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Adebayo gets work in early then sits with rest of Heat starters in exhibition loss to Nets

MIAMI – The lone given Wednesday for the Miami Heat was Bam Adebayo, with the rest of the projected starters given the night off.

So Adebayo got to work early, with 12 points in nine first-quarter minutes on the way to 14 points, six rebounds and three assists, sitting out the second half of the 107-104 exhibition loss to the Brooklyn Nets at Kaseya Center.

With Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry rested for moments more meaningful, Adebayo was active early with his midrange jumper, before yielding the floor to those trying to crack the rotation or make the roster ahead of next Wednesday’s regular-season opener against the visiting Detroit Pistons.

The Heat Lite rotation also got 15 points, including three 3-pointers, from Haywood Highsmith, 14 rebounds from Jamal Cain and 10 assists from Dru Smith.

Highsmith said the confidence continues to grow.

“The more reps you get,” he said, “the more confidence you’re going to get.”

Of Cain, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “You felt him. He has the effort. He has the intensity.”

As for Smith, Spoelstra said, “He knows how to fit in. He can get our group organized.”

There also was another notable late effort from roster hopeful Cole Swider, who closed with 15 points.

It appeared the Heat had a chance to tie with 5.9 second left down three, but a three-shot Brooklyn foul was overturned on a Nets coaching challenge. Instead, a jumpball was called.

Five Degrees of Heat from Wednesday night’s exhibition:

1. The no-goes: The Heat continue to navigate the preseason with a priority on rest and recovery.

This time, that meant no Butler, Lowry, Love, Herro, Caleb Martin, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and R.J. Hampton.

Butler, Love and Lowry ostensibly were given the night off. Butler was listed as out due to return-to-competition reconditioning, yet to play this preseason. Love and Lowry were listed as sitting in order to allow for playing time for others, as also was their designation when they did not travel for last Friday’s exhibition road loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

The biggest surprise on the injury report was Herro being out with a thigh contusion sustained during Tuesday’s practice. Spoelstra said Herro remains on target to play in the season opener.

Dealing with nagging injuries that had had them out for multiple games were Martin (knee), Jaquez (groin) and Hampton (hip).

2. So the starters are . . .: With 12 players available, the Heat opened with Adebayo, Highsmith, Cain, Duncan Robinson and Josh Richardson.

The lineup allowed Richardson to be cast for the first time this preseason primarily at point guard, where he could set up as the opening-night starter or primary reserve, depending on the approach with Lowry.

The trial, though, did not last long, with Richardson forced out after his initial 6:45 stint with an injured right foot. He was 0 for 2 from the field, with one assist. He had missed the previous two games with a sore left foot.

“We’ll treat him tomorrow,” Spoelstra said, “and probably have a better idea in the next couple of days.”

Richardson was replaced by Smith, who was up to seven assists by halftime.

3. Stepping up: Highsmith continues to work his way into a potential rotation role, converting a pair of early 3-pointers.

“He just has great fortitude,” Spoelstra said of Highsmith. “He’s just been so consistent with his work.”

With his rising stock, Highsmith well could get the minutes that some had projected for second-year forward Nikola Jovic, who entered camp off a strong performance for Serbia in the World Cup.

Cain also made an early impression in his push for a standard contract, with five rebounds in the game’s first five minutes. Cain remains on a two-way contract.

The first two frontcourt players to enter for the Heat were center Thomas Bryant and Swider, followed by Jovic and then Justin Champagnie. Bryant then started the second half in place of Adebayo, with Orlando Robinson entering in the third period for his first action of the night.

4. Still going: Spoelstra insisted there still was value to Wednesday night’s exercise.

“We want to keep on building these habits defensively, do a better job. We’re working on it,” he said. “These things are important regardless of who’s on the court.

“It is a good opportunity to establish how we want to play, for sure. We get an opportunity to continue to develop and evaluate our young guys.”

Spoelstra said the only way to replicate game days is to have game days,

“We have to get into that rhythm of how we do a shootaround, how we do a film session, how we prepare,” he said. “That’s a skill that you have to develop all year long.”

The Heat must cut at least one player, and likely will waive two, by Saturday’s waiver deadline.

5. What’s next: The Heat conclude their five-game preseason schedule Friday at 8 p.m. on the road against the Houston Rockets. Teams typically do not travel rotation players for such exhibition finales.

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