Playoff Breakdown: Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo Connection, Isolation Hurting the 76ers
The Miami Heat took care of business against the Philadelphia 76ers so well that Jimmy Butler sat the entire fourth. I’m starting to think that Erik Spoelstra is out there having fun with the opponent. The team is already missing Kyle Lowry, who impacts a game in so many ways, and then you sit your best player.
A quick related point to Butler resting. He played 30 minutes, which would be third on the team and sixth in the game. The Heat don’t have guys playing any high minutes this postseason.
And back to the game. There were some hiccups during the game mainly on the offensive end during the second quarter. It was a tale of two halves for Miami on offense. In the first half, they had a poor offensive rating of 102.0. They, however, flipped the switch coming out of the break — maybe there was some Udonis Haslem screaming (probably). Their offensive rating in the second half was 127.3 and that’s mainly due to spamming a certain action.
Now, the offense may have improved over the course of the game, but it was the defense that still was key here. How many times do you see teams scoring below 100 points in the year 2022? I assume not many unless you’re a fan of the Heat, which have done it four times already this postseason.
One of my key questions heading into the series was how the Heat could generate offense. I’ve mentioned that during the regular season, Butler struggled against the 76ers. Now, he didn’t have the kind of game you’d like from him, as he finished with 15 points on 5-for-16 shooting. And it’s also not a coincidence that the Heat’s offense boomed in the third quarter where his usage was lower.
This game still showed how they are guarding him and what can come from it.
They are keeping the pick-and-roll with him and Bam Adebayo to the side by making him reject the screen (ICE defensive coverage) and each play showed something different on offense.
In the first clip, he attacks and draws two defenders down in the paint, with Adebayo behind the defenders. The Heat also placed PJ Tucker in the strong side corner, which forces James Harden to pick his poison. He either doesn’t help and it’s a drive or a lob to Adebayo. In this case, his focus is on Butler, so that opens up a pass to Tucker, which he needs to hit to make the defense pay.
In the second clip, the alignment is slightly different but the idea is still the same. This time, they run an empty-side pick-and-roll with shooters all on the weakside — this will again force the defender to pick their poison. Butler drives with ease and Harden may have overhelped, as it doesn’t look like there was any need for that much help. Regardless, he rotates, which forces Maxey to zone up and split the difference. He takes away the pass to Tucker, and this opens up a cut for Vincent, as Green also can’t let Max Strus open.
In the third clip, it’s the same thing as the first play, but there is no extra help from Harden. Instead, it turns into a straight drive to the rim for Butler. And the play is identical, except Harden does stunt, which opens a pass to Tucker.
Butler scored a total of zero points on these plays, but it still generated open, quality looks for the offense.
Staying with Butler. These two shots will be key going forward.
The defense will always go under or switch against Butler. This will open up a mid-range shot and that is the shot he must make consistently.
In the second half, the Heat went to a lot of pick-and-roll involving Tyler Herro and Adebayo — for good reasons, though — trips involving them in a pick-and-roll generated 1.7 points per possession (PPP), as per Nekias Duncan from the Dunker Spot (go listen and subscribe!)
So, many good things happen when they run these actions. It’s not necessarily either of them scoring, but the action alone forces the defense to react and rotate, which generates quality looks. There will be times when Adebayo rolling will draw a tag, which creates an open 3-point shot. Or it could be Herro drawing two at the ball, which frees Adebayo for a roll to the rim.
In the second quarter, the 76ers went with a zone and there were two very different possessions.
This is the, what you don’t do against the zone possession. The three defenders zone up towards the middle of the 3-point line and there is no way of getting by. The ball gets swung a couple of times and nothing happens. The defenders aren’t working on defense. There is a screen set by Dewayne Dedmon, but that also doesn’t do anything. And the possession ends with a few passes, a pointless screen, and a 3-point shot.
In this play, however:
Firstly, notice how they are set. You have Butler, Herro, and Strus relatively close to each other on one side of the court with Adebayo in the dunker spot on the opposite side, and Victor Oladiop on the opposite wing. This brings four defenders in and leaves one defender guarding two guys. Herro is able to beat his man off the dribble and get into the paint. The defender stops him from going further, the lone defender on that side must take Adebayo and this opens a kick to Oladipo.
Now, this play needs no breakdown. This was simply hustling and outworking everyone on the court. This is what makes Tucker one of the best players on this team.
This is how the Heat are going to win games. Your typical old-fashioned, slow, gritty defense. Per Cleaning the Glass, the Heat had a 95.2 defensive rating. One of the worries that some fans may have had was what should the defense do about the mismatch hunting.
Per InStat, the 76ers had 16 isolation possessions (0.81 PPP) and they were mostly going at Herro and Strus.
An isolation offense is not a good offense. It stops the ball from moving, is easy to game plan for, and doesn’t help anyone else that can create their own shot. It was obvious heading into the series that Harden and Tobias Harris were going hunting. Those are pretty straightforward to plan against.
Take the first clip. Harris is attacking Herro, but you can see the immediate rotation by Tucker preventing any drive and it ends in a leaning shot. This team also doesn’t have many guys to hunt. It will most likely be one or two on the court and it will be tough to always get that mismatch. In that case, you have Tucker, Adebayo, Oladipo, or Butler to deal with.
This is also not peak Harden trying to score on you. He scored 0.56 PPP on nine isolations.
What did hurt the Heat is transition defense. They allowed 1.33 PPP on 12 transition possessions.
The Heat did try a full-court press on occasions, but that did lead to easy points on the other hand. Maxey is one hell of a fast player. He is deadly at scoring in transition. And that is where he is at his best. When he doesn’t have to create or he’s running.