The Miami Heat have done it. After beating the Atlanta Hawks 4-1, they advance to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Miami did it without Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry, and it wasn’t pretty at times with both teams struggling on the offensive end. Both the Heat and the Hawks went after it on the defensive end. This was a game that both teams had to get out of the mud. But in the end, it was Miami that got the last stop on defense. Here are my takeaways from the Heat’s win over Atlanta.
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Last year, Victor Oladipo never got the chance to compete in the NBA playoffs after his quadriceps surgery. He entered this year’s postseason out of the rotation. However, he’s gotten the opportunity to play in each of the past two games. With Butler out, Oladipo made his first start of the playoffs, and got Miami going early with his scoring. Oladipo was scoring at all three levels of the floor. He also was able to create for his teammates, as well. Defensively, he provided good ball pressure on the Hawks guards. He was clearly the Heat’s best player on the floor, and they often went to him late in the fourth. In the end, Oladipo made the most out of his opportunity, finishing the night with 23 points and three steals.
Without Butler, all eyes were on Bam Adebayo. As a max player, there’s always the expectation of doing more on both ends of the floor. Throughout the series, Adebayo has struggled to get going at times on the offensive end, as he has had trouble getting comfortable with a go-to move. On Tuesday, Adebayo did a little more on that end after a slow start. He was more assertive going to the basket. Defensively, he was stellar on the switches and help defense. He’s the anchor behind Miami’s suffocating defense and played Trae Young well at times. Most importantly, he was a monster on the boards. Adebayo finished the night with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Strus Gets Loose in the Second
Miami’s offense was not pretty at times. The spacing was there but there wasn’t a flow to the offense. Then, things changed late in the second quarter. After the timeout, Miami went full press on the Hawks and got two steals that led to two buckets. This was the moment where the momentum swung in the Heat’s favor. The charge was led by Max Strus, who scored 10 straight points in one minute. He had 12 total points in the second period. Strus’ development since coming to Miami has been remarkable. He went from being undrafted to making huge plays in a playoff game. He ended the night with 15 points.
Awaiting the Next Opponent
With the win on Tuesday, Miami won’t play another game until Monday. This gives the Heat’s best players time to rest and nurse their injuries. Miami awaits the winner of the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors series. As of Wednesday morning, the 76ers hold a 3-2 series lead over Toronto. Both teams provide their own challenges. The Raptors have caused Miami problems at times with their size and length. The 76ers also provide a tough cover with star center Joel Embiid. We’ll see who comes out of that series before the end of this week.
Next Up: The second-round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
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