Coup’s Notebook Vol. 61: A Question We Never Thought We’d Ask, New Matchups For Jimmy Butler, How We Talk About Rebounding And Miami’s Threes

The Miami HEAT are 12-10, No. 9 in the Eastern Conference with a Net Rating of +1.0, No. 16 in the league. With the two In-Season Tournament additions to the schedule done with the HEAT have two baseball series coming up, first against the Charlotte Hornets and then with another pair against the Chicago Bulls. Here’s what we’ve been noting and noticing.


A strange thing happened Friday night against Cleveland. No, Duncan Robinson did not make a three, going 0-of-6 in 23 minutes, but even if it was his first game of the season without a triple that doesn’t make it strange. Every shooter has off nights, even those hovering around the league lead in percentages, and Robinson missing a few open looks and a few contested ones is just how it goes.

What was strange was that Robinson, who has nearly quadrupled the rate at which he attempts two-pointers from any point in his career, only took one shot that wasn’t a three for just the second time this season, the other coming against an excellent defensive team in Boston. Which leaves us to ask a question that would have felt entirely out of place before the past month: why didn’t Duncan Robinson attempt more two pointers?

Just two nights earlier in Toronto, Robinson had tied his career-high with nine two-point attempts and set a career-high with six two-point makes – also dropping from seven assists to just one between the two games. Why the sudden drop off? All you have to do is look at the defense.

It helped that Toronto had a series of breakdowns on Wednesday, losing Robinson on off-ball cuts or, in the case of Dennis Schroeder, literally standing at the top of the arc defending nobody while Robinson walked off a pick for his first dunk in two years and the eleventh of his career. There was also one possession where Robinson, on a short clock, took Precious Achiuwa off the dribble in isolation and hit a mid-range jumper. Those things happen, even if the Schroeder mistake was one of the more bizarre mistakes you’ll see all year. Let’s put all those possessions aside and focus on what Toronto did with a little more purpose.

Take this simple play, for example. Robinson simply coming around an Orlando Robinson pick and, with Achiuwa back off the line, was able to walk into a three.

Notebook 60: Duncan Drop Three

“If they drop, it’s going to be tough to drop on Duncan because the next time he gets a screen he’s going to shoot a three,” Orlando Robinson said.

This doesn’t quite get into why he took so many two-pointers in that game, but it does show the relative lack of pressure Robinson was feeling with the ball in his hands. We’re getting there. Now, watch this next clip and see how Toronto plays Robinson.

Notebook 60: Duncan Drop Floater

Again, relatively soft, retreating coverage even if Jakob Poeltl starts off higher up on the screen. Teams aren’t going to freak out too much about a driving floater, though surely this one could have been contested better, but again nothing was stopping Robinson from getting into what has increasingly become his comfort zone.

Finally, here’s a similar possession from later in that same fourth quarter, with Orlando Robinson shadowing Duncan’s movements.

Notebook 60: Duncan Driving Lane Assist

“I have to stay with [Duncan], I can’t leave him,” Orlando Robinson said. “I have to stay lined up with him. If the big is all the way down I have to stay in the little pocket so that if he doesn’t score it, and the big is all the way back, then I get it and that’s a finish.”

Not a two-point attempt, but Robinson is able to get into the lane and create the assist opportunity for two reasons: Poeltl drops back and concedes space while Schroeder provides minimal help on Robinson’s dribble. The lack of pressure on one of Miami’s primary offensive threats, especially that night with Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro out, was noticeable.

Now watch these three possessions from Friday in Cleveland and see if you catch the differences.

Notebook 60: Cleveland Duncan Coverage

First possession, Jarrett Allen is right up to touch on the ball as Robinson catches coming off an Orlando Robinson screen. Robinson eventually loses his dribble because everyone was having turnover issues that night, but there was no immediate read available to him as Allen’s positioning allows Max Strus to recover. No shot, no drive. Next possession, Dean Wade is up at the arc as Robinson comes off the screen and while Robinson makes the correct read to try the pocket pass – which he’s generally been very good at this season – the ball is deflected.

“It just got deflected,” Orlando Robinson said, “but more often than not we get that pass through.”

And on the third possession, Strus pinches off Josh Richardson, just like Miami does so often, into Robinson’s airspace to stall the action while Georges Niang plays a little further back to hold onto Orlando Robinson’s role.

Could Robinson and the rest of the team handled these coverages better? Without a doubt, especially where the pocket pass to Orlando Robinson was available. They’ve been better for much of the season. But Cleveland is a good defensive team and they were able to combine smart gameplanning with good activity and execution.

Every player, every team has good games, bad games and games in between that, aesthetically, just look a little different. Sometimes things are out of their control, which is why watching the defense is just as instructive. Anyone watching Saturday’s In-Season Tournament finale saw something similar, with the Los Angeles Lakers blitzing the ball out of Tyrese Haliburton’s hands and Indiana unable to make them pay down the stretch.


Whenever a team tries something new, or reattempts an old strategy, against a star player it’s also worth taking stock, especially when those strategies intersect with some of that star’s least efficient games of the season, whether directly responsible or not.

During the first week of the season, new Milwaukee head coach Adrian Griffin made the move to put Giannis Antetokounmpo on Jimmy Butler from the very first possession of the game, a move Mike Budenholzer had previously been reticent to make despite the success the Bucks had had with that matchup in sweeping Miami out of the 2021 postseason. Last week, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle decided to use 6-foot-9 stretch power forward Obi Toppin on Butler full time, and this Friday Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff used Tristan Thompson, effectively a center in today’s game, on Butler for brief but noticeable stretches. Butler’s individual results varied, but one thing clear in all three games was that it was more difficult for Butler to get post-ups early in the clock as he likes to do, instead having to manipulate screens and use more clock to hunt the right matchups.

“It’s like there was a period of time where teams were putting centers on Giannis to try and give him more size and try to take away easy baskets, and then that started to become a bad thing,” Erik Spoelstra said after the loss to Cleveland. “I’m sure teams are calculating trying to get bigger bodies on Jimmy so he doesn’t get easy baskets. It’s a super small sample size. I feel like we’re going to be able to manage that and it’s good to go through a bunch of different things. Jimmy is at that level now where people are throwing a bunch of different things at him. He’s used to it, we’re used to it. I don’t necessarily think that that was a major factor in tonight.”

The common denominator in all three games was that Bam Adebayo was not available. Certainly, given Adebayo’s progression as a matchup-hunter and isolation scorer in his own right, having an elite big man available would make it tougher to pull away size to put on Butler – except in Milwaukee’s case with Brook Lopez also in the lineup. Miami has also been using Kevin Love at center quite a bit, lineups that are +15.5 per 100 possessions so far, and in Cleveland’s case that meant putting Donovan Mitchell on Love so Thompson, the center in those defensive lineups, could take Butler.

As Spoelstra said, it’s an extremely small sample size. Nothing means anything yet, other than that these matchups have been factors, big or small, in Miami losses. What we’ll learn going forward is whether or not this is a trend, whether teams are going into games planning to use size against Butler, or whether it’s more of a night-to-night, out-of-necessity choice coaches are making. Keep an eye out. For now, Toppin has 83 half-court matchups with Butler. The next closest player, Jeremy Sochan, has 42.


Recently on The Point Forward podcast with Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner, with Jayson Tatum as the guest, Iguodala had this to say to Tatum:

“I learned this in Miami, they are so good at finding your weakness. I was going to bring this up . . . in terms of them being your Detroit Pistons. The Miami HEAT have. It’s like the Jordan Rules, it’s the Tatum Rules. I’ve seen it put together. They will figure out what your weakness is. They’ll say after you take three dribbles, we’re doing this. It’s that detailed. Not like going left, not going right. After three dribbles we’re doing this, when it’s this much time on the shot clock, this triggers. After 15, this is the trigger. I’m like, Yo . . . I learned so much in that organization.”

That portion of the conversation spread around social media recently and it certainly tracks with what we’ve seen of Miami for years. Elite offensive players like Tatum – Luke Doncic and Nikola Jokic have notably taken Miami’s various schemes mostly in stride – have certainly had their share of success against the HEAT, postseason or otherwise, but outside of a scheme designed to limit rim attempts if you were going to say there was one thing Spoelstra and his staff do best on the defensive end its gameplan for specific stars. It’s the level of detail Iguodala is speaking about here that has a lot to do with that.


We talk about this every season at some point, but let’s do it again. Right now Miami is No. 28 in the NBA averaging just 40.7 rebounds per game. Doesn’t sound great, does it? But does it mean anything? Nope.

It does tell you a few things, though. First, it tells you that Miami is not playing at a very fast pace, No. 24 in averaging 98.6 possessions per game – a number that will likely come down after a pair of upcoming games against the Chicago Bulls, No. 30 in pace. Miami’s possession counts are typically lower because their defense tends to drag opposing possessions out – that hasn’t been the case lately, though that’s an effect of Adebayo missing time – they don’t play much in transition and their half-court offense cycles through multiple actions to find good looks. The lack of total rebounds also tells you that Miami has not been particularly interested in the offensive glass, as they’re No. 27 in Offensive Rebounding percentage, a ranking supporting by similarly low crash rates according to the tracking data. Offensive Rebounding rates that low often imply a focus on transition defense.

“I would like a little bit more attacks and opportunities to get second-chance opportunities,” Spoelstra said. “However these transition opportunities for opponents at key points in the game . . . we haven’t had guys back that lead to very deflating baskets. We have been emphasizing the last couple weeks getting a couple more guys back and I think that has affected our offensive rebounding as a result.”

The kicker is that Miami is actually fourth in the league in defensive rebounding percentage, by far the most important side of rebounding to be good at. Offensive rebounding is a choice. Defensive rebounding is one of two ways to finish a possession, the other also being a HEAT strength in forcing turnovers, without getting scored on.

Miami has been Top 5 in defensive rebounding percentage in two of the past five seasons, was No. 9 in another and their only “bad” rebounding year was the 2020-21 pandemic-shortened, reduced-offseason season everyone would rather forget. This roster build, anchored by Adebayo and Butler, has almost always been great or at least good on the defensive glass.

For the umpteenth year, please stop using raw rebounding totals or margins. That’s a habit we should have left back in the 1990’s.


-After leaving the first game against Indiana last week, Bam Adebayo had his career-long streak of 10 games with at least 20 points broken.

-Miami ranks No. 15 in the percent of their field goal attempts (35.1) that is coming from three, their lowest mark since acquiring Jimmy Butler before the 2019-20 season. They’re also taking the exact same rate of shots in the restricted area, 28.4 percent, as last year. Of course Miami is No. 13 in Offensive Rating, in part because they’ve made threes even at lower volume (38.3 percent) and because their turnovers have been so low outside of Friday night’s 18 against the Cavaliers.

“I’m not sure yet where exactly where we want to be,” Spoelstra said. “I just like where our offense has been other than this last Cleveland game. These last three weeks I like the direction it has been going, not only from a pace standpoint, identity standpoint, but a comfort and role standpoint. I’m encouraged by a lot of good things offensively, so if that means our three point rate is where it is and we’re being as aggressive as we are, that might be where we are.”

-We don’t have a perfect way of checking this, but as best we can tell Orlando Robinson recently became at least the third player to open a season making his first six three pointers before missing one in Toronto the other night, with Tony Parker and Keith Bogans having done that before. Patty Mills may hold the record there, opening the 2021 season with 10 consecutive three-point makes, while Oklahoma City Thunder guard opening his rookie season this year with five consecutive makes.

-Over his last six games Caleb Martin is averaging 17.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 59.1 percent true-shooting. With that stretch chock full of hard drives, acrobatic finishes and quick-twitch changes of direction – including a spin move Martin said felt good to use again – it’s fair to say he’s feeling much more like himself after starting the season with a knee injury.