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Miami Heat Weekly Round-Up: Changes to starting lineup, rotation, and closing lineup

The Heat have been making a lot of changes recently.

NBA: Miami Heat at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Have you ever missed a game or two during the week? Want to go through some Xs and Os? Or catch up on some news? Well, welcome to the Miami Heat Weekly Round-Up!

Each week, I’ll dive into some key points from this week, any trends, go through film breakdowns, provide fun stats, and other interesting tidbits that have caught my eye.

Weekly Summary & Stats

The Heat finished with a 2-1 record:

After going through the worst week during the most important stretch in the regular season, the Heat followed that with an even worse performance against the Nets. We all know that most of the time, the team plays down to the opponent. So, when it was time to face actual competition, most fans would think they’d probably be more focused. Well, the results showed the complete opposite and that was disappointing.

As you can see from the title, this week brought many changes to the starting lineup, how the minutes were distributed, who played with who, and different actions were used. And so far, that has shown to be working.

Although it was the Sacramento Kings, they finally snapped out of this offensive struggle and beat the team they should have. At the same time, you got to take whatever win you can at this point.

The game against the Celtics, though, was a test for them. The Heat struggle against these switch-heavy defensive teams, so this was a perfect game to see how they would adjust. And they did just that — more on that later.

Some key, fun stats from the week:

  • 108.7 offensive rating (Off Rtg) (26th during that span)
  • 105.5 defensive rating (Def Rtg) (4th)
  • Kyle Lowry is 11/22 from deep
  • Bam Adebayo leads the team with 17 free throw attempts
  • Max Strus is 4th in total field goal attempts
  • Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum combined for 2/11 against Jimmy Butler

Starting & Closing Lineup Changes

There were some key important changes made to both the starting and the closing lineup in the last two games — both involving Strus.

The first change was inserting Strus over Duncan Robinson. I know there is a group of people on Twitter that were ecstatic over this news. But was this a good decision and why did this happen?

Per Cleaning the Glass, with Strus on the court, the Heat are plus 4.7 with a 114.5 Off Rtg and a 109.8 Def Rtg. With Robinson on the court, the Heat are plus 3.4 with a 112.1 Off Rtg and a 108.7 Def Rtg. There isn’t that big of a difference when it comes to their on-court numbers in general, but the numbers do differ significantly when it comes to the starting lineup.

Your usual four starters plus Robinson are plus 12.9 with a 111.1 Off Rtg and a 98.2 Def Rtg. However, though on significantly smaller sample size, the same four with Strus are plus 17.4 with a 130.5 (!!!) Off Rtg and a 113.1 Def Rtg.

That is a drastic change, especially on the offensive end. Now, it is still a small sample that could easily be manipulated by a hot or cold streak, but for now, this change is working.

Maybe this was what the team needed after such poor offense in the previous week. I still believe Robinson is the better shooter, better defender, and better player, but that doesn’t always mean that you should start — we see that with Herro. Sometimes roles and chemistry matter more.

What’s more interesting is the decision to change the closing lineup. Erik Spoelstra had decided to go with three shooters that space the floor — Lowry, Herro, and Strus — with Butler and Adebayo.

There is a significant upside and a real concerning downside too — what matters is how will Spo balance that.

By replacing PJ Tucker with Strus, you’re creating more space for Adebayo and Butler, as there are three guys that the defense must respect on the perimeter. On the other hand, you’re replacing him with a defensive liability.

Take this play. With three shooters, there can’t be any help or pre-rotation because these shooters will hurt you if you leave them open.

This lineup has worked in the past two games, but I’m not sure how this will work on the defensive side against teams that will punish two defensive liabilities on switches.

Can Bam and Butler Work on Offense Together?

That closing line-up change is linked with staggering the minutes with Bam and Butler and there is a big reason why.

The offense with both Bam and Butler doesn’t work at all. There is a clear, significant difference when only one of them is on the court. You can see that the trio of Herro, Lowry and Butler have a 128.8 Off Rtg — that is insane. Any combination of players that has one of them is an elite offense.

So, what can you do in such a case? You play them less together. It’s strange to think that the offense is significantly better without one of your top players on the court, but that will be the case when neither can space the floor.

These pick-and-rolls (PnR) are much easier to guard when the defense can defend in a number of ways. And if Butler or Bam can’t make the defense pay for dropping in the mid-range, then these are wasted possessions.

That’s why staggering the minutes is important because there are better actions they can run with one of them on the court.

4th Quarter Performance vs Boston Celtics

Although the clutch offense wasn’t perfect, it may have shown a step in a different direction. Firstly, Strus was in the closing lineup and this was key down the stretch. Secondly, there seemed to be more PnRs involving Lowry and Bam in the clutch.

This is what Strus allowed the Heat to go to many times in the fourth. Adding another shooter that must be guarded, in most cases, will eliminate any potential tag on the roller. This did work with Tucker earlier in the season, but since his shooting slump, the defense will live with that kick-out.

Now, I like this action with Lowry running it, especially if he’s going to be a threat to pull up for 3, but I’d like more of this with Herro.

  • 40.3% from the mid-range
  • 39.6% on pull-up 2s
  • 36.4% on pull up 3s
  • 41.7% on floaters
  • 93rd percentile in floater shot-making per BBall-Index

With Herro shooting the way he has been for the entire season, he can make the defense pay if they play in a drop. We’ve also seen him make better reads off of PnRs, make better skip passes, and look more comfortable.

With these PnRs, it also allows Butler to cut, slip, roll, and set more off-ball screens.

Butler doesn’t need the ball to be this dangerous on the court. Despite not having a reliable jump shot, defenses can’t lose track of him and most importantly, he can’t be stationary — he needs to do all of this consistently.

But if he can jump back to his season averages and be a threat in the mid-range, then this team’s offense becomes more dangerous.

He doesn’t need to be elite from the mid-range, nor do I want to see him backing down opponents into a late-shot clock, fadeaway jumper — that is objectively a bad offense.

However, if he does shoot what he normally does, there are plenty of actions that can get him going into these pull-up mid-range shots, which he can knock down.

This was a step in the right direction when it comes to the team’s clutch offense, and now it will be down to Spo to figure out the best way to maximize each player.

Tidbits & Other News

It was interesting to see Robinson’s and Lowry’s minutes together drastically decreasing in the past week. In the last three games, they have shared the court for just 5.1 minutes per game. Though you’d expect that with him coming off the bench, the numbers are still much higher with other starters.

With the season-ending soon, the standings are still unpredictable — you honestly can’t say which seed the Heat will end up with.

Other related content you need to see:

My play of the week: