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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to the Raptors
Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to the Raptors
Jul 18, 2024 2:07 PM

The Miami Heat were in the mud against the Toronto Raptors. The absolute mud. Down 10 heading into the fourth, then boom, they hit you.

They looked like they had it handled late, but a late foul call gave Scottie Barnes two free throws to send it to OT.

Then it went to double OT. Then Triple OT.

But eventually, they fell short after a missed Herro three to potentially take the lead in that third OT.

So, here are some takeaways from this one, mostly focusing on regulation…

(Full 7 quarter dive tomorrow morning)

#1: Toronto’s unique team providing visible issues for Miami.

On paper, the Toronto Raptors are the type of team Miami should struggle with. Not only do they have length, but they have switchable length. We saw that early in this one with Miami’s offense, specifically in non-Jimmy Butler lineups or pure bench units. The reason is that they can cut off the head of the snake at an elite level, which was Tyler Herro in these stretches. That led to just horrible looking offense, due to the inability to trigger their main actions. On the other end of the floor, there were certain match-ups that it was clear Miami needed to key in on. Gary Trent Jr was cooking, Fred VanVleet provides problems, and Paschal Siakam can really take advantage of the mismatch. The issue: Miami was providing that mismatch frequently early on, since soft switching was seen most.

#2: Pure Jimmy Butler offensive takeover.

Well, Jimmy Butler went nuclear in that first half. We saw him score 24 points in that span, but it was more about how he was doing it. Not only did he spark his entire team, and the whole FTX Arena, to finish the second quarter, but his finishing was being shown at an elite level. Emphasis on elite. It’s something we keep track of often when Butler gets around the rim, but he was finishing in acrobatic ways around the Raptors lengthy match-ups, instead of the usual pure bully ball against weaker defenders. Stuff like this needs to be viewed at a broader level in moments like this: when Butler’s playing like this, he’s hard to stop. And less importantly in terms of team success, that Eastern Conference starting All Star spot looks closer to being filled.

#3: An intriguing PJ Tucker skill.

A PJ Tucker skill on a Heat post-game piece? Who would’ve thought? I could potentially spend way too much time on the things Tucker provides as a spacer on both ends, but it’s important when noticing some areas of him branching out slowly within his role in that corner. Early in the first, Tucker catches in the corner, puts the ball on the floor to drive baseline, hangs in the air, and hits Gabe Vincent in the opposite corner. Shortly after, Tucker and Vincent copied and pasted the same exact play on opposite sides of the floor. Why is this important? Well, when things breakdown in a playoff series to much simpler elements, an ability to have your corner specialist as something other than a stiff shooter is so crucial. And after we’ve seen his play-making surge, it isn’t the worst thing to get to.

#4: Tyler Herro still searching for the length counter.

Looking down the line of this season, aside from the last time Tyler Herro faced the Raptors, some of Herro’s worst games come when he faces a great amount of length. The Cleveland Cavaliers were the first one as they oddly slowed down Herro with one big guy rotating over on him after another as he tried to drive, but the Toronto Raptors seem to provide even more problems. With Herro’s need for the screen, every time one comes it’s a new switchable Raptors defender to hound him. And like I said prior, placing Scottie Barnes on him during the all bench lineups really cut off Miami’s offensive mobility. If he can’t breakthrough that specific match-up, we will see more teams take their lengthy, versatile defender and place him onto Herro in different playoff series.

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#5: Max Strus comes alive to begin the fourth.

Down 10 going into the fourth quarter, while efficient offense doesn’t even seem like an option, Spoelstra rolls out the Vincent-Herro-Strus-Martin-Dedmon lineup. A few minutes later, Nick Nurse is on the court calling a timeout following two big time Max Strus threes and a Gabe Vincent lay-in. More big time fourth quarter plays came after that as well, including a Tyler Herro shake on OG Anunoby for a three and a miraculous shot by Butler as he forced it up and off the glass. But the point is this: seeing Strus do what he does best, which is spark things for the Heat’s offense, sums up his role later in the season quite perfectly. Robinson will probably be the lone rotation shooter, but when offense can’t get going, and you’re down double digits in the fourth, look to Strus since there’s a chance he can bail you out. But yet, he wasn’t the closer. Three more quarters came shortly after, and Miami fell just short.

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