Cup of Joe: On The Cusp Of Something Special
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
With a new year on the horizon, it’s time for everyone to get excited about what’s to come in 2020.
And in a lot of ways, it’s synonymous with how the HEAT have reignited and reinvigorated the fans, city and even the organization to an extent during this 2019-20 campaign thus far.
There’s no fancy stat you can use, but you can't help but think that there's something special about this group.
And while it's way too early to pontificate on what that means or how that'll translate come playoff time, you can feel it.
At the current moment, Miami is 15-1 at home and 11-3 in the clutch (five-point game in the last five minutes), including a perfect 6-0 in overtime.
(All of those are league-bests, by the way.)
Oh yeah, they’re also off to the third-best start in franchise history at 24-8.
Let’s find out how they’ve gotten the job done over the past two weeks.
The Return Of The Dragon/Herro Ball Late
Although the HEAT found ways to win more often than not when Goran Dragić was out of the lineup, that’s more a testament to the team’s depth than anything else.
Make no mistake about it: Miami really benefits with Dragić on the floor, especially down the stretch. His ability to create something out of nothing with pull-ups, nifty finishes and great feeds to his teammates is so valuable.
Since his return to action, Dragić leads the team with 36 points on 14-of-28 shooting in the fourth quarter and overtime period combined.
And for the season, the Dragon has a 63.2 eFG% on catch-and-shoot looks and a 52.7 eFG% on pull-ups.
“He’s one of the big winners in this league, and he’s done it on this side and on the other side of the pond,” Erik Spoelstra said. “You want to have champions on your side, and Goran is a champion. It helps immensely with young talent…it allows them just to go out there and play.”
One of the guys Dragić has really allowed to go out and play is Tyler Herro.
Time and time again, Herro has hit some pivotal buckets down the stretch.
(That was a rhetorical question.)
“He has [the knack for big moments],” Spoelstra said about Herro. “You’ve seen it over and over. He had that in college, so these are qualities that you can’t really define. You just know it when you see it. And he steps up and has bigger moments when the game is on the line.”
Speaking of having the game on the line, we can’t forget about these two huge buckets by Dragić against the Pacers and Sixers, with the former being the game-winner:
Long story short, Dragić and Herro know how to execute when it matters most.
Jones Jr. Still Slammin’ & Defendin’
When we last met in this space, we talked about how Derrick Jones Jr.’s return from injury really made a difference on the defensive end.
And, well, that’s continued to be the case.
Over the past two weeks, Jones Jr. has guarded the likes of Donovan Mitchell, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, Doug McDermott, Brandon Clarke and Josh Richardson, among others.
Above all else, though, he’s truly spearheaded the zone along with Jimmy Butler at the top and Bam Adebayo either on the block or up there with him at times on traps.
All told, Jones Jr. is holding his defensive assignments to just 38.7 percent shooting overall (60-of-155) and is ranked second on the squad with 17 deflections during the past two weeks (only Butler has more).
The 22-year-old forward understands how that helps create offense for both himself and others.
“My dunks are very flashy [and] electrifying, but I feel like my defense gets the team going,” Jones Jr. said. “[If] a guy gets a steal, we get a fast break or I get a block, we get a fast break or we just get a fast-break three because we have a lot of players, at any moment, that can go off for 12 in a row. So, it’s like [if] I get that stop, that’s possibly a chance for them to go on another streak.”
Here’s Jones Jr.’s biggest stop against the Pacers on Friday that sealed the victory:
But, I mean, his nickname is “Airplane Mode” for a reason.
Why not check out some of his best dunks of late, including a poster on Rudy Gobert?
Adebayo: The Ultimate Competitor
Of course, the guy tasked with matching up against Gobert in that aforementioned game was Adebayo.
But you know he’ll never back down from a challenge.
And it all came to a head against the Sixers on Saturday in overtime.
With the game tied at 114 with 35 seconds left, Adebayo got cut off by Joel Embiid on his initial drive. And after nearly losing the ball along the baseline, Adebayo gathered himself, took it right at Embiid again and finished the play.
“Bam took it as hard as he’s ever taken it on the baseline and somehow against, arguably, one of the best defensive centers in the league, got it up and over in the basket,” Spoelstra said. “That’s one of the toughest baskets Bam has scored in his career.”
Spoelstra continued later:
“Bam is a phenomenal competitor, and his game is growing. But his greatest strength is he competes, and he wants to take on different challenges. And Embiid is one of the best in the business…so Bam likes those. He respects the competition, and he wants to face it and see what happens.”
Adebayo echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“I feel like the level of competition is what makes me rise, and I feel like every player in the NBA should be like that,” he said.
From a broader perspective, Adebayo has helped the HEAT remain among the league’s elite in rebounding percentage at 52.8. Perhaps his most impressive outing in that regard over the past two weeks came against the Pacers when he racked up six offensive rebounds and gave his team multiple second-chance opportunities.
Talk about being a competitor.
Odds & Ends
-If you’ve been following along, you should know that Butler impacts the game in so many ways for Miami.
In the clutch, the 30-year-old vet leads the team with 11 assists and 30 free-throw attempts, to go along with two steals and a block.
While we’re on the topic of his free-throw rate, 38.1 percent of his points have come from the line (45.1 percent over his last six).
And if you were to ask him, he’d say all that matters is coming out with a win.
Thanks to his relentless pursuit on both ends and undying work ethic, the HEAT have done just that.
Until next time.