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5 big takeaways from the Miami Heat’s doubleheader versus the Milwaukee Bucks

The Miami Heat won the second game of their doubleheader after a historic blowout by the Milwaukee Bucks. Here are five takeaways from Miami's doubleheader.

Miami Heat
Dec 29, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) and Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez (11) battle for the opening tip-off during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat won Thursday night’s game after a historic blowout Wednesday night when the Milwaukee Bucks beat them by 47 points. It was a gutsy performance by the Heat after being without Jimmy Butler both games due to an ankle injury he suffered during Opening Night.

There were many bright spots during the Heat’s win Thursday, but they also come after a very dark performance Wednesday night. Nonetheless, there were many things to sort through when it came to each individual’s performance and the team overall.

Here are five takeaways from Miami’s doubleheader against Milwaukee.

Bam Adebayo needs to be more aggressive moving forward

The biggest takeaway from the two games should be the play of Bam Adebayo. The Miami Heat signed Adebayo to a max-contract extension during the offseason to lock in the 23-year-old through the 2025-’26 season. Without Jimmy Butler, the Heat need Adebayo to play like a max-player.

During the first game, Adebayo was passive and didn’t look at the basket during situations where he would have an open shot. The majority of those shots came from the key where he is shooting 5-of-6 through four games this season.

Adebayo only put up 12 points, six rebounds, and four assists in 25 minutes during the first game on Wednesday. There were many calls from Heat fans across Twitter to bump up the aggressiveness and play like the player they know he can be.

Those calls were heard as Adebayo called his performance in the first game “unacceptable.” In the second game, Adebayo had a near triple-double with 22 points, eight rebounds, and 10 assists in 35 minutes of action. It was a huge step up from Wednesday’s performance and showed that he can be the star player without Butler.

The type of hustle and energy Adebayo put on display Thursday night should be the way he plays moving forward. The Miami Heat need him to continue this so he can take that next step.

Avery Bradley is the perfect fit next to Tyler Herro

Miami Heat
Dec 25, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat guard Avery Bradley (11) dribbles the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley started his first game for the Miami Heat in Thursday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Bradley came off the bench in his first two games and averaged 26 minutes. He stood out in Miami’s win against New Orleans on Christmas Day by shutting down J.J. Reddick for the majority of the game.

After the Bucks scored 147 points on Wednesday night, head coach Erik Spoelstra started the 30-year-old beside rising star Tyler Herro. This paid off on the defensive end and allowed Herro to go off for 21 points, 15 rebounds (career-high), and four assists on 8-of-13 shooting.

Bradley himself has averaged 14.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in his first three games of the season. He has provided Miami a very reliable perimeter defender that the team has lacked in previous years. Players defended by Bradley are shooting 45.7% from the field on an average of 11.7 shots per game.

Bradley lightens the load for Herro on the defensive end and allows him to commit more energy on the offensive end. Herro’s defense has also improved due to this as he now has a -4.9 percentage points difference on the players he’s defended, which is a big difference from the 1.1 he had last season.

Bradley has done exactly what the Miami Heat needed him to do thus far. Along with his amazing cuts to the basket on offense, his defense will prove to be pivotal the rest of the year.

Gabe Vincent could replace Kendrick Nunn in the rotation

Miami Heat: Kendrick Nunn
Dec 14, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn (25) drives the ball around New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Gabe Vincent was active for the first time this season on Thursday night due to the 50 game restriction on his two-way contract. Vincent was held out of the first three games of the season to preserve his contract throughout the season.

Vincent had seven points, two rebounds, and two assists in the first 17 minutes of game action this season. The 24-year-old guard wasn’t shy in his first game of the season by shooting the ball five times from the three-point line at a 40% clip.

Kendrick Nunn can be looked at as Vincent’s competition for minutes. Nunn has averaged 16 minutes in the three games. However, that stat is skewed due to the 31 minutes he played during Milwaukee’s historic performance on Wednesday night.

Even though Vincent has only played 17 minutes this season, opposing players have shot 10 times against him. His defense against those shots has been great as he is boasting a 20% DFG percentage in those minutes. Vincent’s defense alone could provide a better option for the Miami Heat as they need to keep the load on Dragic light before the playoffs.

Vincent looked better than Nunn during his minutes Wednesday night and was a better two-way option at guard. It will be interesting to see what Spoelstra does with Vincent moving forward.

What should the Miami Heat do with Maurice Harkless?

Miami Heat
Dec 18, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) drives to the basket as Miami Heat forward Maurice Harkless (8) defends during the second half at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Maurice Harkless has really struggled ever since his first preseason game with the Miami Heat. Harkless fouled out in their first preseason game and then committed five fouls the second game. He started for the Heat on Opening Night, but only had three points, two rebounds, and one assist in 23 minutes.

Harkless then only played nine minutes on Christmas Day before starting again with Heat against the Bucks on Wednesday night. The 27-year-old forward only played four minutes as he committed one foul and two turnovers in that time.

Erik Spoelstra has played Harkless fewer minutes each game until he sat out Thursday night’s win. Harkless has only played nine minutes combined in Miami’s two wins this season, with the majority of those minutes coming during garbage time near the end of the game.

Harkless has also really struggled on the defensive end as he is allowing a 90% DFG percentage on 3.3 shots per game. That is not ideal for your starting power forward. He admittedly said his body wasn’t in “Miami Heat shape” yet, but his performance is alarming.

Harkless may be better served as a bench player, rather than a starting forward moving forward. Coming off the bench could be a better role for him and the Miami Heat should at least explore that before exiling him from the rotation.

What the Miami Heat’s starting lineup should be moving forward

Erik Spoelstra has thrown out four different starting lineups in the four games the Miami Heat have played this season. Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and Bam Adebayo have started all four games this season and will most likely remain in the starting lineup moving forward.

Jimmy Butler’s absence has thrown a wrench in Spoelstra’s plan with the rotations, but there are some players that have proven they should be in the starting lineup. Goran Dragic has proven he can be a great addition to the starting lineup, but it is way more important to have Dragic’s burst off the bench.

Dragic should be preserved for the playoffs because that is where he will matter the most. Maurice Harkless has started two games, but has really struggled in the minutes he has been given. He is most likely not going to be a given option every night.

The best lineup Spoelstra has put out there is Herro-Bradley-Robinson-Iguodala-Adebayo. That is an almost perfect balance, but it creates an issue of not having a shot creator.

The ideal starting lineup for Miami, if they go small, should be Herro-Bradley-Robinson-Butler-Adebayo, while the perfect lineup for going big could be Herro-Robinson-Butler-Adebayo-Leonard. The big lineup may see problems defensively, but Spoelstra could substitute Bradley for Robinson if need be.

If this potential lineup can produce a similar way they did Thursday night without Butler, the Miami Heat may have found the perfect starting lineup and closing lineup going forward.