Coup’s Takeaways: HEAT Fall Short To Warriors
1. The story of the game is not the game, it’s that Jimmy Butler was carried off the floor with a few minutes left in the third quarter with an apparent right ankle injury. While we await word on the extent of it, it’s clear that the potential repercussions of a simple back-down move are far more important than the events of January 3.
Before Butler (22 points) was removed, he and Lowry (11 assists) were putting together a tour de force performance of random offense. Golden State’s switching defense and smart defenders – so many cutting and lob lanes has a hand or two in them, as Miami posted 18 turnovers – took the HEAT out of their typical flow, so the pair of All-Star vets manufactured on the fly, making quick read-and-react passes and attacking mismatches with what almost approached a postseason diet. You don’t want to have to rely on random offense all the time, but that inevitably what playoff games often turn into.
2. From the moment Butler went out – and Lowry picked up his fifth foul in the third quarter – the game suddenly had a very loose feel to it, and to Miami’s credit they took advantage with an incredible run of shotmaking (17-of-41 from three overall) that prevented the Warriors from extending their lead past 10 until late in the fourth quarter.
Credit Tyler Herro (4-of-13 from three), who started the last two games slowly but shot himself back into rhythm in each, Kyle Guy (4-of-8 from three), who made some wild threes on his way to 14 points, and P.J. Tucker (2-of-3), back in the lineup after a leg injury and health and safety protocols, for keeping Miami in striking distance as it was a five-point game with a little over five minutes to play. Golden State never panicked and their offense never wavered, but the HEAT never stopped coming.
3. While he’s certainly had his nights, the HEAT have traditionally defended Steph Curry very well. What’s most interesting is that while Erik Spoelstra will often go straight to a blitzing pick-and-roll coverage against dynamic shooters, he’s been reticent to do so with Curry in the past since Curry and Draymond Green are practically black-belt master at playing into the blitz and attacking 4-on-3 situations. Instead, Spoelstra trusts his longest wing defender – Caleb Martin did the yeoman’s work tonight – to chase Curry over the top of screens. Sure, Curry is going to have to miss some shots he usually makes to go 3-of-17 for an entire game (nine points total, his first single-digit scoring game since 2019), but HEAT more than did their usual part on him.
The problem, then, was that the Warriors offense (39 assists) had great rhythm all night even with their best player slumping. Miami, still playing players who were signed just last week, was beat by a number of backdoor cutters for open layups that sustained the scoring even when their jumpers weren’t falling. For the night, Golden State’s halfcourt offense hit 103.4 points-per-play (would Rank No. 1 in the league for the season), and their Shot Quality, while it doesn’t count on the scoreboard, was superior throughout.