Miami Heat’s ‘small ball’ approach leading to big problems – The Denver Post


Starting small is tough enough for the Miami Heat, with 6-foot-5 Caleb Martin opening at power forward.

Being forced to play even smaller with 6-11 big men Dewayne Dedmon and Omer Yurtseven out of the mix due to injury makes the equation even more complex.

And turning to your starting small forward for minutes at center in the fourth quarter of a competitive game against the defending NBA champions hardly helps with the math.

So if the final score in Thursday night’s 123-110 loss to the Golden State Warriors wasn’t sobering enough, perhaps weighing even heavier was the Heat’s 50-31 rebounding deficit.

“We’ve just got to really box out. We’ve got to find bodies and hit bodies. That’s the biggest thing,” said center Bam Adebayo, who led the Heat with eight rebounds. “I feel like a lot of dudes get free lanes running in. We’ve just got to turn, hit our man, do like we do in drills and practice.”

With Dedmon dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot and Yurtseven yet to play this season due to an ankle impingement, coach Erik Spoelstra found himself going from small to smaller, at one point casting 6-7 Jimmy Butler at center during decisive fourth-quarter minutes, with the Heat within three of the Warriors with 6:11 to play at Chase Center before it went south.

Further compounding the issue was the need to go small with the Heat attempting to buy time in zone defense while utilizing several minus defenders. That further created seams for Golden State’s athletic wings to crash the paint.

“Whether it was man or zone, it’s those extra efforts,” Spoelstra said of what was lacking on the boards in the loss that dropped his team to 2-4. “I thought the last couple of games we had gotten a lot better at that. [Thursday] we just weren’t really committed to those block outs and those extra guys coming down, cracking down to rebound.

“It has to be a group effort for us. We’re much better in that department, as we’ve showed. It was costly.”

Spoelstra again tried lithe rookie Nikola Jovic at center, but limited the 19-year-old to 7:36 in his second NBA appearance, not nearly up to this level of competition.

So when Adebayo dared sit for 2:40 in the fourth quarter, Butler became the de facto center.

“I’ve probably done it occasionally, short bursts,” Spoelstra said of taking small to such extremes. “We have two of our centers out right now, so it was by any means necessary, where there are extreme circumstances.

“But he has that kind of versatility. I’ve said that before, before his career is done with me, I’d like to start him at all five positions at some point. I’ve started him at all four positions. I don’t want that to happen this year. But at some point I want to show the world his versatility that he could do it.”

For as unconventional as the lineup stood, the bottom line is the Heat had only four fourth-quarter rebounds against the Warriors.

For now, it’s about trying to find simple solutions as the Heat move on to Saturday’s game against the winless Sacramento Kings at Golden1 Center to close out this three-game western swing.

Entering Friday, the Heat stood 25th in the league in rebounds per game, 24th in offensive rebounds, 23rd in defensive rebounds and tied for 27th in contested rebounds.

Big night

To put Butler’s 27 points, eight assists, six rebounds and six steals against the Warriors into perspective, he became just the third player in the franchise’s 35 seasons to reach at least each of those totals in a game, and first to do it on the road.

Having done it previous in home games were Sherman Douglas on Dec. 8, 1989 against the Orlando Magic (31 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds, 6 steals) and Dwyane Wade on March 2, 2009 against the Cleveland Cavaliers (41 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds and 7 steals).



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