It stands as a pragmatic approach. But to the Miami Heat there could be an upside to the downside.
Entering play Friday, no NBA team averaged fewer points than the Heat’s 108.4. In terms of offensive rating, the only teams ranked lower were the lottery-bound Charlotte Hornets, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs.
And yet, in the Heat’s previous four victories entering Friday night’s game against the Orlando Magic at Miami-Dade Arena, they held their opponents to 96, 98, 96 and 95 points.
So in an obtuse way, being behind the curve might actually have the Heat ahead of the curve when it comes to pace and scoring slowing in the playoffs, with postseason success still the ultimate goal.
“I don’t feel like you have a lot of playoff series that are high scoring, besides the one we watched between Minnesota and Memphis,” center Bam Adebayo said of last season’s playoffs. “Besides that, I feel like a lot of teams slow down, possession by possession, and you get those games like we had the other day, where it’s in the 90s. I feel like that’s playoff basketball.”
That had Jimmy Butler bristling when asked about offensive concerns, instead pointing to what has been working on the defensive end, with the Heat entering Friday ranked fourth in the league in defensive rating.
To Butler, the Heat’s offense is set up for the grind of the postseason.
“It is,” he said. “We’re a playoff-basketball type of team. We’ve just got to get there, and get everybody healthy and then we show up.”
Among the concerns with the Heat’s offense has been the struggles with 3-point shooting. But the Heat have found enough of a workaround to enter Friday with victories in 15 of their last 22.
“We have a bunch of different ways to win games,” guard Tyler Herro said. “In the past, it may have been working the ball from three-point land to inside the arc. And now, if we need to, we can lock in on defense, hang our hat on that, and then bully ball you inside, with our strength with Bam and Jimmy and getting into the paint and stuff like that.”
That doesn’t mean a few more threes wouldn’t help.
“I think whenever we’re making threes, [Adebayo’s] job gets a lot easier, my job gets a lot easier, Tyler’s job and Caleb [Martin’s],” Butler said. “And it has to keep everybody on the floor honest at every point in the game. So we’re going to continue to take ‘em. We’re going to continue to take the right ones. Sooner or later they’ve got to go in.”
The Heat entered Friday 27th in the league in 3-point percentage, after leading the NBA last season.
And, yes, Adebayo said, threes still very much matter.
“They do,” he said, “just because, as you see now, people are starting to double Jimmy. So it makes it harder to double somebody.
” I feel like, yeah, it makes a big deal, even though me and Jimmy are playing great offensively.”
For now, much of the Heat’s primary offensive success is coming inside the arc, through the pick-and-roll mastery of Herro and Adebayo.
“I mean it’s a big part of our offense,” Adebayo said. “Yeah, we can explore it, but it just depends on situations. Like if Tyler gets in transition and we’re on the run by ourselves, obviously got to pull the trigger. But if we initiate something and it starts with somebody else with two other people, like Kyle [Lowry] and Jimmy, we want to explore that. They’re a big part of our offense.
“But it’s just finding those pick-and-rolls in between, in the middle of the game, in transition, mainly stuff where Coach doesn’t have to really coach us to it. It’s just more of a feel.”
So, for now, somewhat of a slow go, with the Heat playing at the league’s third slowest pace.
“I feel like our pace is built for the playoff atmosphere,” Adebayo said.