Forget the bells and whistles, Heat get needed victory over Wizards
MIAMI – This wasn’t about pushing the lead into double figures in the second period or up to 22 in the third or 25 in the fourth.
This was about sustaining at least enough to not have to sweat out the final ticks.
Something the Miami Heat couldn’t do in the Wednesday night loss to the Brooklyn Nets that dropped them to 1-4.
Something they barely did on opening night against the Detroit Pistons, in their only previous win.
So even with the trappings of the game counting as part of the NBA’s first-ever In-Season Tournament, and even with the Heat playing in their latest City Edition jerseys, ones with “Culture” across the chest, the only element that counted to coach Erik Spoelstra was the result Friday night at Kaseya Center.
Heat 121, Washington Wizards 114.
“Certainly offensively it was much better, guys collaborating more,” Spoelstra said. “Defensively we’ll have to shore things up.”
The Heat closed at .600 from the field, but the Wizards weren’t far behind, shooting .568.
So, yes, 1-0 in the four-game-pool round-robin of the In-Season Tournament, but, with the game also counting in the regular-season ledger, also 2-4 in the standings that ultimately will be the road toward the main objective of something resembling last season’s run to the NBA Finals.
Tyler Herro offered one of his most complete games in a Heat uniform, closing with 24 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, supported by 20 points from Jimmy Butler, 18 from Bam Adebayo and 18 from Duncan Robinson.
“We just outscored them tonight,” Butler said. “But we got a dub, so got to take that.”
Five Degrees of Heat from Friday night’s game:
1. Closing time: It was tied 34-34 after the first period, a period the Wizards shot 13 of 17 from the field and 7 of 9 on 3-pointers. The Heat then pushed to a 10-point second-period lead before going into halftime up 60-54.
From there, there was a 22-point lead in the third period and a 101-81 lead going into the fourth.
But still, there was a degree of concern when a 10-0 Wizards run fueled mostly by the end of their bench trimmed a 25-point Heat lead to 115-100 with five minutes to play, leading to a Spoelstra timeout and the reinsertion of Adebayo.
Butler then returned as the Wizards moved within 115-105 with four minutes to play.
From there, order was restored.
“We’ll have to learn how to play with a 25-point lead,” Spoelstra said.
2. Lineup change: With every roster component available with the exception of Caleb Martin, who remains sidelined by knee pain, the Heat went for a lineup switch in the wake of their 1-4 start.
That had Kevin Love out of the first five, with Haywood Highsmith opening at power forward.
Highsmith returned in Wednesday night’s loss to the visiting Brooklyn Nets from a preseason knee injury.
Rounding out the starting lineup were Adebayo, Butler, Herro and Kyle Lowry.
The Heat had opened with a similar undersized lineup for most of last season, with Martin staring before Love arrived in late February. Highsmith and Martin are both listed as 6 feet 5.
“Nobody likes being 1-4, losing four straight. It sucks,” Spoelstra said of the lineup change. “I hate having to make those kinds of decisions, because from the outside it looks like an indictment on one player.
“This is just a move for now.”
3. Highsmith’s chance: It was Highsmith’s 13th career start, all with the Heat, over his four NBA seasons. He started 11 times last season in his 54 Heat appearances and once in 2021-22.
He took a misstep on defense in the final minute of the first half, heading to the locker room at the intermission prior to his teammates, but returned to start the second half. After the game, he said it was a simple bump of knees.
For Spoelstra, it adds another switchable defensive element, with Highsmith also a solid wing defender.
Highsmith closed with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting in 22 minutes.
“The goal is to play,” Haywood said, downplaying the starting element. “I found out at shootaround and am just trying to play defense, bring that edge.”
4. Complete Herro: Herro filled the box score in the first half, with 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assist, ultimately closing that one assist shy of his second career regular-season triple-double.
“He just continues to grow,” Spoelstra said.
Unlike some of his previous high-scoring efforts, this was an effort that was in control throughout, that shot attempts down and more of a keen eye on playmaking, including opening the fourth quarter at point guard.
“He doesn’t only look at the basket anymore,” Adebayo said. “He’s made himself more dynamic,”
While Herro initially was kept on the court amid his bid for a triple-double, he ultimately was needed to play to the close.
“I was aware of it. My teammates were trying to help me get that last assist,” Herro said. “Most importantly, I was trying to get the win.”
5. First flop: In somewhat of an upset, it was Josh Richardson, and not Lowry, who was called for the Heat first-ever in game flopping technical.
With the violation added to the rulebook this season, Richardson was cited by referee Zach Zarba with 8:43 left in the second period.
Wizards forward Danilo Gallinari missed the ensuing free throw, with the Heat retaining possession and Richardson scoring on a driving layup.
Referees are utilizing what they are terming a STEM system for such calls, citing “Secondary Theatrical Exaggerated Movements.”
There also is a potential $2,000 flopping penalty upon postgame review.
Richardson said he does not expect to be fined.
“I talked to the referee in the third quarter,” he said.