The Launching Pad: Running Your Offense Through Duncan, 2nd Half Struggles & Thoughts on Butler Missing Time

Insight2 months ago10 min readJohn Jablonka

Welcome, welcome, welcome! Here’s this week’s Launching Pad — a weekly round-up where you’ll get everything that you need to know about what happened with the Miami Heat. Everything here will bring you up to speed with all of the games and news you missed by expanding on all of that through deep dives, stats, discussions, analysis, and film breakdown.

The Heat You Missed!

Not a bad start to the West road trip, especially considering the circumstances with the missing guys. They weren’t going to go undefeated in this stretch and being 2-2 so far with the Phoenix Suns game coming up to finish 3-2 without Jimmy Butler is a good sign.

So, let’s go through the week that you missed!

And the stats:

  • Net rating: -4.4
  • Offensive rating: 108.2(106.9, 107.8, 110.0)
  • Defensive rating: 112.6(113.6, 130.0, 96.0)
  • eFG%: 50.6% / 54.6% opponent
  • ORB%: 13.7% / 15.7%
  • TOV%: 23.4% / 26.0%
  • FTr:: 26.7 / 21.8

This honestly also should’ve been better. They were in the game for the most part against the Jazz, despite the awful point-of-attack defense. They, as always, made it a clutch game, but simply couldn’t execute on either end to close out the game.

They had a good start against the Clippers. They were up big early in the game. They solved their defense by going into the zone completely stalling the Clippers’ offense. Look at some of those possessions:

A lot of the possessions are exactly what you’d want from a defense. Everyone standing, ball pounding, unable to get past the 3pt line, no passes being made, no movement, and everything just being dead. That’s exactly what you want and most of the time it worked by throwing them out of rhythm, unsure of what to do.

And at times they did stall the offense for 20+ seconds, and did everything that they needed to do, but it didn’t matter in the end because they knocked down tough shots in someone’s face. Unfortunately, as the game went on, it wasn’t just tough shot-making, though. They started to find gaps in the zone that got them so many open looks from 3 — Norman Powell in the corner killed them. Once that happened it was over. The Heat couldn’t have stopped that offense and the 3-point boom.

At least they did pick up a win in the same building against the Lakers and they went ahead with the same plan. They run zone a lot — 47 possessions to be precise where they only allowed 0.78 points per possession, per Couper Moorhead.

This game wasn’t great, though, especially with how much the Lakers were literally throwing the ball away. It honestly was poor basketball for 36 minutes. The Heat had 14 steals. They forced the Lakers to have a 21% turnover for the game and 34% in the first quarter, and yet they only had a 7-point lead. Unable to capitalize on those mistakes was issue number 1. Issue number two was relying on early offense to get good looks(and missing those good looks). Issue number three was not having a good enough offensive process to get easier looks.

That was for most of the game until the offense became get Duncan Robinson going:

It all revolved around a stagger/pindown into a handoff and made a read off of that. It could either be a curl to the rim, a pull-up 3, forcing a switch or making a stepback 3 over Anthony Davis, who knows? A lot of the time, the action didn’t even result in Robinson getting the points or the assists either, but he still created those opportunities.

Take the first clip(though he did end up with the tough corner 3. Misses wide-open looks, but makes these. Make it makes sense). This whole offensive movement started with Robinson coming off the screen into a handoff, curling and getting a paint touch, and then kicking it. That puts the defense into rotations. The defense is moving and trying to recover where it’s easier to attack.

In the second clip, he comes off the screen, but this time there’s no help in the corner, so he can get a drive to the rim(great high scoop layup over Davis). In the third clip, the same thing, different result. He comes off the screen, and curls to the paint. But now he forces Davis to step up and that opens up Adebayo on the roll, which then opens up the kick for Jaquez 3.

We even had Robinson setting screens to set up better post-ups for Kevin Love that got an easy look. Or flow into another PnR that puts two on the ball and lets Adebayo roll to the rim. We might even see Robinson run a PNR, keep the dribble alive to get Davis out, and force a mismatch inside.

There were so many options that Robinson had gone to that it was hard for the Lakers to stop. However, the Lakers did make an adjustment by having LeBron James on him. Yes. The Lakers had to adjust by putting LEBRON JAMES on DUNCAN ROBINSON.

But sometimes that doesn’t even matter. At the 1:33 mark, there was an inbound play that countered that adjustment perfectly. They had Robinson inbound the ball to then be able to come off the double stagger to force a switch. Great design to force that and allow him to get a tough 3pt on the handoff. And that was essentially a game after that point with the Lakers unable to score.

What’s Been Heating Up!

  • Second half struggles
  • Butler missing time, but can he(and the Heat) afford that?

The good news is the Heat have been better in the fourth quarter! The bad news is they’re worse in the third, so they’re bad in the second half now(in their last eight games).

This is how their scores are in the first vs second half of each game:

  • Vs MIN: 66-54 vs 42-58
  • Vs ORL: 68-50 vs 47-56
  • Vs ATL: 62-60 vs 60-53
  • Vs PHI: 63-49 vs 56-64
  • Vs GSW: 58-51 vs 56-51
  • Vs UTA: 53-54 vs 56-63
  • Vs LAC: 58-59 vs 46-62
  • Vs LAL: 53-45 vs 57-51

Most of the time, they’re giving themselves a lead in the first half. But unless that’s a significant lead to give them a cushion(as they did against the Magic), the games will either be losses or closer than they should’ve been because they can’t close games out. A lot of their issues start with the offense and more specifically, their turnovers. Having a 12% in the first half then jumping to 15% is significant.

Unfortunately, a lot of their issues are easy to see why that’s been happening. Here are the 1st half and 2nd half splits for both Adebayo and Herro.

Herro:

  • 15.4 points → 11.1
  • 51% on 11.3 FGA → 42% on 7.4
  • 54% on 4.1 3PA → 34% on 4.0
  • 2.9 assists → 1.4
  • 1.0 turnovers → 1.8
  • 64% true shooting → 49%

Bam:

  • 9.5 → 11.1
  • 48% on 8.0 → 42% on 7.4
  • 1.8 assists → 2.6
  • 1.0 turnovers → 2.0
  • 51% → 55%

Your best players have to be better. It’s as simple as that. I want to say that this is just because Butler is out, but these are still your top 2 players that need to be better. In these last eight games, the Heat with both Adebayo and Herro on, they’re -5.2 with 109.5 offensive rating.

That kind of leads me to the next conversation. Can Butler afford to sit out? This is becoming quite concerning that we haven’t seen Butler be great as he usually is and he’s sitting out these games.

Record wise, there can is some margin of error. The Heat are currently 6-4 in games without Butler. That’s not that bad. The record itself is quite important when it comes to the standings alone. You don’t want to get yourself in a hole being a play-in team and having to dig yourself out late. It’s great that they’re able to crawl out with a win.

But when looking at other things, the minutes without Butler have still not been great, and it’s still do with the offense. In those 10 games(this doesn’t include the Jazz game he went out late), they have a 112.8 offensive rating. That’s still a concern that they’re this reliant on Butler for the offense and it’s getting tiring talking about this each season. They need him to have any kind offense.

In this recent stretch where they did have both Herro and Adebayo healthy, their stats when they’re on together are even worse:

They’re 5-1 by record(great) but are also -7.9 net with 108.2 ORTG and here are their individual stats:

  • Herro: 22 points per 75 possessions on 50% eFG and 53% TS
  • Adebayo: 18 points on 44% eFG and 50% TS

At this point, it’s obvious that they need Butler, but that’s also not what’s most concerning too. Is that they need him, play differently without him, but can never get that chemistry together. Here are their games and minutes played together over the years:

  • 2024: 8(6 full games) and 152 minutes
  • 2023: 51 and 1058
  • 2022: 36 and 399
  • 2021: 39 and 434
  • 2020: 43 and 421

In five years, they played 177 games together for a total of 2463 minutes.

Right now, it’s bordering on concern with Butler when it comes to him specifically needing to be out because he hasn’t looked right all season. But even if you can guarantee that he’s gonna be himself in a few months, it still raises a question about how this will all work when they’re on the court together because it’s going to be a lot of changes.

We haven’t seen these versions of Adebayo and Herro play with a ball-dominant, Butler-centric offense when he’s actually good. I do think that can easily work in theory. That should all work in theory and it could be really good. At that point, it’s just putting it all together one way or the other.

Things That Caught My Eye!

  • Love has quietly scored in double digits in three straight games. He’s averaging 12/8/3 in his last 12 games. The Heat have a +10.4 net in 513 minutes with him on and that drops to -2.9 without him
  • Jaquez shot 40.3% on 3.0 attempts in his first 24 games, but that has dropped to 24.2% on 3.3 in his last 10. The shooting has kind of disappeared lately, but that hasn’t stopped him from being efficient in that span by still having 56.9% TS. He’s doing it all from inside the arc. That’s also boosted by averaging 4.3 free throws and shooting 86.0%.
  • Lowry is having himself one hell of a bounce-back season. He’s shooting 43.4% on 4.5 3s(career high), 53.0% on 2.2 2s(2nd highest), 61.1% eFG(career high), 64.0% TS(career high), and most importantly, 3rd most games on the team. That’s impressive and he deserves a lot of credit for that at 37 years old
  • The Heat have been drawing fouls… a lot. They’re 4th in free throw rate with 23.3, per cleaning the glass. That goes up to 25.0 with Adebayo, but it does drop to 19.8 if you don’t have Butler. BUT if you include Adebayo without Butler, that again goes up to 23.7. Adebayo is saving them with his much-improved foul drawing because they need those free throws.