Playoff Breakdown: Spamming Double Screens, Butler Drawing Defenses, Some Offensive Struggles

Insight3 weeks ago9 min readJohn Jablonka

The Miami Heat are one win away from being in the conference finals. That’s insane to think about. Like really insane. Even when you simply consider the odds. Before the playoffs, the Heat’s championship odds were +22333. That was by far the worst odds by any team. The second worst was the New York Knicks with +9667.

And when you consider everything else that the Heat have overcome and how bad their regular season has looked at times, this run becomes even wilder.

They lost a play-in game and were so close to losing the second one. None of that is a sign of a good team. Their 25th offense was a good indicator that they won’t go far. But that simply hasn’t mattered so far.

A lot of it has to do with Jimmy Butler being Jimmy Butler. But in this series, the Heat are outplaying the Knicks in many areas, particularly the hustle stats:

  • 65 to 59 deflections
  • 28 to 17 loose balls recovered
  • 7 to 1 charges drawn
  • 62 to 33 box outs(57 to 20 defensive box outs)

Maybe it’s true that the Heat want it more. They hustle more. They force more turnovers. They get to the rim more. They shoot better at the rim.

They’ve been a better team through four games, but now, let’s go over some key things that stood out on both ends of the floor.

Hunting Vincent

In the second half, the Knicks decided to go to this a few times. It was a simple action — have Gabe Vincent screens RJ Barrett. It’s that simple:

This can go one of two ways: switch the screen or have Jalen Brunson show.

In the first clip, the Heat willingly switch that and this gives Barrett a much better baseline drive. He attacks well and is able to draw the foul.

The next time they do this, Brunson tries to screen his own man very early. I assume that was in the case of a counter where Vincent shows instead. So, when Brunson releases, he’s able to get the pass on the move before Vincent is able to recover. That’s an easy attack off the catch for Brunson to the paint.

The Heat adjusted on the third instance by having Vincent show aggressively to force a turnover.

After that, I didn’t see the Knicks go to this action, which is interesting as it was a good pressure point to get looks elsewhere.

Spamming Double Screens for Butler

There was a point in the second quarter where they spammed a double screen with Kevin Love and Max Strus that had varied results.

Though a similar action was first run in the first quarter:

This wasn’t exactly a double screen in a way, as Strus goes to set a screen on the other side. As soon as Butler crosses the half-court, he quickly steps up to set a screen to force Brunson to show.

And that was an aggressive show. Because of how far Brunson stepped up, Strus was wide open on that slip. Mitchell Robinson also was late on the help rotation and now they give up a dunk.

Then, late in the second, they spammed this:

This is where the results varied. In the first clip, Love quickly slips the screen and probably because of the previous cut from Strus, Randle immediately goes with Love. Then Butler goes over the Strus’ screen, Brunson shows, but he doesn’t attack it well enough. Butler didn’t make a decision quickly enough and now Josh Hart was able to recover — advantage negated.

In the second clip, Strus slips the screen early this time. This would have been a great read to the rim, but that was also good hands from Brunson on the deflection to force the turnover.

The third time they did this, Randle for some reason showed hard. And that was too easy of a read for Love to slip and pop for 3.

And in the fourth clip, Randle shows hard again. Hart now has a harder path to recover and is trailing. Brunson still didn’t want to switch and with Hart trailing, that gave Butler an open drive to the lane.

Butler Drawing Defense

The Knicks have been sending much more help against Butler and it’s not always simple double teams. And I feel this has again brought varied results. There are times when they get good looks, but at times, I don’t think either Butler or the team have done a good enough job at exploiting that defense:

In the second clip, Butler draws a late double in the corner. He does eventually beat the pressure and makes the kick to Love one pass away.

But there are a couple of things here. When Randle helps from Love, Brunson immediately takes a few steps towards him. I think it would’ve been better if Strus at that time cut into the paint and create a bigger advantage inside. Nevertheless, the ball gets kicked, moved, and it ends in a corner 3 for Vincent.

The most simple, but the most effective way to beat the aggressive help is by making that pass to the shooter one pass away. This has happened a couple of times now in the series. That’s what happens in the third clip. Butler draws the defense on the catch and it’s an easy kick Strus.

But there are times like in the fourth clip where I don’t like what the Heat have done. Butler is on the wing and there’s Isaiah Hartenstein pre-rotating fully to the other side. There are four players against two on the other side. You also have Quentin Grimes helping off at the nail.

I have no idea how that managed to turn into Butler dribbling into a triple team on the other side and ending up getting a late-clock Caleb Martin 3.

I don’t see the Heat fully taking advantage of overhelping defenses. Everyone is always spaced out and I rarely see anyone cut to create other advantages elsewhere. The Heat have a nice habit of making life more difficult than it should be.

Some Offensive Struggles

Speaking of making life harder than it should be. There have been many instances where their actions got no advantages because of things they haven’t done but could do. Whether that’s better spacing, a different setup, or better player movement, they don’t enough to create advantages.

There’s been plenty of actions that haven’t really gotten them anything, particularly Butler-Adebayo pick-and-rolls. They’re still seeing an aggressive defense but haven’t been able to punish them in any way.

In the first clip, it’s a PnR in the corner. You have Randle completely helping off Love at the nail. Grimes has rotated early to the rim off of Strus from the corner. Brunson also has both feet in the paint. And somehow, the Heat didn’t get a shot from that.

The 3 players spaced around the perimeter can’t be that static. They can’t all stand and watch. But, Butler also has to realize that the defenses have shifted entirely. At one point, every defender is watching him and is all either on his side or in the paint. That has to be a cross-court skip or at the very least, a pass to Love. That’s a read he needs to make.

In the second clip, an advantage is taken away because Adebayo is placed on the wing. That allows Robinson to rotate early, so when Butler creates an advantage when he rejects the screen, there’s nowhere else to go after that. Also, why did Adebayo just cut indecisively and then tried to go into a dribble-hand-off? I don’t know what the plan was there.

In the third clip, another empty side PnR with Butler and Adebayo. Randle loads up on the side early. Barrett helps off Kyle Lowry at the nail. Brunson is in the paint early too. Everyone else is static on their side and the Heat are going 2v3 on one side with no other options. The process is just meh.

And that’s how I’ve been feeling about their offense in general. I don’t think they’ve done enough to exploit this Knicks’ defense as well as they could.

Things That Caught My Eye

A couple of things have caught my eye:

  • Butler’s poor defense
  • Randle’s isolations
  • Putting Randle in screening action
  • What’s the offense outside of Butler?

This is most likely because of the injury and conserving energy, but the effort from Butler on defense has been quite poor in this game:

Too many times getting easily beat off the dribble, not helping on the roll, and losing his man off the ball on cuts. Some of those shouldn’t happen regardless of injury. He didn’t seem fully engaged on that end at times.

More. More Randle isolations. I don’t think the Heat need to send as much help as they’ve done so against Randle in most situations. His decision-making and shot selection has been yikes at times and has been awful in isolation. A lot of the time, this is bailing out the defense.

This was an interesting adjustment. Have Randle’s man screen Butler to force the switch and then flow into a Butler-Adebayo PnR to force Randle then to navigate screens. It’s much easier for Butler to attack the rim.

Seriously? What can the Heat do that’s effective if Butler doesn’t have the ball? They struggle to get him the ball in the post(Knicks denied him well). Then they move the ball and it ends in a Vincent isolation pull-up 3.