In a perfect world, the Miami Heat would’ve returned from their 72-day recess fresh and ready to go – after all, they do come off of an NBA Finals run.
But the world isn’t fair – we’ve realized that in 2020.
Instead, the Heat dropped its season-opener to the in-state Orlando Magic, 113-107. A total of 17 lead changes and 13 tiebreakers made it competitive from start to finish, but a 19-12 run by Orlando in the final 3:46 helped them edge past the reigning Eastern Conference champs.
There was a lot to take from this game – positive and negative. Here are some of my observations.
What I didn’t like…
1. Miami played sloppy, and it wasn’t all Tyler Herro.
The elephant in the room regarding Miami’s loss was the sloppy ball-protection and screen setting. The end result: 24 allowed points on 22 turnovers.
And although Tyler Herro, who got the starting nod at point guard, was deemed the one responsible to spread the ball out, his teammates didn’t help each other out, either. Bam Adebayo finished with a team-high seven turnovers, with Jimmy Butler adding six. Mix that in with Herro’s four, and it’s a total of 17 lost possessions that crumbled the Heat’s chances at starting 1-0.
Miami suffered worst late in the fourth when they committed three consecutive turnovers – Butler (07:46), Adebayo (07:25), Herro (07:00) – that ruined their chances at blowing past an Orlando team that wasn’t clicking offensively at the time.
That aside, they could’ve won the game; thanks to Orlando’s mediocre shooting (47.7% FG) and turnovers of their own (17).
It’s game one of 72, at the end of the day.
“First game. You know that’s no excuse but as we get into this flow of games we’re gonna get better with our turnovers,” Adebayo said. “…It’s just one of those games. You chalk it up and fix what we did wrong tomorrow.”
2. Herro did struggle, but it’s a process Miami feels comfortable about.
Part of gifting the keys to running point guard to a second-year pro is understanding that mistakes will be made. Herro made plenty of errors during Miami’s bubble run until he finally got the hang of becoming a playmaker.
That said, Herro did struggle vs. Orlando, losing the ball four times, with two of them coming in the final period. He did end the with 13 points on 6 of 14 shooting, also adding six rebounds and four assists. However, statistics aside, it was clear that Herro wasn’t himself – getting stripped late in the fourth quarter, having his shot blocked three times, missing two crucial shots down the stretch.
Confidence still remains strong for Herro amongst his teammates, and that’s not changing anytime soon.
“Tell [Tyler] to keep being who he is,” Butler said. “Keep playing basketball the best way he knows how to, and that’s what we expect of him. Shoot the ball whenever you’re open, find a way to get somebody else a shot whenever you’re not. He’s gonna be ok, he has studied film, he’s learning. You got to think ‘the kid’s still young’. He has a tremendous amount of growth ahead of him, but man is he gonna be a hell of a player in this league and for the Miami Heat for a long time.”
3. Duncan Robinson needs more shots.
An electric part of the Heat last season was their ability to run the pick and roll off Robinson and Adebayo to perfection, resulting in a plethora of shots from beyond the arc. But in Wednesday’s loss to Orlando, that reliable option was rarely used, and Robinson attempted a total of just eight shots.
Despite the limited use of the three-year pro, Robinson managed to score 14 points, including three shots from 3-PT territory. He also garnered five rebounds and an assist.
The P&R was utilized in four of Robinson’s eight shots, going 1 of 4 on the night. To be fair, he was never able to find his rhythm, and that hurt Miami when they needed shots late in the game. His strange shooting outing resulted in the Heat attempting 20 shots from three-point range, making only seven.
It’s on coach Erik Spoelstra and his group to continue praising that 1-2 punch of Robinson and Adebayo to create scoring opportunities for Miami.
4. Jae Crowder could’ve came in handy.
In the fourth quarter, coach Spoelstra turned to Kelly Olynyk to play alongside Adebayo instead of Maurice Harkless, who started the game.
Olynyk did hit a much-needed 3PT shot with 03:01 left in the game, but he stayed rather quiet for the rest of the period. In all honesty, Olynyk’s presence – nor Andre Iguodala’s – was substantial in making a difference for Miami down the stretch. That was an obvious bite to the leg for Spoelstra, who had Jae Crowder last season to rely on in those situations. Whether it be a crucial shot, defensive stop or simply displaying the outmost effort, Crowder was there when he was needed, and that’s something Spoelstra will have to replace as the season progresses.
What I did like…
1. Jimmy Butler was aggressive on both ends of the court.
Coming up with a career-high seven steals, which also surpasses the Heat’s opening day record once held by Mario Chalmers (five), the five-time NBA All-Star came to play defensively, and picked things up offensively in the second half.
Butler finished the game with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, along with a perfect 5 of 5 shooting from the free-throw line. He did all of this with a hurt ankle after getting stepped on early in the third quarter.
“They stepped on my ankle. That’s what they did. So I couldn’t move the way that I wanted to,” he said.
Butler was persistent at poking the ball loose and simply being at the right place at the right time. He obviously could’ve been a bit more aggressive inside – resulting in more shots and free-throw attempts – but his ankle offers an explanation as to why. He didn’t shoot from beyond the arc once, however, although that’s bound to change sometime this season.
Other than those six turnovers, Butler was simply himself.
2. Precious Achiuwa showed no fear in rookie debut.
For a rookie to be drafted, sent to another state and be have to grasp an understanding of all he can in a few weeks of training camp and two games of preseason in a span of 35 days, Precious Achiuwa merits some respect.
The rookie out of Memphis checked into the game in the first quarter and played a total of 13:39. Achiuwa finished the game with eight points and three rebounds, connecting with veteran guard Goran Dragic twice for an alley-oop slam and layup and also creating his own space for a layup on another occasion.
Achiuwa finished 2 of 4 from the charity stripe, as his NBA debut featured a plus minus of six, the second-highest on the team – Dragic, seven.
“That’s the reason I got drafted,” Achiuwa said. “Just always bringing that spark and bringing that energy. Making plays that will help us win the game.”
3. Bam Adebayo is expanding his game.
For Adebayo, taking the next step into his career meant adding a mid-range jumper to his arsenal. Wednesday’s contest showed exactly that.
Adebayo took a total of 16 shots, converting on 11 to finish the game with a team-high 25 points alongside his 11 rebounds and four assists. The one-time NBA All-Star took five shots from over 12 feet, converting on three of them – 19′ jump shot, 17′ pullup jump shot, 15′ jump shot.
That number’s bound to increase as he grows confidence and continues to be tested to take them by opposing teams.
4. Goran Dragic comfortable with his six-man role.
After starting in 16 games during the Heat’s postseason run, Dragic returned to his routine six-man role Wednesday and had no problem getting into his groove.
Dragic shot 8 of 13 from the field, resulting in 20 points for the veteran guard who’s now in his seventh season with the Heat. Best of all, he felt no pain in his foot, something that limited him during Miami’s NBA Finals series vs. L.A.
His usage will continue to be needed in late-game stretches, whether it be assisting Herro at the two spot or filling in when the time is right.
“I told Spo, however you’re going to use me, I’m here for the team,” he said.