Observations and other notes of interest from Sunday night’s 113-87 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers:
– As a change of pace? Fine.
– As a way to temporarily hide a negative defender? Acceptable.
– But there is a reason that zone defense is considered a novelty in the NBA.
– Because eventually the novelty wears off.
– Yes, it worked against the level of opposition of the Wizards on Friday night.
– But the Cavaliers, with their ample weapons, upped the ante.
– Cleveland also with ample seams to attack the offensive glass.
– Which they did relentlessly.
– With Jimmy Butler out, the one-on-one defense takes a hit.
– But there still are Bam Adebayo and Caleb Martin.
– It used to be that the Heat’s man-to-man was efficient to the point it could mask the liabilities.
– Not so much now.
– The other option is to simply compensate on offense.
– But without Tyler Herro, that compensation is limited.
– And then turnovers certainly don’t help.
– So an 0-3 start to this four-game trip, with the Timberwolves on the second night of a back-to-back up next.
– Yes, feels like a road to ruin.
– With Butler back in Miami having his sore knee examined, and with Adebayo back after missing two games with a knee bruise, the Heat debut the Adebayo-Nikola Jovic pairing in their starting lineup.
– That shifted Martin to small forward.
– With Max Strus and Kyle Lowry starting in the backcourt.
– The Heat were without Butler, Herro, Gabe Vincent, Victor Oladipo, Udonis Haslem and Omer Yurtseven.
– But did also get Dewayne Dedmon (foot) and Duncan Robinson (hand) back, after they missed Friday night’s overtime loss in Washington.
– Vincent said his current knee issue is not related to the knee issue he dealt with during the preseason.
– “It’s separate,” he said.
– Cleveland started Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Lamar Stevens, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen.
– Haywood Highsmith who had a solid performance when brought out of mothballs Friday against the Wizards, played as the Heat’s first reserve.
– He was followed by Dewayne Dedmon and Duncan Robinson, who then entered together.
– Followed by Jamal Cain, making it a unique nine deep.
– Both of the Heat’s two-way players, Cain and Orlando Robinson, were active.
– Orlando Robinson was the lone available Heat player not to see action in the first quarter.
– Lowry’s fourth free throw was the 3,500th of his career.
– It was as if the Heat were back in Toronto, with a combined five traveling calls on the two teams in the first quarter.
– Asked pregame about the Cavaliers’ offseason acquisition of Mitchell, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said it just makes the East challenge more challenging.
– “I mean that’s the league,” Spoelstra said. “The East right now is extremely competitive. You have a bunch of teams that are kind of grouped together. We’re not 20 games into the season. You tend to have an idea at that point, some of the direction of the conference. But I don’t think we’re going to get that indication for a while. I think it’s going to be super competitive.”
– “There’s two teams that really kind of separated themselves early on,” Spoelstra added, alluding to the Celtics and Bucks. “But Cleveland has been building something now for a year plus, and they have a style of play that they’re wrapping their heads around that’s been successful. He’s obviously a great talent and fits right in.”
– Spoelstra also spoke of the uniqueness of the Cavaliers’ lengthy starting power alignment with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley.
– “They’re both defensive minded about the right things,” Spoelstra said. “They’re winning basketball players. They fit very well off each other. And sometimes that’s a hard pairing to find, that kind of synergy, with two bigs. But they’ve been able to play off each other very well.”
– Spoelstra was asked pregame about playing two-way rookie center Orlando Robinson over Jovic for the entire overtime in Washington.
– “It probably could have gone either way,” he said, with Jovic not utilized during those five minutes. “Orlando was giving us some rim presence on both ends of the court, a little bit of resistance at the rim, if they penetrated and got all the way there. And offensively he was giving us that trigger at the five. But Niko was doing some really good things, as well.”