We'll have more on the Robert Sarver situation in Phoenix on the Lowe Post podcast today, but in the meantime, here's this season's second 10 Things -- starring the 6-2 Miami Heat, some superstar big men, bad fouls, and more.
1. The Miami Heat half-court symphony
This may be the most Heat team ever -- straight out of Pat Riley central casting. It bleeds #HeatCulture.
That is most obvious on defense, where the Heat are even more ferocious than they appeared on paper -- a snarling, bumping, switching machine that cackles while smothering you into submission. They rank second in points allowed per possession, behind only the Golden State Warriors.
Miami's four best defenders -- Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, and P.J. Tucker -- can switch pretty much anything. Offenses target the fifth guy, but the Heat are confident those four can help without yielding profitable shots. Things get dicier when two of Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, Max Strus, or Caleb Martin are on the floor, but such lineups have defended well so far.
The real story is the offense -- or it was, until the Boston Celtics' switchy defense ground it to dust in an emphatic win Thursday that encapsulated why some preseason observers (including this one) pegged Boston as a top-six lock in the East. (More Aaron Nesmith, please!)
That game dropped Miami to No. 4 in offense, and portended issues they might have against versatile defenses. Still: If Miami maintains a top-eight-ish offense, the Heat are likely a title contender. I'm still slightly skeptical they can continue scoring at that level -- and worried about their ability to withstand injury -- but their start has forced everyone to recalibrate expectations.
Analysis has focused on Miami's renewed zest for offensive rebounding, Herro's scorching brilliance, and Lowry kicking the Heat into a new gear. (Seriously, Miami plays two styles: super-fast Lowry-ball, and then normal basketball when Lowry rests.) But don't overlook the sheer beauty of what these guys do in the half court. The Heat are light on outside shooting, but compensate with overflowing hoops IQ. Within 10-square-foot areas, the Heat write basketball symphonies -- rapid-fire cuts, screens, fake screens, and wink-wink passes that crescendo into easy shots:
Lowry misses, but wow, what a buildup of delicious subtleties. Robinson sees Butler streaking toward him, and leans in for a hand-off. Robinson's defender bites, and Robinson pivots backdoor for a potential corner 3. Two defenders swarm Robinson -- unlocking Butler's cut.
Even Tucker, Old Man Corner Statue, is catching these vibes and working with Robinson on little games within the game:
The Heat have barely scratched the surface of the Butler-Lowry two-man game, and the inverted Adebayo-Lowry pick-and-roll -- with Lowry as screener.
Herro, averaging 20 points off the bench, has amplified everything by becoming way more decisive. He's rocketing off screens and handoffs, and dishing slick dimes at full speed:
Herro's first step is at a completely different level, like he went to First Step Summer School. He is blowing past defenders (other than Boston's Jaylen Brown, who stonewalled him), and cracking several feet of space for step-back jumpers.