How Heat Plan To Bounce Back In Game 2 vs. Nuggets

Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat, NBA News
NBA Analysis Network

The Miami Heat were able to avoid making some bad history when they defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat took a 3-0 lead in that series before losing three straight games. But, when all the chips were on the table, they came away with a blowout victory on the road.

That earned them a trip to the NBA Finals, where they ran into a buzzsaw in Game 1. The Denver Nuggets swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals and picked up right where they left off against the Heat.

Denver won 104-93 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would indicate. Miami trailed for nearly the entire game and went down by as many as 24 points.

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A big reason for their lack of success was that their jump shots weren’t falling. That kept the Heat from finding a rhythm, which Jimmy Butler commented on after the game.

“Probably because we shot a lot of jump shots, myself probably leading that pack, instead of putting pressure on the rim,” Butler said after scoring just 13 points. “Getting layups, getting to the free throw line. When you look at it during the game, they all look like the right shots.

“And I’m not saying that we can’t as a team make those, but got to get more layups, got to get more free throws. And whenever you miss and don’t get back, the game gets out of hand kind of quickly. We gave up too many layups, which we also can’t have happen. But that’s it as a whole. We’ve got to attack the rim a lot more, myself included.”

After being on fire all postseason, the Heat went ice cold in Game 1. They shot only 40.6 percent overall from the field and 33.3 percent on 3-pointers. Max Strus and Caleb Martin, who the Celtics will have nightmares of for a while, shot a combined 1-of-17.

“I love the looks, and I think we’ll get more looks,” Martin said. “I think this game was kind of a figure-it-out game; well, figure it out half. I think we started to figure it out the second half, but the looks that we got, the shots that we missed, it’s kind of laughable. We’re much better shooters than we shot tonight.”

NBA NEWS & FINALS COVERAGE: Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat & Denver Nuggets Updates

Martin has easily been the Heat’s second-best player in the postseason behind Butler, sometimes even taking a leading role during games. It was poor timing for a bad shooting night, but it happens sometimes. Game 1 was only the second time this postseason that Strus failed to make at least one 3-pointer in a game and he attempted a whopping nine.

“I like everything that we did offensively,” Strus said. “We can do a little more intentional, but the looks we got, we’ll live with those. We know we’re better shooters than that.”

After having a distinct coaching advantage in every series thus far this postseason, Erik Spoelstra was matched in Game 1 by Michael Malone. Every move that was made was countered. Not until the fourth quarter, when the game was already decided, did the Heat find any rhythm offensively.

“They are fine,” Spoelstra said. “I mean, they are not going to get sick at sea. If they are shooters, you’re not always going to be able to make all the shots that you want. Then you have to find different ways to impact the game.

NBA NEWS & FINALS COVERAGE: Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat & Denver Nuggets Updates

“Our game is not built just on the 3-point ball. We have proven that time and time again. We can win games. We can win series, regardless of how the 3 is going. But we also have ignitable guys. You see a couple go through and that also can become an avalanche. One way or the other, we have to find a way to get the job done.”

It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments the Heat make for Game 2, which is scheduled for Sunday night. Getting back to their bread-and-butter, which is attacking the paint, is likely atop that to-do list. After seeing how aggressively they played all postseason, it was shocking that the Heat had only two free throw attempts all game.

“You’ve got to attack and attack everybody, not just one individual,” Butler said. “I have to do a better job of creating the help, one, two guys, and getting to my shooter, otherwise finishing at the rim, making shots.

NBA NEWS & FINALS COVERAGE: Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat & Denver Nuggets Updates

“But we missed a lot tonight, and we’ll be better in Game 2. At the end of the day, that’s what it is, and we’ll take this and we’ll learn from it, and we’ll be back in two days.”

One positive takeaway from the game was Bam Adebayo getting on track. He shot 13-of-25 from the field for 26 points. His matchup with Nikola Jokic is a difficult one defensively, but he should find plenty of opportunities to score. 

If he pours in 26 points again this series, the Heat should feel confident about their chances of taking home a win. His scoring impact is something they haven’t consistently had this postseason, but if the role players can find their shooting strokes again and Butler continues playing at a high level, that is a recipe for success.

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