Miami Heat Beat Playoff Breakdowns

Simply Ballin
11 min readJan 28, 2023

As part of my work for Miami Heat Beat, I decided to do a game breakdown for the playoffs. In each game, there’s a breakdown focusing on offense and defense. This may be certain scheme changes, trends, interesting stats, things going well, and things that need to change.

How This Could be the End of a Remarkable Run From the Miami Heat, 11/6/23

This playoff run was quite literally the perfect example of Heat Culture. They had a negative point differential in the regular season. They lost the first play-in game. They almost lost the second one. They faced the favorite in the first round. They lost their third-best player. They lost their best defensive guard. None of it mattered. Butler did say they were going to be here last year and he kept his word.

Throwing the Kitchen Sink at Murray & Jokic, No Easy 3s, Denver Adjusting to Butler, 10/6/23

I talked about this in the previous breakdown how the Heat did a good job defending that action. Well, apparently, the Nuggets saw all of that said “bet” and then proceeded to spam pick-and-rolls and dribble-handoffs with Murray and Jokic over and over and over again throughout the game.

Duncan to the Rescue, Spamming Delay Actions, Defending Murray/Jokic Actions, 6/6/23

I will never get tired of watching Robinson cook. I will never get tired of watching games being swung because of Robinson… The Heat entered the fourth being down eight points. Three minutes and 16 seconds later, the Heat are up by three. That’s when Robinson scored the first eight points, created a 3, and then scored another basket. In a matter of few minutes, Robinson created 13 points.

Attacking Drop, Help vs Bam’s Roll, Butler’s Aggressiveness, 3/6/23

Before the fourth quarter — where they had a 130.4 offensive rating — their offensive rating was just 90.0. A lot of that has to do with them missing wide-open shots that were good looks that came from a good process. But I don’t like putting this loss as just 3pt shooting variance.

Why You Should Care About the Heat-Nuggets Final, 1/6/23

It’s wild writing this out. The Heat are in the finals for the second time in four years. This is the most success that I’ve witnessed live from the Heat and it’s such a great feeling. My first season following the Heat properly was when they missed the playoffs. Before Jimmy Butler arrived, the most success that I’ve seen was a game seven against the Toronto Raptors.

Bam’s Closing Out Another Series, Martin’s Perfect Offense, Celtics Forcing Shots, 30/5/23

The Celtics had no idea what to do against the switches and the zone defense. They couldn’t create many advantages, apart from some slips against switches. They couldn’t get their drive-and-kick actions. They couldn’t generate easy 3s. And with the Heat not turning the ball over, there wasn’t a lot that the Celtics could’ve done.

Game 7 Thoughts, Butler Needs to be Better, 29/5/23

But then it all happened too fast. This was a roller-coaster of emotions. In split seconds it was exciting that they did it and were going to the finals. And then in the next split second that was all taken away because Derrick White decided to crush every Heat fan.

Passive Butler & Too Many Struggles on Offense, 26/5/23

And their poor offense all starts with both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Everything starts with those two. All of the role players playing great in the first three games were because of those two. The Heat getting better looks from 3 was because of those two. But now, for the second game in a row, the offense has struggled.

Isolation Not Working & What Happened in the Third, 24/5/23

This game was a bit different. The Celtics went back to their usual defense of letting Butler and Adebayo go 1v1 without sending much help. It seems that they banked on those going to work without opening other windows. They again didn’t help off-shooters. They didn’t show help inside the paint. They didn’t collapse. They weren’t in rotation. And because of that, they weren’t able to generate good looks either. They only attempted 32 3s. It also doesn’t help that they shot 25.0 percent.

Spamming Duncan-Bam Actions(Again), Protecting the Rim, Pushing the Pace, 22/5/23

And it’s a simple Robinson-Adebayo pick-and-roll. This one action can end in multiple ways and now there’s more versatility too. Before one of the best ways to take that action away is with a simple switch. But that’s not an option anymore.

Vintage Duncan, Butler Goes Hunting, Caleb Punishing the Celtics, 20/5/23

I was wrong. I was very wrong to think that Martin wasn’t going to punish the Celtics for having Williams on him. I didn’t think his shooting was good enough because he hasn’t been such a high-volume shooter. I didn’t think the Celtics were going to have any issues playing off him to help. I underestimated how important Martin’s above-the-break 3s were and how effective his ability to beat closeouts was going to be.

Isolation is Key to Draw Help, An Adjustment to Protect the Rim, 19/5/23

In general, you don’t want to fall into the trap of constantly going into isolation. It’s not ideal to have your offense revolving around that kind of action. It’s not an efficient offense, it can stagnant, force you into late or tough shots, is easier to defend, and keeps everyone else out of rhythm. With all that said, being able to score or punish defenses by going one-on-one is highly needed for any offense. There needs to be a player or two that can get to his spots and knock down those shots at a good clip. Ideally, they are good, efficient shots.

Bam Showing Up on Both Ends, Late Defensive Adjustments, 14/5/23

This is why you have Adebayo as your five. This is why you want him to be involved in all of those actions in the pick-and-roll instead of him being off the ball. I think this is what makes Adebayo so special on defense. This is what makes him so valuable.

Poor Offensive Possessions, Missing Looks, Too much Fouling, 12/5/23

But, as we’ve seen all season long when they don’t make 3s, they’re one of the worst offenses in the league. That’s also how I felt about them post All-Star break, even when they were hitting 40 percent or better. And things are even worse now that they don’t have Tyler Herro to be their best guard.

Spamming Double Screens, Butler Drawing Defenses, Some Offensive Struggles, 10/5/23

The Knicks have been sending much more help against Butler and it’s not always simple double teams. And I feel this has again brought varied results. There are times when they get good looks, but at times, I don’t think either Butler or the team have done a good enough job at exploiting that defense:

Not Allowing Penetration, Multiple Defensive Coverages, Butler Doubled, 7/5/23

One of the reasons why the Knicks struggled a lot is they couldn’t get anywhere near the rim or the paint, especially in the half-court. Overall, they accomplished that in multiple ways that are all connected to one another. It wasn’t simply one scheme or adjustment that did this.

Tough Shot making, Rim Pressure, A Whole Lot of Zone, 4/5/23

I know that it may be weird to talk about the defense when the Knicks had a 127.6 offensive rating and shot 40.0 percent from deep, but there was a lot of great stuff on defense when it comes to defending the drives, collapsing in the paint, rotations, and taking advantages away.

Defending Brunson, Using Butler Differently, Exploiting Knicks’ Overhelping, 1/5/23

He’s been used away from the ball more often to score. He’s not getting the same space or the shots that he did against the Bucks. They played a much more conservative defense that needed that kind of defense to get any type of looks or force the defense to do something else. Against the Knicks’ defense, it’s a bit different.

Plenty of Adjustments, Getting Gabe Going, Bam’s Defense & Running Point, 28/4/23

This has been a very common action throughout the series, but they went to it a lot in this game. At first, it was the usual action with Butler attacking and setting up Kevin Love for 3, but then as the Bucks adjusted, the Heat added some counters.

Breaking Down Butler’s Legendary Performance, 26/4/23

For a guy that averaged just under 23 points per game in the regular season and never averaged more than 25 in a season — even in the playoffs until last year, he never reached 25 — he has been able to score at will.

Protecting the Paint, Duncan’s DHOs, Defending Butler, Deflections!, 23/4/23

The Bucks had a 20.2% turnover percentage, including 13 live turnovers. One of the ways the Heat did that was by pressuring the ball handlers more and fighting like hell to deflect any pass.

Size Matters, Need More on Offense, Targeting Portis, 21/4/23

If the Bucks want Bobby Portis or Joe Ingles with Lopez and have someone who’s 6-foot-11 defend a guard, the best choice is to put that defender into action.

We Got Shooters(for now), Butler Taking Over & Bam Needs to do the Same, 17/4/23

Let’s start with the obvious — shooting 15-for-25 will make your offense look great. They weren’t difficult shots for the most part. A lot of them were the shots you want your offense to generate and need your players to make:

An Unfortunate Ending to a Tough Series, 30/6/22

This game was a pretty good representation of why this even went to Game 7. It was all because Jimmy Butler has shown that he is one of the elite players in the league and has earned himself the right to be in that same conversation amongst other superstars.

Historic Game from Jimmy Butler Forces Game 7

21 players have put 40–8–8 in the playoffs. You add his steals and it’s only three other players. Then you add that he shot 50 percent or better and you get a list of LeBron James and Michael Jordan. That’s a pretty decent company to be with.

Lowry’s Immediate Impact, Oladipo’s Stellar Defense, Adebayo Going to Work

It was clear from the start the goal was to get Adebayo going. He started the first quarter with a game-high nine shots and 12 points — he had a 40.9 percent usage. He heard all of the criticism because the way he got those shots up were the ones that fans were asking for.

Struggling to Create Advantages & Poor Defense Doesn’t Help Either

This was a bad game on both ends and this emphasized both issues. By not being able to get stops, it meant fewer opportunities in transition and more against a set defense. By not making shots, it meant more transition opportunities for the Celtics. The Heat were getting beat on both ends — per Cleaning the Glass, they had a 105.1 offensive rating (27th percentile) and a 145.6 defensive rating (1st and the worst this season by 14! points per 100 possessions)

Turd Quarter, No More; Heat Dominate in the Third

On the other end of the floor, this was a Jimmy Butler game. Butler is that guy. He finished the game with 41 points on 12-for-19 shooting, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals, and three blocks. If he managed to get one more block and two more steals, this would have been the highest-scoring game with a 5x5.

Heat Annihilate & Eliminate Sixers, Back to the Eastern Conference Finals, 14/5/22

Despite the 76ers being able to win two games in a row, there was never a time when I thought they were the better team. Prior to Game 6, the Heat had an advantage over the 76ers in almost every key stat — attempts and percentage at the rim, the paint, mid-range, fewer turnovers, more offensive rebounds, more 2nd-chance points, and I can go on and on. The only thing the 76ers had the Heat beat was 3-point shooting.

Plenty of Defensive Adjustments, Shooters Shoot at Home, 12/5/22

The key change was how they were defending actions involving Joel Embiid and Harden. In the two previous games, the defense against their pick-and-rolls was to switch. Whenever the switch happened, the player would front Embiid in the post and have additional help coming from behind.

Get Butler Some Help, Bam Denies, Embiid As He Puts On Defensive Clinic, 10/5/22

The main story, though, is the lack of help he had on the offense. In the past two games, the shooters have been bricking more shots than they have the entire season. The Heat went 6-for-34 on open or wide-open 3s. Now, that’s both encouraging and quite annoying. The fact that the offense is still able to generate these open shots is a good thing. It’s annoying that the best shooting team this regular season can’t buy a bucket.

Miami’s Passiveness On Offense, Reluctance to Shoot, Dumb Defensive Mistakes, 8/5/22

One of the key differences between the first two games and the last game was their numbers in the pick-and-roll (PnR). In Game 1 and Game 2 combined, per InStat the Heat scored 1.39 points per possession (PPP) as the ball-handler on 18 possessions per game. They also scored 1.62 PPP as the roller. These numbers looked awfully different in Game 3, where they scored 0.81 PPP as the ball-handler and 0.63 as the roller.

Butler the Pick-and-Roll Maestro, Taking Harden Out of the Game, 5/5/22

In the first game, I discussed how the 76ers defended Butler’s PnRs. The plan was to prevent him from using the screen and keep it on the side. The Heat also went with having PJ Tucker in the corner, so when the defense did force Butler to the side, there was additional help coming off the strong side corner. There was one empty-side PnR, but that was still defended the same way.

Herro and Adebayo Connection, Isolation Hurting the 76ers, 5/5/22

In the second half, the Heat went to a lot of pick-and-roll involving Tyler Herro and Adebayo — for good reasons, though — trips involving them in a pick-and-roll generated 1.7 points per possession (PPP), as per Nekias Duncan from the Dunker Spot (go listen and subscribe!)

Culture vs. Process: Heat-Sixers Meet Again (Second-Round Preview), 2/5/22

Nevertheless, there could still be some takeaways that will be useful to answer these key questions for this series. How will they defend Embiid? How will they defend both Harden and Tyrese Maxey? Who’s series will this be on offense?

No Lowry, No Butler, No Problem, 30/4/22

This game showed that it doesn’t matter who was out and who’s playing. It’s the next-man-up mentality with Erik Spoelstra going to work in his lab. It’s what this whole season has been all about.

Oladipo’s Debut, Defense Stepping Up, Some Tucker Love, 26/4/22

Another interesting point was Tucker’s involvement. Before this season, you could have made a solid prediction about his role on the offensive end — stay in the corner and shoot 3s. That changed a lot in Miami. He was involved in more hand-offs, pick-and-rolls, and post-ups.

Heat Falter Late, Clutch Time Tendencies Resurface, Hawks Exploit Overhelping Defense, 24/4/22

This has been the case for the Heat — and also for the entire league this year and every year, but no one wants to talk about it — all season long. The Heat don’t have clutch issues because they lack a closer that can make these tough fadeaway shots. This is a bad shot for anyone in the league, including your pure hoopers, such as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Heat’s clutch issues are that they go away from what works and settle for hero ball.

Butler’s Showing He’s the Best Player in the Series, 22/4/22

One thing that stands out from Butler’s high-scoring games is how easy most of the points are. The majority of his points come from either at the line or at the rim, but he makes them look so effortless. In this game, per InStat, he scored 14 points on seven transition possessions.

Heat Lockdown Young with Elite Defensive Performance, 18/4/22

This was probably the best defensive game I’ve seen from the Heat all year. This was an outstanding performance for everyone. The highlight of the night was holding Young to eight points, 1-of-12 shooting, 0-for-7 from deep, and six turnovers. He was, quite literally, in jail.