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What’s Miami Heat’s clutch offense in the playoffs?

Should there be concerns regarding Miami Heat’s clutch offense?

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat’s offense, particularly their clutch offense, has been a hot topic recently. There are many questions surrounding it, especially how it’s going to translate into the NBA Playoffs, and for good reasons.

The Heat have a 100.0 offensive rating in the clutch, which ranks 26th in the league. There have been countless games where they either lost the game completely or blew a lead because they couldn’t score themselves for several minutes.

But I wonder how big of a concern is this come playoff time and whether it’s something they can change.

Before we get to this season, let’s look back at previous seasons and mainly the playoffs in the bubble.

2020 & 2021 season

The Heat struggling with their clutch offense is not something new since Jimmy Butler arrived. Last year, they had the worst clutch offense at 95.3 and the year before, 102.2 (26th).

What’s strange is how they flipped the switch completely in the bubble. Their offensive rating in the playoffs that year is mind-blowing — league-best 135.4 rating and on 69.2% true shooting. I think everyone remembers why that happened.

Butler in the clutch during that Finals run scored 48 points on 12/21 shooting and 22/24 from the line. Whenever anyone mentions this or how Butler was absolutely amazing, everyone counters that with the fact his jumper was better.

But did you know he only attempted and made one mid-range attempt in the clutch? Even if you zoom out and look at his playoff run before the Finals, you’ll see that Butler didn’t somehow turn into Kevin Durant from the mid-range.

Here are his stats in each round from the mid-range and 3pt:

  • 2/8 mid-range + 4/7 3pt
  • 4/9 mid-range + 5/11 3pt
  • 8/22 mid-range + 2/12 3pt

That’s 14/39 (35.8%) from the mid-range and 11/30 (36.6) from deep. These aren’t some crazy numbers. Against the Milwaukee Bucks, he didn’t make one mid-range a game. And his 11 3s weren’t also some game-changer and the defense had to adjust. They were all the same type of shots he takes now when he’s wide open.

The reason this is important is that the majority of the fans have remembered the amazing Final series, where he did go off in the mid-range, and apply that to the previous series.

Butler didn’t become some mid-range sniper, especially in the clutch. Instead, he did what he knew he was good at and that is attack and get to the rim.

This Butler is still as good as ever. He still gets to the rim at will, draws contact as good as anyone else, draws the defense on mismatches. Another benefit of Butler attacking the way he did is how that opens up for plays like this:

So, that’s how the Heat ended up having the best offense in the clutch — Butler played like a top-10 player and played to his strengths.

One last thing about his clutch stats. Did you know in that regular season he shot 17/61 (27.9%)? Now, I don’t want to use the excuse that he may be coasting or that he could flip the switch, but I also think he deserves the benefit of the doubt that he can still do this.

Current Season

After a quick look at the clutch stuff, I’ve noticed there is barely any correlation with the clutch offense in the regular season and in the playoffs — take the bubble season as a key example, or even last year, when the Brooklyn Nets were terrible in the playoffs.

That’s not to say this team is without any flaws in the clutch, but the numbers make it seem worse than it is.

What matters more is the process behind it — what shots do they get, what’s the off-ball movement, how do they get those shots, how they exploit the defense. Some of the issues with the process, though, are still that it gets a bit stagnant, no off-ball actions, forcing ridiculous shots (mainly Butler and his 3s), and a lot of late shot clock shots.

We also got to remember that this team’s top players have barely played many minutes together on the court. Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, and Butler have played a total of 87 minutes. There is still a lot of basketball to figure out.

But if you compare what happened in the bubble to now, there isn’t much to argue it couldn’t happen again. There is an argument that Butler may not have that type of success getting to the rim and carrying the team offensively — but should he? Or would he have to?

I also wouldn’t say Butler was a one-man offense that carried the team, but rather it was a collection of multiple guys stepping up in different series — four players averaged double digits attempts, those same four averaged above 15 points.

And this team is better than the bubble team.

I love Goran Dragic. He’s a Heat lifer and he deserves his jersey number retired, but I would have Lowry as the better player. Herro is the 6th Man of the Year, he is a 3-level scorer and his leap post-all-star has been tremendous. Plus the rest of the bench is better too — Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, Max Strus, and Victor Oladipo.

There is the question of how to get Lowry more involved, get Adebayo involved, and go away from isolation. The team has weapons. Now, it’s all about figuring out how to use them.