Coup’s Notebook Vol. 62: The Organization, Trust And Stability Of Veterans Kyle Lowry, Kevin Love And Jimmy Butler, And What Miami Should Be Shooting

The Miami HEAT are 15-11, No. 5 in the Eastern Conference with a Net Rating of +1.3, No. 15 in the league. With a pair of baseball series against Charlotte and Chicago over with and a game winner from Jimmy Butler on the ledger, here’s what we’ve been noting and noticing.


Unquestionably one of the best moments of the season so far, Butler’s game-winning jumper over Coby White seems a rather simple affair. One hard dribble, step back and rise up over a smaller defender and Butler had himself his second game-winning shot with under a second remaining in a HEAT uniform – tying him with LeBron James, Tim Hardaway and Voshon Lenard for second on the franchise leaderboard, trailing only Dwyane Wade’s three such shots.

Of course, much more goes into a possession like that than just the shot. The first thing most people noticed in real time was that Erik Spoelstra opted not to call a timeout, something he said he did both strategically and almost out of a sense of debt to the game, noting how neither team calling timeouts in the last three minutes of the game was such a great experienced for the fans.

“What a buzzkill that would have been,” Spoelstra said of the possibility of calling a timeout.

Even without a stoppage, Butler didn’t just run up the floor and immediately go into isolation mode. Kevin Love and Kyle Lowry set a double-high screen on the left wing to get White switched onto Butler – setting the double makes it tougher for DeMar DeRozan to fight through, forcing either Nikola Vucevic or White to slide out onto the ball – and that call is coming from the veteran point guard.

“It’s more so Kyle telling everybody what to do. He’s the PG, he’s the one that’s getting everyone to their spots,” Butler said.

“He’s just nonstop talking,” Caleb Martin said. “He’s just letting us know as we’re walking, we’re talking, organizes stuff, who goes first, who goes second.”

As Butler brings the ball up the floor, watch how Lowry waves Love up to set the first screen, knowing that if Lowry sets the second screen it increases the likelihood that White will end up on Butler.

Notebook 62: Lowry Organizes Game Winner

The team still has to get properly set up after the switch to make it more difficult, or at least more of a risk-reward proposition by elongating the closeout to a shooter, for help to come. That’s why Butler takes the ball out wide before making his move to go back middle.

“Whenever I sweep, I’m just giving our team the time to get to the correct spacing so I can get into a move,” Butler said.”

“He does do that, drags it a little wide, it gives us an extra second to get the spacing right,” Martin said. “It also tells you how mentally locked in he is with the time on the clock and where guys are on the floor. He just does such a great job of manipulating the defense and getting to his spots.”

Love added that he took Vucevic down to the dunker spot, rather than space out to the wing, because they were trying to clear the elbows as much as possible. If Love is on the arc, joining Lowry up top and Martin in the left corner, then DeRozan could have helped off Lowry knowing he had two teammates nearby to cover shooters one pass away. With Love down low, DeRozan had no backup and help would have meant an open three for Lowry.

Even with the spacing perfect as it was, Chicago had been doubling Butler on many of the previous possessions – the Bulls scrambling after the double is part of why Miami scored on three consecutive offensive rebounds to stay in the game – and they could have done so again, but doubling requires five players to know what’s coming. If DeRozan had doubled and his teammates not known it was coming, it’s even tougher for help to be on time and on target. With no stoppage, Bulls coach Billy Donovan had no time to set up rules, such as doubling specifically when the clock ticked below five seconds.

“That’s the beauty of not calling a timeout there,” Love said.

“If we had called a timeout there probably would have been a different scheme, we probably would have been jammed up,” Spoelstra said. “The likelihood of getting that kind of shot would have been much less.”

Chicago’s best shot in real time may have been for Patrick Williams, on Jaime Jaquez Jr. in the corner, to pre-switch himself onto Lowry, but again that takes communication and preparation. There’s a certain irony to all this, too, in that White defended Butler’s shot about as well as could have possibly been expected. White just didn’t quite have the length to get to the ball, which is why you hunt that specific matchup in the first place.

Not calling a timeout on those possessions always sounds great, but having veterans processing, communicating and setting things up in real time will give any coach the confidence to do so.


Speaking of confidence in veterans, on Monday night in Charlotte Erik Spoelstra made a choice he has almost never made.

As the HEAT protected a lead against a Terry Rozier-led Hornets fourth-quarter surge, Charlotte found themselves with the ball down three, no timeouts left, and 9.8 seconds on the clock. Every coach has a different philosophy in those situations, and when Jimmy Butler immediately fouled Rozier on the inbounds to put Rozier on the line for two shots, any longtime HEAT observers found themselves surprised because Erik Spoelstra’s philosophy has always been to play those possessions out.

“Jimmy came into the huddle and he said he felt most comfortable doing that,” Spoelstra said afterwards. “He’s the guy I definitely feel the most trust that he can make the proper decision.”

Trust is the key word there. Part of the reason coaches choose not to foul in those situations is because if the other team has a player smart enough to expect it, they can try to draw a three-shot shooting foul in the process. Spoelstra also brought up what happened last season when Jaylen Brown forced overtime, in a game Miami won anyway, with desperation three. With Charlotte not having any timeouts with which to advance the ball as Miami’s next set of free-throws – you also have to trust that your players will convert a pair – he chose to trust his star. It doesn’t matter what any time and score formula or algorithm tells you if you don’t trust the players involved to properly place an X into a X+Y=Z equation.

In the past 11 seasons, this is only the third instance we could find of Miami fouling up three in the last 10 seconds of a game. To the surprise of nobody, Butler was involved in all three. Last March 10 against Cleveland, Butler intentionally fouled Donovan Mitchell as Mitchell streaked up the court. It’s unclear whether or not that was Butler’s plan all along, but as soon as Mitchell got a step on him the foul was immediate. Then, all the way back in 2019 against Chicago, Butler fouled Zach LaVine after LaVine turned and got a step going towards the arc. Now, you could make an argument that neither was the same situation as against Charlotte as neither foul was immediate on the inbounds, but you could also argue that Butler was smart enough to eat up some clock and still foul once he didn’t like where the ball was going.

Whichever way you look at it, whether Butler called an audible in real time or not, Monday night was either the only time or only the third time the HEAT have fouled up three in over a decade. And Butler is the only player Spoelstra has trusted to make those decisions.


Miami’s lineup numbers are a bit of a mess. With so many players missing time, they’ve already used 14 different starting groups. They don’t have a single lineup that has played over 100 minutes where the four teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference (Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Orlando) all have lineups above or near 200 minutes. The sample sizes are all too small for the numbers behind five-man groups to mean much of anything, particularly with Miami having faced the easiest schedule in the league so far according to Basketball-Reference.com.

The stories of the past few weeks have largely been the resurgence of Duncan Robinson, with his tweaked offensive profile and greater pick-and-roll usage, and the surgence of rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr., but within that same timeframe Miami has had remarkable stability brought on by the veterans, 37-year old Lowry, 35-year old Love and 34 year-old Butler, without whom Robinson and Jaquez Jr. wouldn’t have a productive environment to thrive in. When those three players have been on the floor together, 229 minutes in all, Miami is +7.9 per 100 possessions with an Offensive Rating of 121.0 and Defensive Rating of 113.2. Yes, the HEAT have been shooting extraordinarily well during those minutes, more on that in a moment, but those are numbers that give you a chance to win every night, especially when one of your younger players pop offensively.

What’s more, in the games that both Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro have missed Miami, in 168 minutes, is +8.9 per 100 with Love playing center, a five-out ecosystem which clears the paint for everyone else to attack. Defensively, those lineups have allowed 119 per 100, which may be an issue against better opponents – not that Miami’s other defensive groups have been particularly great without Adebayo, either – but the offense has been so goosed it’s been a dramatically positive look that’s helped keep the team’s head above water during this stretch.

The young guys are always fun to talk about as their skillsets change and evolve and we learn more about them, but the older players are there for a reason. Having Lowry and Love out there making the right passes, getting the team out in transition and setting up Butler at the right moments has been hugely important.


As of December 17, the HEAT lead the league in three-point shooting at 39.1 percent, even better than the 37.9 percent they led the league with two seasons ago. Historically this group has had among the toughest three-point Shot Quality marks in the league, according to Second Spectrum’s player tracking, and while those numbers have improved somewhat – again, they’ve faced more Bottom 10 defenses than Top 20 defenses, so things will likely change some – they’re only up to No. 23 in the Shot Quality rankings. Even with that scorching shooting, the HEAT are only No. 13 in Offensive Rating, No. 13 in the half-court and No. 13 against Bottom 10 defenses. In other words, league-best shooting has been good enough for about average offense. It’s very possible that the shooting cools off as Adebayo and Herro return, so it’ll be interesting to see if the HEAT, currently with the fifth-lowest rim rate in the league, can compensate on the interior.

That’ll be something to talk about another day, though. For now, let’s address the idea that this is what the HEAT should be doing, that because they were No. 1 in the league in 2021-22 and No. 27 last season before shooting historically well in the postseason, this is where this team is supposed to be.

It’s hard to say that considering how different the roster is. Of the HEAT’s Top 10 players in three-point attempts in 2021-22 only five of them remain on the roster. Those five have attempted about 57 percent of Miami’s threes this season. There’s no baseline, no should be, with a rookie like Jaquez Jr. shooting 39.2 percent from deep, and the player with the third-most attempts in Love wasn’t even on the team until after the All-Star break last year. Butler is sitting at 38 percent on his highest volume in years.

The current leaders in attempts, Robinson and Lowry, both had down seasons last year, Lowry at 34.5 percent playing through a knee injury for stretches of the season and Robinson at 32.8 percent playing through a finger injury, and inconsistent rotational minutes, that eventually needed surgery. They’re much closer to what they should be now that they’re both healthy, though Lowry’s 43.9 percent is a career-high by a wide margin and will likely come down some.

Should Miami be the best shooting team in the league? We probably can’t say that. Robinson and Lowry are healthy, and that matters a ton, but there has otherwise been too much roster turnover to say they should definitively be here. It’s safer to say that Miami shouldn’t be a Bottom 5 shooting team. As for the rest, we’ll see.

The three-point volume remains down, however, as only 35.4 percent of the HEAT’s shots are coming from three, No. 15 in the league. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially as Herro and Adebayo return with their expanded offensive games, because of how two-point prowess translates to slower postseason basketball, but it does bring into question how scalable the volume is against matchups which require it. Two years ago Miami had 28 games (34 percent of the season) with at least 40 three-point attempts – many of those coming when Adebayo missed a month – and last year they had 14 (17 percent of games). This year they’ve topped 40 attempts just once in 26 games (3.8 percent). Again, this is neither good nor bad right now, it just is. But considering Miami is No. 23 in two-point percentage at 52.3 percent – right where Adebayo was before his injury and above Herro’s norm – this team’s offensive profile is too different these days to say what happened two years ago is simply repeating itself.


-Miami’s crash rate on offensive rebound chances is at a three-year low right now as Spoelstra emphasizes transition defense, but Butler was only in position to beat Chicago Saturday night because of three consecutive second-chance scores, the first of which came from Caleb Martin, who said he got more aggressive on the glass at that moment because those late-game minutes are, “prime ball watching time” for the defensive team. Just as a coach has control of a team’s rebounding philosophy, so too can players flip that switch when the moment calls for it.

-Welcome back Haywood Highsmith, who still leads the league in points-per-isolation allowed (30+ possessions) despite DeMar DeRozan hitting an incredibly tough jumper on him Saturday night. One isolation that wasn’t logged as such came in the second half when Highsmith picked DeRozan’s crossover dribble cleanly, a move Highsmith said he “could see coming”. Highsmith was in the starting lineup before his lower back injury so keep an eye on his place in the rotation once Herro and Adebayo return.

-Butler is currently taking fewer shots at the rim, as a percentage of his total attempts, than at any point in his career other than his 2017-18 season in Minnesota. At least, that’s according to play-by-play data. The tracking data says his rim attempts (7.2 per 100) are down from last year but above his rate in his first three HEAT seasons. In other words, it’s all a matter of perspective at the moment, though Butler’s finishing on those shots (60.6 percent) is well below his averages. Worth noting here that Age 33/34 is about where Dwyane Wade’s rim attempts and efficiency started to drop off a little, which is normal for most players at that point in their careers.