3 Observations from the Heat's win in Cleveland: The defining Jimmy Butler-era play

And Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier making something out of nothing.

Mar 20, 2024; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Miami Heat guard Terry Rozier (2) celebrates his three-point
Mar 20, 2024; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Miami Heat guard Terry Rozier (2) celebrates his three-point / David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
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Three observations from the Miami Heat’s 107-104 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

1. The Jimmy Butler-era signature play

Jimmy Butler (30 points) and Terry Rozier (24) were Miami’s high-scorers and they certainly created plenty on their own, but they don’t reach those point totals if not for the help of everyone else. 

If there’s a play that defines the Jimmy-era Heat, it might be Butler isolating on a cleared-out side, jab-stepping his defender, driving baseline to bait the defense, and dishing to the opposite corner to a shooter.

But an underrated part of this play is the screen set in front of said shooter, on the baseline. The Heat call this “splash.” It’s meant to prevent the closest defender from closing out on the recipient of Butler’s pass to the corner.

Here, Butler drives by Caris LeVert, draws all five Cleveland defenders and makes a jump pass to Rozier in the corner. But it’s Orlando Robinson screening off Isaac Okoro that makes this a wide-open look for a knock-down 3-point shooter.

2. Jimmy just doing it

This was Butler’s first 30-point game since March 2 and his first 20-point game in 10 days. In this season of “Playoff Jimmy” peek-a-boo, it can be easy to forget what he’s capable of when he puts on that cape.

The Heat down the stretch ran a pretty simple offense: Butler or Rozier would have a big (most often Nikola Jovic) set a screen, force a switch, drive, and put Cleveland’s defense in rotation. The problem is that the Cavs wing defenders did a great job of fighting over those screens and avoiding the switch. 

When that happened, Butler went into his bag. This move was crazy enough that a friend at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse texted me “HIMMY” right after.

Spin left, snatch dribble, turnaround fadeaway, net.

What is playoff basketball? It’s a lot of things, but maybe the biggest thing is making tough shots. When they didn’t get the looks they wanted, Butler went to work and Rozier made his step-backs.

3. Rozier made his step-backs

Same goes for the biggest shot of the game. But, before the biggest shot came the second-biggest shot. They are related.

Here’s the first one. Jaime Jaquez Jr. sets a back screen on Rozier’s defender, LeVert. Butler slips the screen to create an iso for Rozier against Okoro at the top of the arc, and Rozier creates space with the step-back.

Here’s the second one. It’s similar but the Heat this time run it to the side. Nikola Jovic sets the first screen on LeVert. Butler now holds the screen and is available in the corner with Jarrett Allen defending him. Okoro’s defense is solid, but Rozier steps back and nails another 3-pointer. 

Should Rozier have passed it to Butler with nine seconds on the shot clock? Maybe. Butler could have driven Allen’s closeout, which would have flowed into the splash action we covered at the top, with Caleb Martin and Jaquez in the opposite corner.

This is a Heat offense with a plan, with a menu of options -- and it’s what the Heat need going forward.

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