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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Knicks
Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Knicks
Jul 18, 2024 2:22 PM

No Jimmy Butler, no Tyler Herro. Tough task ahead for the Heat in game 2.

But the Heat show major fight all the way through, but the lack of that fourth quarter closer leaves them short.

1-1, heading back to Miami.

#1: Heat adjusting back to that 2-3 zone.

As there was some potential that the Heat could be playing without Jimmy Butler in game 2, that left me with one adjustment in mind that Spoelstra would lean to heavily: the 2-3 zone. It puts your role player bunch in a much more settling scheme, as you also want to force a team who barely shot 20% from three in game 1 into those exact looks. So the Heat’s first half of game 2 consisted of a heavy dosage of it, while the Knicks knocked down 35% of them. Better than game 1, but the Heat dictated the shots for New York. Win for Miami. The only issue at times with that adjustment is that it can hurt the rebounding, but it was only a 6 board deficit at half and didn’t feel overwhelming at any point. But Love was doings this positionally, Highsmith swarmed, Adebayo anchored, and the guards played their role enough. It was a win for the defense in the first 24 minutes.

#2: Who replicates Jimmy Butler’s rim pressure? We got that answer.

When it came to the offensive side of things, the blueprint was clear: Bam Adebayo and shooting. The one question I had was if they could get decent enough looks without having much rim pressure on the roster tonight, but man did one guy emerge in that range. Caleb Martin not only slotted into Butler’s starting role, but he was slashing with a purpose and getting to the rim consistently. That was the turning point for the offense early. They also had him playing much more of a ball-handling role to free up Vincent at times and pull certain defenders away from the play. His usage was absolutely perfect to start this game, and he was also capitalizing on his looks. We shouldn’t be surprised, since he has been filling in for whatever is needed all year, but this was big time stuff.

#3: Haywood Highsmith minutes…

As Martin got a nightly promotion, so did Haywood Highsmith right behind him. He’s a player that can do his job on the defensive end when you need him to, and man did he do that early. Getting into the body of Julius Randle, even as he hit tough shots, but the point was that he was making him at least semi-uncomfortable. Then as I talked about the zone earlier, that seems to be his happy place. When he can just run around and disrupt, it’s when he looks his best. But his impact didn’t stop with the defensive side of the ball. They were actually using him as an offensive hub early in this game. Setting up handoffs, flipping dunker spots, filling that corner. One play stood out: screen for Robinson into a Adebayo hand-off, both defenders job at Robinson, Highsmith slips down the right slot as Bam hits him. 3-on-2 and they get a score out of it. His minutes are always situational, but man does he impact in that short stint. He still needs to tame the turnovers and rushed on-ball reps, but that’s in due time. Not everything at once…

#4: Outcome aside, one thing is clear: this Heat team is extremely confident.

As I walked out of the Heat’s practice an hour before they got on their flight to New York before game 1, one thing struck me: this team is confident from top to bottom. An 8 seed? With top of the roster injuries? Yes. After taking out the Bucks in that first round, they have this mentality that they can beat anybody, which you simply need to have in this league. Fast forward to the day of game 2, my main thought process to playing without Butler was that this is house money. It’s a trap game potentially for the Knicks that they absolutely need to get, and well, the Heat’s guys can go out there and play freely. An overly confident team getting to play free? That’s always a fun combo. And as the Heat walked out of the third with a 1 point lead, there’s no doubt this team’s role guys are as confident in their individual abilities as ever. The only issue was they don’t have that pure closing ability that Butler, or even Herro, have to put things away late.

#5: The fourth quarter…

As the Heat lead by 1 heading into the fourth, it was clear they were going to need a go-to scorer to settle this group. Hello, Gabe Vincent. Vincent went into a semi-Butler mode over a 3 possession stretch: spot-up three, insanely contested pull-up 3, tough flip shot in the lane. He was channeling an insane version of himself. Now with extra attention the next time down, he finds Martin weak-side for the triple. Past two-way contracts, current playoff saviors. But yet, the Knicks make their run right back into a tie game, behind some favorable calls that they got along the way to extend some plays. Either way, it was 93-93 with 6 minutes left. Vincent answered with another possession of drawing attention, right into a pull-up 3 where he gets fouled. Three free throws. The longest play of all time follows that with Hartenstein’s rebounding, finally into a Hart 3 in the corner. Energy shifting, Heat miss, Brunson pulls up for 3, and the Garden goes nuts. Knicks now up 3. Another missed call doesn’t go Miami’s way as the ball grazes the rim before a Vincent put-back, but called a shot clock violation. Lowry hits a floater, then finds Bam on the roll for a tough lay. 1 point game. But the Knicks respond with a Hart corner triple. Back to four. And well, they ran away from there as they fed off the energy on offense. But it wasn’t completely over yet. They still fought, Vincent lays it in, and Randle commits an over the line violation. Inbound, Robinson catch, Robinson 3. Somehow a 3 point game again with 22 seconds left. Knicks make 2 free throws, Heat miss on other end, and that’ll do it.

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