In last year’s playoffs, the Miami Heat weren’t the most talented NBA team. But all of their pieces clicked at the right time and everyone played their role. They rode the cinderella story into the NBA Finals and upset the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks on the way. This time around, the Miami Heat talent isn’t enough to get the job done.
After falling behind two games to none to the Bucks in a 34 point blowout, this is apparent. The roster is mostly the same from a year ago minus Derrick Jones Jr, Kelly Olynyk, and Jae Crowder. But the latter two players specifically would’ve been a massive help to the Heat’s playoff run in 2021. This is why the Miami Heat talent isn’t enough to beat the Bucks.
The Miami Heat Talent Isn’t Enough To Beat The Milwaukee Bucks
The Heat Are Missing Olynyk and Crowder
The reasons Olynyk and Crowder aren’t on the team are known. Crowder’s contract in free agency was more than the Heat could afford. And Olynyk was dealt alongside Avery Bradley for Victor Oladipo. Oladipo was supposed to be the third star before his season-ending injury. And although the Heat had the season to adjust, the fact remains they’re less deep and less athletic than last year. More importantly, they’re having to rely on their stars more this postseason as a result.
Crowder and Olynyk both played the role of power forward last year and had similar roles. Crowder was responsible for locking down one of the opposing team’s top two scorers and hitting 44.5 percent of his threes in the regular season. Olynyk was also a floor spacer (40.6 percent from deep) but not as athletic a defender as Crowder. After Olynyk was traded this year, he averaged 19 points on 54.5 percent shooting from the field.
To combat these losses, Erik Spoelstra has Trevor Ariza who provides some three-point shooting ability. But he lacks athleticism on defense at age 35 and hasn’t had a lot of time to fit into Miami’s system. Spoelstra also has a 37-year-old Andre Iguodala who’s played a career-low 14.5 minutes through the first two games. Because of this, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have to shoulder the majority of the pressure offensively.
The Heat Are Asking Too Much From Their Stars
The Miami Heat talent doesn’t have enough on offense and their best players are having to exert more energy as a result. In the series so far, the Bucks have manhandled the Heat in the paint, 102 to 68. They’ve also outrebounded the Heat 139 to 105 with their size and length advantage. Adebayo was a DPOY winner in the eyes of some but has had his work cut out for him going against Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
In the regular season, Adebayo made 57 percent of his field goals and 79.9 of his free throws. In the Bucks series thus far he’s averaging a dismal 34.6 percent from the field and 70.0 percent from the line. On top of that, he missed a handful of easy shots in game one that could’ve been difference makers in a two-point game. He and the team as a whole have been dominated on the offensive glass by 15 in two games.
Butler has played worse than Adebayo offensively. During game one he turned it over six times and was 4/22 from the floor, including two of nine from downtown. His shot selection was questionable at times in that game. And in game two, he wasn’t actively looking for his shot despite being down by 20 to 30 points most of the game. Butler’s only shot 24 percent from three in his Heat tenure. But without him attacking the paint and initiating ball movement around the perimeter, the Heat offense will continue to stagnate. Especially since the shooters from the 2020 campaign have leveled off in 2021.
The Heat Shooters Didn’t Evolve In 2021
The Heat averaged the 5th least amount of points in the paint in 2021. Instead, their offense shot the 11th most threes and relied on crisp ball movement to find the best shot. Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro are often the recipients of those shots. But both regressed in terms of their three-point percentage. Unlike last season where the Heat had the second-best percentage from three, they finished 19th in 2021.
Herro especially has been receiving criticism for his regression this season. After an impressive year as a rookie, the Heat thought they had the next Devin Booker on their hands. Instead, Herro’s free throw percentage dropped seven points and his threes fell at just 36 percent. He didn’t take the step as a shot creator and scorer the Heat were relying on.
The biggest x-factors of the rest of the series will be Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn. If it weren’t for Dragic’s injury in last year’s NBA Finals, the series would’ve played a lot more competitively. Dragic has been the shining light through these playoffs shooting 40 percent from three and is the teams’ leading scorer. When Dragic is hot, the defense has to worry about him.
Nunn put up 14.6 points in his 56 games this year, solidifying that his rookie campaign last year wasn’t a fluke. The guards have to go against who’s been a menace all season on defense. But if one or both of them get hot, the Heat becomes much more dangerous.
The Miami Heat Won’t Go Down Without A Fight
The Miami Heat talent won’t be enough to win the seven-game series. That said, after getting obliterated and embarrassed in game two, the Heat won’t lay down and quit. The next two games are in Miami, and Spoelstra has already said he needs his team to be tougher. Game three of the Finals last year was the Heat’s best performance. We’ll see if that could repeat itself and where the series heads from here.