In a surprise decision to many Erik Spoelstra chose to sit Meyers Leonard and start Jae Crowder. The Heat’s starting lineup of Nunn, Robinson, Butler, Bam, and Leonard had been one of the best units in the NBA this season (+121 in over 480 minutes). To go small against the Nuggets, who had to go big due to their top 3 guards being out, was a gutsy move. At least initially it was to mixed results but in the end the Heat’s three point proficiency was too much for the short-handed Nuggets.
- The Heat’s play today was a largely a reflection of everything they’ve been building this season. Opportunistic defense mixed with timely shooting and a willingness to make the extra pass. Nobody will mistake this Heat team for a great defense, BUT what they do have is guys with quick hands, who make great reads, and willing to take risks. The Heat forced Denver into 19 turnovers and consistently were getting hands in the passing lanes.
- Many people wondered if the officiating might be a little looser in the bubble, thereby mitigating the effectiveness of Jimmy Butler’s offense. If this game is any indication Butler will continue to feast at the line (10-11 today). It was also great to see Bam get to the line and be aggressive as well (8-10 at the line).
- While Bam has deservedly gotten most the national media for his development, Duncan Robinson should as well. Nothing that he is doing in games today and the rest of the season was visible while he was at Michigan. That is a credit to him and the Heat’s development team. He’s far and away there 3rd best player this season and is critical to everything they do offensively.
- No Meyers Leonard was an interesting move. He’s been excellent in his role this year but has struggled to get going since his return from injury in Orlando. Spoelstra mentioned post-game that Meyers will have a role. If the Heat need to go through teams with physical bigs I’d argue Leonard will need to be on floor.
- The Heat’s dynamic and likely All-Rookie back court pieces of Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro didn’t do anything earth-shattering but they did look comfortable and active on both ends of the floor. Herro was the 9th man today which was a bit surprising. Miami will need both of them to provide an offensive punch if they hope to go anywhere this season.
- The Heat continue to try and find a role for Derrick Jones Jr. He’s a tremendous athlete, above average defender, and crashes the offensive glass well but what is role is still seems unclear. Lineups with Olynck at center and Jones at forward have struggled on the boards and provide little resistance to bigs that play with force. He’s also still reluctant to take three’s unless defenses cover him like Ben Simmons. At this point giving minutes to Crowder and Iguodala just make more sense.
- Kelly Olynck was not effective basketball player for the Miami Heat in the first half. Kelly Olynck shot the lights out and buried the Nuggets in the 4th quarter. Olynck has been up and down this year as he’s battled injuries but when he’s right he can be a difference maker in the second unit. However, most of his numbers came when the game was out of reach. The Heat will need more of the 4th quarter K.O. than the first half K.O. if they hope to only play one big.