How ‘vintage’ Kyle Lowry helped the Heat beat the Pelicans by running the same play over and over

Kyle Lowry and the Miami Heat have both been inconsistent this season, but when they have it rolling they can still be extremely difficult to deal with, as was the case on Sunday afternoon when Lowry led the Heat to a 100-96 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. With the win, the Heat are now 26-22 on the season and sit all alone in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. 

Lowry played one of his best games in weeks, finishing with 17 points, two assists and four steals on 6-of-9 from the field. During one “vintage” stretch late in the fourth quarter, he completely took over the game, scoring or assisting on 11 straight points for the Heat. He did so by running the same play — a high pick-and-roll in the middle of the floor with Bam Adebayo — over and over and over again. No matter how the Pelicans tried to defend it, Lowry had an answer. 

Let’s take a closer look at how Lowry helped swing the game in the Heat’s favor. 

We’ll start with just under four minutes remaining. Lowry calls for the screen and the Pelicans decide to switch, which leaves CJ McCollum on Adebayo. This is a rather simple read for the veteran, who lobs the ball up to his big man in the paint for an easy finish over a smaller defender. 

Next time down, there was either a bit of confusion on the Pelicans’ part, or McCollum just lost his balance trying to fight around the screen. Either way, McCollum cannot get back in front in time. Lowry reads that and knows he has enough space for an open 3-pointer, which he buries. 

By the third time in a row the Heat were running this set, the Pelicans had switched Dyson Daniels onto Lowry to show him a bit more length and size. Here, the Pelicans have Larry Nance Jr. drop to contain Lowry until Daniels can get over the screen. But by then, Lowry has worked his way into the mid-range, which gives him a bunch of options. He chooses to use guile against the rookie and baits him into jumping at a shot fake, then steps through (and travels) for an easy runner. 

As the clock ticked under two minutes, the Heat went right back to the well. After a pass to Adebayo, a 3-pointer and a mid-range look, Lowry decided to get all the way to the basket on this occasion. Before Adebayo even fully sets the screen, Lowry is already going downhill, which seems to catch Daniels slightly by surprise. Lowry gets the step on him and weaves his way to the rim for a layup. 

On the next trip, the Pelicans decide to go back to switching, which leaves Nance isolated on Lowry after the screen. Even at this stage of his career, that’s a good match-up for Lowry, and he puts his head down, gets Nance moving back towards the basket, then stops on a dime and creates plenty of space for a mid-range jumper before Nance can recover. 

Five trips down the floor, five buckets using one play. This stretch was a reminder of why Lowry is a six-time All-Star and why the Heat, even at this stage of his career, need him to be more aggressive and look for his shot when he’s out there. Coming into this game, he had scored in single digits in six of his last eight outings, and for the season the Heat are 5-7 when he fails to reach at least 10 points. 

“For this particular stretch, that last three minutes, he read that intuitively,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Any time we were trying to make a pass they were getting a deflection or a steal. It was more get to an action and let’s get a shot on goal, and I think he felt that, he understood that. 

“Now going forward, yes, we’re tyring to find a balance where everybody can be aggressive and assertive, and we don’t want him to get lost in the sauce… When he’s aggressive and you have to play him in pick-and-rolls, that makes us much more dynamic.”



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