Defending Butler, Deflections!

Insightlast month8 min readJohn Jablonka

A cocky Miami Heat fan is back! No, we’re not sweeping the Milwaukee Bucks and we never going to do that because it has always been Heat in 5.

After the first quarter, the Heat were pretty much in full control of the rest of the game. And it’s strange seeing the Heat play like this when they were the ones getting dominated on both ends of the floor a couple of days before.

What this game has shown is what the Heat need to do to win:

  • Get up 3s(a lot of them)
  • Hope the 3s go down
  • Force a lot of turnovers
  • Get out in transition more off misses and turnovers
  • Pack the paint

That’s exactly what they did. It’s crazy to see the Heat make all of these 3s. Did you know that the Heat are first in 3pt percentage with 50.0%?! Though they are taking the third lowest per 100 possessions. That number does need to be higher.

But as good as their offense was — they did have a 127.4 offensive rating — it was their defense that I was more impressed with.

A Whole Bunch of Deflections

The Bucks had a 20.2% turnover percentage, including 13 live turnovers. One of the ways the Heat did that was by pressuring the ball handlers more and fighting like hell to deflect any pass.

The Heat had 28 deflections:

  • Victor Oladipo: 5
  • Gabe Vincent/Caleb Martin: 4
  • Kyle Lowry/Bam Adebayo/Jimmy Butler/ Kevin Love: 3
  • Cody Zeller: 2
  • Max Strus: 1

Everyone was doing their part in getting in the passing lanes and disrupting everything. For comparison, the Toronto Raptors lead the league with 18 per game.

In game 2, the issue was with guys getting every pass inside the paint and against mismatches. This time, however, everyone was physical with however they guarded to front the post well and get those deflections.

That’s amazing work from Strus in the second clip with that effort against Lopez.

This was a group effort from everyone. Everyone had active hands. This was exactly what was needed in game two. I don’t think this was much of an adjustment from an Xs and Os standpoint but simply play harder and more physically.

And this was crucial. Not only did they protect the paint by preventing the passes to come inside, but this also fueled their offense. They had 21 points off turnovers and 18 fastbreak points, which leads to these:

Protecting the Paint

In game 2, the Bucks had 40 points in the paint in the first half. They had 26 in the first quarter. That was a nasty performance to see everything go wrong for the Heat then — whether it was Lopez getting easy looks over Strus or anyone going by anyone to the rim at will.

That changed in this game. The Bucks only had 36 points in the paint. Without Giannis Antetokounmpo, they aren’t a great team when it comes to getting inside the paint and to the rim.

That was a wild stat to see after game 2. They had almost the same shots at the rim in 150 minutes as they did in 24. And this happened again in this game.

One of the ways they did that is with their peel switches:

Whenever someone got beat on the perimeter, there was someone already waiting to switch on the drive. In the first clip, you have Lowry taking that drive on the switch from the strong corner. In the second clip, Butler is caught trailing going through the screen, so Adebayo takes the drive. That peel switch takes the drive away and forces a pass.

Butler and Adebayo played a big part in protecting the rim inside by simply staying on the drive, staying attached to the player, and have one of them help:

You also have Adebayo deterring shots by being early in the paint:

He rotates early and by waiting there in the paint, Holiday doesn’t even want to try a shot there and instead, it finds Joe Ingles on the perimeter. That’s what you want.

But it’s a play like this that stands out so much:

They didn’t allow almost any dribble penetration. Everything was on point here:

  • Love shows against Holiday and takes away his drive before Butler can recover
  • Vincent stunts perfectly on Lopez to allow Love to recover back to him
  • Strus takes a step toward Middleton to discourage the pass to allow Vincent to recover
  • Another solid show from Love to allow Butler to go under and recover on the drive
  • Adebayo is under the rim and you have Strus helping off the corner
  • Tough break on the Grayson Allen 3, though

Back to Duncan’s DHOs

Man, did I miss this. This simple action was one of the main reasons why the Heat had a top-10 offense in 2020. Did you know that in 2020, with both Adebayo and Duncan Robinson, the Heat had a 116.8 offense(93rd percentile for that year). That was 6.0 points better than average! For comparison, the Sacramento Kings, who are number one on offense this year, are 4.6 points better than average.

You need to actually use Robinson. It’s not as effective to stash him somewhere. He’s elite at what he does and what he does is run like mad and can get open a lot on those dribble handoffs:

The movement from him in the second clip was impressive. He runs to set a screen for Lowry. He realizes that the defense isn’t paying attention to him, so he continues to move again to flow into a DHO on the side. He’s making the defense work.

With no Tyler Herro and now no Oladipo, they don’t have many other players to play. So, I hope that going forward in this series, there will be even more actions for him.

Defending Butler

Did you expect Butler to attempt more 3s than free throws? I sure wasn’t. He went perfect 4-for-4 from downtown.

I wanted to check the last time that happened and assumed it was going to be years ago, but the last time he attempted more 3s than free throws was the second game of the season against the Boston Celtics. He attempted one 3 with zero free throws.

But these were 3s that the defense was just asking for:

You can see in the first clip how Jrue Holiday was defending him there. He was sagging and daring him to shoot. And early in the game, he was hesitant to take those shots, but that allowed Holiday to just go under and recover.

This lack of shooting hurts the offense because the defense isn’t threatened at all by him even taking a shot. There’s no downside to playing that low of him.

So, when that continued to happen, he started to take them. And take it again. And again. And finally, took it the fourth time. The Bucks were daring him to shoot and he made them pay.

This shooting changes things. Butler taking more 3s changes a lot. I doubt that he will continue to hit them at this rate, but the simple fact that he’s taking them is huge.

If the defense still carries on giving him that much space, then great. You’re still leaving NBA players that are good shooters wide open. But what also could happen is the defense adjusts is more aggressive against Butler. That means going over screens, not sagging off when defending him, and fully helping off away from the ball.

Speaking of defending Butler, I honestly haven’t seen someone do a better job than Holiday:

Some shots were still made but they weren’t easy shots. Holiday prevents Butler from getting where he truly wants to as well as anyone in the league. He completely walls him off on almost all of his drives.

I wonder if there’s something that the Heat will do to get him off that matchup or make his life easier.