Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Nuggets in Game 2
Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Nuggets in Game 2
May 19, 2024 4:46 AM

The Miami Heat get game 2 in Denver.

Gabe Vincent stays steady, Max Strus punches early, Duncan Robinson punches late, Bam Adebayo controls throughout on both ends.

Takeaways from this one…

#1: Gabe Vincent and Max Strus come out swinging.

As the Heat start the game, their offense was simple. As Gabe Vincent waits for the screener to come up to the top of the key, he flows right into his spot in the pull-up against drop, cashing it. As for Max Strus who was coming off an atrocious shooting game, it was all about the defense reacting to Jimmy Butler. Butler has the ball, Strus slips the screen, wide open corner three. Repeat and repeat and repeat. This was pretty much the sum up of game 1: the looks were there yet they couldn’t capitalize. But when talking about the two guys up for contract in the off-season, they came out swinging and took advantage. The only issue occurred when they exited, since the gameplan fell apart, which I’ll get into next…

#2: The non-Jokic minutes drop-off for the Heat.

All of the talk in this series is about how to handle the Nikola Jokic minutes if you are Miami. Yet that wasn’t the Heat’s first half concern: the non-Jokic minutes ended up being that. There are a few different reasons for this, but I’ll start with the offensive side. As the Nuggets flow into their smaller lineup, that means they rely on full switching which ultimately flattened out much of Miami’s looks. Those pull-ups for Vincent to start were no longer there for others. Yet with that said, guys like Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson just seemed lost with their offensive role in the opening half. Turnovers, bad shots: that turned the game around in Denver’s favor. Well, that’s how the Nuggets fell into their offense during this stretch since they controlled pace. An odd development to say the least.

#3: The main adjustments…

To take a second away from the evaluation part of that opening half, I must also note the primary adjustments we saw. The obvious one included Kevin Love stepping into the starting lineup, but it wasn’t for the exact reason that everybody thought. Yes it provided the necessary size that Denver attacked to open game 1, but he wasn’t getting the Nikola Jokic matchup as an innings eater. As I said before the game, it felt like the defensive opening was clear. Love can help off Aaron Gordon, Bam Adebayo stays put on Jokic, and Jimmy Butler up-shifts to Jamal Murray. Throw Butler and Bam at the Jokic-Murray two man game to see how they react. Credit to Love who did a really good job in that range out the gates. Even with him playing, we still saw the Cody Zeller minutes as a surprise. Another ugly stretch again, so that needs to be the next adjustment: it may not be as simple as not playing him since they don’t want to go zone against him, but they need an alternative. It’s the Finals, so it’s time for Spo to throw out every last card…

#4: Cody Zeller. Let’s talk about it.

As I mentioned the next adjustment, one of them has to include cutting the small portion of minutes from Cody Zeller all the way down to zero. They were rough in the Boston Celtics series, and they didn’t even have a MVP level center that he had to face 1-on-1. Watching this innings eater for the Heat, it’s eating into the Heat’s production. Defensive liability, non-factor offensively, and somebody that is involved in every action for one reason or another on either end. Obviously he’s high usage defensively guarding Jokic, but they need his screening to bring Jokic into action on the other end. The point is this: this is now the NBA Finals, there’s no time for digging their way out of awful +/- numbers every single game. Bam Adebayo’s impact jumps off the page, but it’s time to cut this out completely. They don’t want to go zone against Jokic so they match with size, but now if they’re starting Love, it’s time to rotate him back as their backup 5 for a stint.

#5: The fourth quarter…

As the Heat open the fourth quarter down 8, they needed somebody to breakthrough. And well, Duncan Robinson answered the call. Shot fake on a three as he steps aside for the open look. Next time down, he takes a strong baseline drive off the dribble, and converts an and 1 at the rim. Foul on the ground on the free throw means Heat ball, Robinson holds the ball on the deep right wing, before pulling it and knocking down another. 8 points in about a minute of time. He draws 2 on a cut shortly after, as Vincent sits freely on the left wing for three. Heat get a stop, walk down on offense, Bam hits Duncan on a curl and he converts the tough lay at the rim. Mean mug, flex, and more. Heat go up 3. Minutes later, Butler enters the game after an outstanding stretch without him, and immediately turns the ball over recklessly. With worry of the game slipping, he follows that up with a tough spot-up three in the left corner, and a baseline push shot for the and-1. Big stretch. Lowry takes control of the next stretch as he gets fouled on a three, and simply controls the offense through and through. Pocket passes would be crucial, and he stepped up. Denver didn’t go away late, as they rallied back behind Jamal Murray to cut it to 3 under a minute to go. Yet the Heat escape.

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