Miami Heat: Observations from first scrimmage in the bubble

Here are some things the Miami Heat did in its first game in the NBA’s restart, a scrimmage against the Sacramento Kings.

It took a lot of planning and patience, but the Miami Heat finally played a basketball game, its first since March 11. The Eastern Conference’s current fourth seed faced the Sacramento Kings in the first of three scrimmages to warm up for the eight remaining regular-season games and the playoffs in the NBA’s bubble at Walt Disney World.

Miami took the victory by a score of 104-98. Duncan Robinson led the Heat with 18 points. Tyler Herro scored 15 points and six rebounds and Kelly Olynyk recorded 12 points, six rebounds and four assists, which tied for the team-high with Derrick Jones Jr. The Kings’ Buddy Hield led the game in scoring with 19 points.

Miami and Sacramento – who played twice during the regular season, with the home team winning each matchup – played four 10 minute quarters on the first night of scrimmages. The Heat welcomed back Tyler Herro and Meyers Leonard, who each missed over 15 games near the end of the regular season, to its lineup.

Both teams were missing key players: Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn for Miami and De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III for Sacramento. Erik Spoelstra opted to start Goran Dragic in Nunn’s place but saved his legs – as well as Jimmy Butler‘s – by sitting them the entire second half. The two veterans combined for 20 points on 6-of-10 field goal shooting.

Here are four observations made during the Heat’s first exhibition game of the bubble league.

3-point shooting started hot

The Heat opened the game launching shots from beyond the arc, connecting on seven of their first eight attempts from deep. Eight of Miami’s first nine shots were 3-pointers.

Duncan Robinson, in particular, had the hot hand. The NBA’s third-leading 3-point maker sunk two triples to kick off Miami’s scoring and converted on 4-of-5 triples in the first quarter. He finished with 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting.

Goran Dragic shot 2-of-4 from deep in 11 minutes. Andre Iguodala made two of his five attempts from beyond the arc. Miami lived and died by the 3-pointer in the normal regular season, so keeping up that terrific shooting in the restarted regular season will be key.

Offensive chemistry is still intact

Even with some sloppy passes and turnovers, the Miami Heat’s offense looked rather crisp. The ball moved well, resulting in 13 first-half assists. Miami ended the game with 21 assists, which bested 12 of their regulation-timed games this season.

One aspect that Miami’s offense lacked was drawing fouls. Obviously, this is partly due to Miami opting to let shots fly from deep as opposed to taking it to the rim. But if they hadn’t come out shooting so well, not having the benefit of shots from the charity stripe could’ve hampered them.

The Heat drew their offensive attack closer to the rim as the game progressed, shooting 26-of-29 from the charity stripe. Olynyk shot the most free throws with seven and converted on six.

Defense still needs work

The Miami Heat’s defensive woes continued as the team returned to play. Defense was Miami’s issue that was addressed at the trading deadline by acquiring Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder. In the Heat’s debut contest in the bubble, it was apparent that Miami still has plenty of work to do on that side of the ball.

The bench unit got smoked by Sacramento’s bench in the second quarter, which included Daquan Jefferies, a rookie who played just six regular-season games, and Corey Brewer, who was signed in June. Miami’s rotations in the 2-3 zone were spotty, as it only took a few passes for Sacramento to send the defense into a scramble.

In the second half, Miami allowed Buddy Hield to heat up. The NBA’s second-leading 3-point maker (edging Robinson bust just a single 3-pointer) scored nine points in the third quarter and five in the fourth. Nemanja Bjelica and Jefferies recorded 13 and 12 points respectively while each missing just one field goal.

Bringing Bam Adebayo back into the fold will certainly boost Miami’s defense. Still, having so much of a team’s defensive power relying on one man is a shaky strategy.

There’s still some rust to shake off

While the 3-point machine named Duncan Robinson was a flamethrower from deep, plenty of Heat players’ shooting was ice cold.

Tyler Herro’s confidence and aggression didn’t waver as he returned to action, but his shooting was shaky. The rookie, who was the first man off Miami’s bench, shot 5-of-14 from the field and 0-of-7 from behind the arc.

Jae Crowder missed all but two of his seven of his field goals. Kelly Olynyk shot 3-of-7 and committed four fouls. Solomon Hill shot 1-of-4 on the night.

Being rusty was a given. Even though the hot shooting quickly cooled off (or was never there in the case of the aforementioned players) Miami looked like a cohesive unit while missing two of their starters, which was a promising sight for their first game in four months.

The goal for this game was simply to get players back in the swing of basketball and avoid injuries. The Miami Heat accomplished both in their debut game in the bubble as they embark on an unusual NBA adventure with aspirations of a championship.

Next: Who should the Heat protect in expansion draft?
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