Friday Donuts: Miami Heat's 3-Point Shooting Target + Six Rules For Hosting a Holiday Party
Plus, Kyle Lowry is finding Duncan Robinson and Gabe Vincent has carved out a real role.
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🍩 GABE VINCENT IS CARVING OUT A ROLE
As the Miami Heat navigate players lost to injuries and protocols, players normally on the fringe of the rotation have a chance to step up and seize a larger role. You can argue no player has done that better for Miami than Gabe Vincent.
Vincent has been a steady contributor since mid-November, but he’s taken it to another level since Bam Adebayo went down with a thumb injury that has had an enormous ripple effect on the rest of the roster. Since December 1, Vincent is averaging 10.6 points, 4.0 assists and 2.4 rebounds while shooting 48.4% overall and 41.5% from 3-point range. Questions about his 3-point shooting once pestered Vincent, who opened the season by missing 11 of his first 12 3s. He’s now up to 39% from distance through 26 games, including the game-winner against the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night.
“I took my shots when they came,” Vincent said after scoring a career-high 26 points, “and that was just another one of them.”
If Vincent’s leap is real — and there’s reason to believe it is — it should curb rumors that Miami is seeking point guard help behind Kyle Lowry. Enthusiasm to sign John Wall (should Wall agree with the Houston Rockets to a buyout) has evaporated. Vincent, 25, is proving he deserves a nightly rotation role even when the Heat are healthy.
🍩 KYLE LOWRY IS DUNCAN ROBINSON’S SHEPHARD
Two things were made evident during the first few weeks of the season: Kyle Lowry wants to go fast, and Duncan Robinson was in a shooting slump.
Lowry has an old-school point guard mindset, so he took it upon himself to help get Robinson going. Miami’s halfcourt offense has changed quite a bit this season and Robinson was having a hard time figuring out where he fits in. When he did get the ball, he was overthinking it. Shooters need shots in rhythm and a goldfish brain. Lowry was determined to help Robinson get them.
That much has been evident over the last couple of weeks. The Heat are tied for fifth in the NBA in forced turnovers, and each time Lowry runs the break, you can bet Robinson is going to touch the ball. As Lowry pushes in transition, he’s always aware of where Robinson is (and will be) and Robinson knows to be ready for Lowry’s assist. It’s Option A. Here’s a mashup of these looks over the last couple of games.
While this hasn’t completely snapped Robinson out of his funk, it has helped. Over the last seven games, Robinson is shooting 41.2% from 3-point range and he went 4 for 11 in Wednesday’s win in Philly.
Heat coaches are aware of this symbiotic relationship and have leaned all the way in. For the season, nearly half of Robinson’s minutes were played without Lowry on the floor. But those minutes when they are separated have been virtually eliminated over the last five games. Of the 141 minutes Robinson played, only three have come without Lowry on the floor.
This is part of the value of someone like Lowry. His ability to recognize what his teammates need is why he’s among the most beloved players in the league. Fans might chirp about him shooting more or this and that, but this has more importance. Robinson is a ceiling raiser. Getting him going is paramount to Miami’s longterm success. Lowry knows this and is helping best he can.
🍩 MIAMI’S 3-POINT ATTEMPT “TARGET”
Last week, coach Erik Spoelstra remarked that he had set a target for 3-point attempts after a win against the Milwaukee Bucks. Having shot just 22 3s in a loss to the Grizzlies two nights before, the Heat attempted a season-high 47 triples against the champs.
Miami hasn’t attempted fewer than 40 3s since.
I asked Spoelstra about that target again a few nights after his initial comment and he cautioned that his team “isn’t jacking up shots.” And they aren’t. During that span, the Heat are attempting 17.3 “open” 3s per game (what the NBA defines as 4-6 feet of space between the shooter and closest defender) which ranks fifth-most in the league — nearly four more per game than their season average. In all, 77.2% of Miami’s attempted 3s are considered open or “wide open” (a defender not within 6 feet).
The question is whether the Heat will keep this up when mid-range experts Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo return. Between them, they are averaging 6.5 mid-range attempts per game. Their minutes have largely been soaked up by Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent, two role players who take a majority of their shots at the basket or beyond the arc.
As The Ringer’s Zach Kram noted, shot quality doesn’t necessarily equal success, but there’s little doubt that Butler and Adebayo would benefit from extra space on the floor. Hovering around 40 3s per game feels like a good number.
🍩 Six Rules For Hosting a Holiday Party
With Christmas and New Year’s just around the corner, it’s the height of the holiday season. If you’re planning to have people over, here are some dos and don’ts so you don’t embarrass yourself.
DON’T make themed drinks. I know it seems like a fun idea now, but by the third eggnog martini your guests are going to be comatosed and concentrating on not shitting their pants. You know what makes for a fun party? Not being told what to drink. Just be normal! Offer your guests a pour from your assortment of whiskeys, vodkas and wines. Have bitters, soda water and ginger beer on hand to make some easy two-step cocktails and entertain people the old-fashioned way — with charm and conversation.
DO set the mood. While you don’t need a pine tree needle stuck up your nose as a reminder that it’s the Christmas season, some music and lighting helps. It’s actually kinda weird if your place looks the same now as it does in July. Play some tasteful music (here’s a playlist) and put some lights on a tree. Keep your menorah out if you want to be more inclusive. Throw on a classic Christmas movie if you feel like you may need a conversation starter, but put it on mute (people shouldn’t be watching the movie, but they might glance at the TV and start talking about how Die Hard is, in fact, a Christmas movie).
DON’T force your guests into games unless they are invited over specifically for game night. This goes for any party, not just during the holidays. There’s nothing worse than when people are having a good time and then Stacy — at 9:30 on the dot — exclaims “OKAYYYY who wants to play Cards Against Humanityyyyyy!” You just lost the Big Mo, Stacy! If you legitimately think your guests might want to play games, simply display them out on a table (give them options) and allow them to introduce the idea. As the host, your job is to be the surfer, not the wave. Gently navigate the ebbs and flows and be in control, but don’t crash into things and suddenly change directions.
DO have food available all the time. This should probably be No. 1, but even if it’s a dinner party (you classy bastard), have hors d'oeuvres ready when your guests arrive. Cheese, crackers, olives, even some goddamn gummy bears. Something. Again, it’s all about giving people options and not making them feel like they’re being told what to do. People get enough of that in their daily lives. What you want to offer is an escape.
DON’T do any of this: Tell people to take their shoes off. You got a white carpet? That’s your problem… Give a hundred different “tours.” Early bird gets the worm here. Wait for the first few people to trickle in and give one solid tour of your place. It’s weird when the host leaves two hours into the party to give the couple who showed up fashionably late a tour of the master bathroom…. Hang mistletoe. It’s weird… Introduce me to Ethan because we both have Jewish-sounding last names. Trust me, we’ll find each other…
And don’t ever, ever, ever run out of booze.
DO be safe. It’s OK to ask people to get tested or show proof of vaccination. The pandemic is happening, but we can still be with our loved ones if we take the right steps. Happy holidays, you party animals.
🗣 The Water Cooler
🍩 What I’m reading: A lot has been written about Steph Curry becoming the all-time 3-point shooting leader, but no one knows Steph quite like The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson. He went as in-depth as one can on Steph’s evolution as a 3-point shooter and how, this week, he surpassed Ray Allen for the most made 3s in NBA history. A cool, interactive read. (Subscription needed.)
🍩 What I’m reading, part II: The Ringer’s Alison Herman tied together Season 3 of “Succession” well, describing how a show whose characters seemingly never grow can progress in plot subtly and suddenly.
🍩 What I’m drinking: W.L. Weller bourbon. Managed to get a bottle, which isn’t easy. If you find it, buy it. Sip it neat or on the rocks. ‘Tis the season.
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