New Years, New Heat: Miami eliminates Brooklyn Nets in contention with two things they never did last season, and one they built towards

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A few years ago, the Miami HEAT beating one of the best teams in the league would have been a monumental occasion, a highlight of the season for a team trying to prove they belonged to the upper echelon.

This year, with a squad filled with veterans who have been there in the regular season, it was just Wednesday.

“We have a team with a lot of guys who have won, who have had this experience of getting this championship so they know what it takes,” said Bam Adebayo. “My previous years, we haven’t had more than two guys [with that experience]. “

There was a formula for Miami to win these kinds of games, a formula that has held true over the last two or three iterations on this list. Pull well. Make sure the other team didn’t shoot well. Of course, there were exceptions to this rule, especially when certain last second shots were involved, but generally if they knocked out a Top 5 team you could watch the box score and of course a team. would be over 40% deep and the other team would be in their 20s.

Against the Brooklyn Nets, the HEAT shot 8 of 29 (27.6%) of three and 39.6% from the field. The Nets didn’t shoot well either, which gave the game at least a hint of playoff sensation.

“It’s nice to be able to win games knowing you’re not shooting,” said Jimmy Butler.

To be successful, Miami had to do a few things that they hadn’t done in recent years, and one that they had been planning a long time ago.

The first is simple. With their shots not falling, they smashed the offensive glass, punishing a Brooklyn team that likes to play small and even smaller with Nic Claxton out due to illness. Miami’s 17 offensive boards would have been the best in any game in either of the past two years. Over and over again, the Nets would stop and threaten to string together two or three goal possessions and take the lead, but then Dewayne Dedmon (six offensive rebounds) or PJ Tucker (four) or Jimmy Butler (four) would get in. over the ball and bring Miami back to life.

“It’s a quality of the team that we noticed from the start,” said Erik Spoelstra. “We were hoping it would be a good team that bounced back, that’s something we focused on as an organization during the offseason.”

It’s a bit of an abuse to say that the 2020-21 HEAT was a bad rebound team – I’m begging everyone to stop using gross rebound margin for anything, ever – because they were just around the corner. near average on defensive glass. Because the transition defense was often so porous, this group couldn’t afford to chase after the second chances, where they placed 29th. Coupled with the team’s below-average turnover rate, opposing teams were consistently making more shots than they were.

“It’s pretty much true for every team, if you can create more possessions than your opponent, then it’s always good,” Kevin Durant said after the loss.

In four games, this team is No.7 on the offensive glass, partly by choice, and No.2 on the defensive side, thanks to improved staff – if you’ve watched the playoffs last year, you saw Tucker take down one huge offensive board after another for eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks. More importantly, the HEAT finished over 11 in field goal attempts over the Nets.

The second aspect that they have added to their game is speed. We’re only four games away from the marathon and you probably feel like you’ve heard of this adnauseum before, but it’s a big deal that Kyle Lowry injected a significant dose of all-court dynamism into this. group. Just as the offensive glass gave Miami some inside chances when they couldn’t finish over, their 18 points of quick braking were the easiest points they’ve had all night.

HEATs have been trying to work for years, one way or another. Each season they would start playing at an accelerated pace, trying to manufacture points to help them get through nights when their dribble-transfer half-court offense would be stuck. And each season their turnover increased as it became clear that the staff just weren’t there for this style, despite Goran Dragic’s best efforts to make trails, so in December Spoelstra would slow things down and by the end of the year, Miami would move up to the bottom of the pace standings (they finished No. 29 last season). Pace isn’t always a perfect metric given that top defensive teams tend to take possessions away, but the slowing vibes translated into offensive possession time as the majority of transition scores came after live turnovers.

This year, Miami is playing almost a second faster on offense with Kyle Lowry on the ground. Rather than relying on Butler’s pick of six flights to create these opportunities, rather than just running for the sake of running, it’s functional speed. Excluding marks, chess, everyone knows that a difficult course will attract the attention of the quarterback. Not all teams will be as elusive in their awareness of the pitch as the Nets were in the first half – the Nets cleaned things up themselves as the game progressed – and Miami may only become one. ‘an average-paced team, but if an entire season of those open-ground reps creates a handful of easy buckets in a hard-fought playoff series, it will have been worth it.

Overall, the offensive glass and transition scores are accents that will emphasize whatever the HEAT does well, at its core. They’ll be a factor, like they were last night, but they won’t always be front and center, the things the other team is talking about after the game like the Nets were, as the focus and preparation for their opponents change.

What will matter each time is Miami’s ability to change.

We don’t need to rehash Miami’s recent history by changing too much. We have done it a lot. They acquired Jae Crowder two years ago, gradually shifted from conservative drop hedging to heavy switching, and rarely looked back. With Lowry and Tucker now in the fold, with Markieff Morris off the bench, Miami has the bodies to be one of the best switching teams in the league. This ability may never matter more than when playing for the Nets. It is this same staff that can switch so well that also allows the HEAT to be selective with their switching. If an opponent is just going through the moves of their offensive sets, a Lowry, Tucker, or Butler can just navigate the screens themselves and stay home on their man until the shot clock runs out. and * slaps his fist into an open palm * now there’s the switch and Durant tries to score on Adebayo. Or they can change early and detonate possession, turning it into a one-on-one show.

Miami traded 30 pick-and-rolls for Brooklyn, per Second Spectrum, a higher number but not the highest number (usually in their upper 40s), and allowed just 0.75 points per possession when those actions were involved. With multiple MVPs on the floor, you can lose an arrow in that number on the stats report and circle it in sharpie.

It’s pretty obvious that the Nets are certainly not fully operational, for a variety of reasons, at this point in the season. There are a few things to sort out with their list – we’ll leave it at that – James Harden is clearly working his way at his best pace and they haven’t shown the same out-of-the-box sharpness the HEAT has had in spades. . But HEATs are not yet what they want to be, as they say.

“I think we’re fine now,” Tucker said of the defense. “We’re not great. It’s not great. Believe me. It’s not perfect. The thing with switching is even when you mess up, support yourself, and turn and communicate. There are so many other things going into it.

“You’re going to ruin everything, but it’s the effort and energy that ruin everything. We are doing it. It’s a key. It’s a huge key. This is one of the reasons our defense has seemed strong so far. Has it been good? Questionable. But we’re playing hard, so I think we’re going to get better as the season goes on.

Miami is allowing 92 points per 100 possessions in four games. It’s been over five years since a team finished under the 100. The numbers are likely to get a bit worse, even as the team improves and tightens in their changes and rotations. This will balance out with jumpers who start falling afterwards – they will, although we may have to talk about a possible and noticeable shift towards the mid-range in the coming weeks. They can still be so much better than they have been and they have been excellent in defense. Awesome in a way that matters, in a way that translates directly into the playoffs, in a way that tells you that beating the Brooklyn Nets in October at least means something.

The change has been good for this list, so far, and they will continue to change and evolve through April. Brooklyn will be different from here then too. But beating a great team in the regular season was a little different this time around, partly because the expectations are higher than they have been for some time, partly because they won by a way that didn’t look like October at all. .


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