Image credit @UnderdogGraphix
March 15: Heat 98, Bucks 113
This one was a bad omen. Despite leading for the entire first half, the Heat were outscored by 35 points in the second half and dropped the game. Miami scored 36 points in the second half. They allowed 71. Outstanding performers include Giannis Antetokounmpo (I spelled it right on the first try!) with 33/16/9 on 63% shooting (that’s terrifying) and Justise Winslow with 20/2/5 on 50% shooting.
This game is clearly indicative of the strengths and weaknesses of the Heat. Their first half scoring and defense was top-notch and they very much looked like a playoff team. They head into the locker room, and show up as a completely different (and much worse) basketball team. What goes on in the locker room at halftime? Nobody knows, but it’s not inspiring.
James Johnson was also a DNP in this one, but he played in the other two games I’m going to talk about because of Justise Winslow’s injury. He’s been good.
March 17: Heat 93, Hornets 75
This is a college basketball game score. The Heat are very good at defense. Miami held superstar Kemba Walker to 10 points on 4 of 16 shooting. They held the other four starters to 18 combined points. Bench guards Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic combined for 36 points, and the Heat gained some ground in the playoff race. All was right with the world.
This game definitely cemented Bam Adebayo as the starting center. Whiteside does much better with less responsibility and a backup role, and Adebayo’s athleticism and length, as well as his ability to defend smaller players, are all important asset’s to Miami’s top-10 defense.
Oh, and Derrick Jones Jr. started in Winslow’s absence. He was a +11 in 24 minutes, and his defensive rating was an 80 (meaning he allowed just 80 points per 100 possessions based on defensive trends while he was in the game). This was a good game for Miami, and representative of the defensive identity they’re trying to build.
March 18: Thunder 107, Heat 116
Very big win for Miami. The bench duo of Wade and Dragic put up 51, James Johnson had a nice game that could earn him some more minutes, and the Thunder only put up 10 bench points from six bench players. The starts for Oklahoma City, notably missing Russell Westbrook due to a suspension for too many technical fouls, put up 97 points. Paul George had 31 points, but had a +/- of 0. Impressive game on the eye test, but tough on the stat sheet.
Miami used a nine-man rotation, the norm for the playoffs. This rotation doesn’t include Justise Winslow, though. So, the question arises: who leaves the rotation for the playoffs? These next 12 games will definitely separate the men from the boys, and the players from the bench.
This has been a good stretch for Miami, so here’s some trends from these three games.
D-Wade is averaging 17 points over his last three games. He’s contributing off the bench at a level that could put him in consideration for sixth man of the year, something borderline unthinkable in a retirement tour season.
Goran Dragic has very much returned to form with two straight 20+ point games, and has been incredibly efficient passing the ball as well. His assist/turnover ratio is 6:.03. He’s also shooting 58% from beyond the arc on over five attempts. He’s back.
In the 11 straight games that Adebayo has started since February 27th, the Heat are 8-3. Adebayo gained the starting role after the Heat lost to the Suns.
Josh Richardson has had a cold streak, averaging less than 10 points over this three-game stretch. The good news is that he doesn’t need to drop 25 a game for the Heat to win. He’s been in good passing form as well, averaging 4.3 assists over the last three games.
That’s your Heat in a Flash for the past three games! Tomorrow, Miami takes on a Spurs team that just took down the Warriors. I’ll have the preview, see you then.