Coup’s Takeaways: HEAT’s Defense, Bench Dominant In Defeating Blazers

by Couper Moorhead
HEAT.com

1. A few weeks ago Kyle Lowry was ejected in the second quarter at Portland, and tonight Jimmy Butler as ejected in the second quarter at home against Portland. In that first game, with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler already out, P.J. Tucker took the reins of the offense and led Miami to victory, but this one was all about Caleb Martin. Martin, who previously set his career-high of 28 in an incredible December victory over Milwaukee, had 15 in the second half, 26 in total, including one poster dunk on Jusuf Nurkic and a pull-up three in transition that was the first shot of that type he had taken all season.

Eventually Adebayo (20 points on 12 shots) kicked it in to high gear with a handful of late scores, but it was the defense that sealed the deal. Portland scored just 12 points in the fourth quarter, five points in the last five minutes, and at times could barely get the ball inside the three-point line much less into the paint. If you want a preview of what the HEAT defense could look like in the postseason, even without Butler and Lowry, find a way to watch the closing stretch of this one. A monster defensive performance.

2. Plus-Minus is an imperfect stat, and you have to know what you’re looking at when you use it, but sometimes it’s the most elegant way to describe what happened in a game. McCollum and Simons were each plus-6, and Dennis Smith Jr. – who we’ll use as a marker for the bench unit – was a -22 in his 13 minutes as Portland was scoring just 42.9 points per 100 possessions when he was in the game.

Miami’s bench scored 58 points. Portland’s scored 12. The more players the HEAT lose to injuries or protocols or ejections or what have you, the more power the remaining guys seem to gain.

3. Portland is typically a highly perimeter oriented team even on a normal night when healthy, but against Miami’s paint-protecting scheme their offense was almost entirely three-point focused. They shot well in the first half, 11-of-26 from three – McCollum and Simons each adding 20 – but compare those 33 points beyond the arc to just 12 points in the paint and it felt like just a matter of time before a cool shooting stretch or two would be all Miami needed to create some separation.

Portland did indeed go cold from three, shooting 3-of-20 from three after the break, but the separation was delayed as Portland found just enough getting to the rim. Truth be told, it didn’t matter if the Blazers were shooting well or not in the last five minutes, Portland could barely even get a half-decent shot off, or any shot off, as the defense suffocated every action and jammed every lane.

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