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Heat (except Herro) fall flat without Adebayo in 122-114 loss in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE — No, not a night to take stock of the balance of power between the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks.

Not with Bam Adebayo out of the Heat mix.

And not with Jimmy Butler still warming his way into the regular season.

So a night after being humiliated on their home court by the Atlanta Hawks, and a night when they got Khris Middleton back in their mix after a day off, the Bucks pushed past the Adebayo-less Heat 122-114 Monday night at Fiserv Forum.

While this hardly was anything close to avenging last season’s 4-1 opening-round outster by the Heat, a series outcome that led to Milwaukee’s ouster of coach Mike Budenholzer, it did send a message that the Bucks’ remix is far more potent.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was injured early in that first-round loss to the Heat, closed with 33 points, supported by 25 from Milwaukee mega offseason addition Damian Lillard.

Those efforts were enough to offset a 35-point effort from Heat guard Tyler Herro, whose hometown return was played with particular passion. Otherwise the Heat got a nondescript 13 points from Butler in falling to 1-3.

“We’ve got to find ways to be more consistent,” Heat guard Kyle Lowry said.

Next up for the Heat is a three-game homestand against the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Lakers that opens Wednesday night at Kaseya Center.

“This is an important week for us coming up at home,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve had a lot of moving parts early in the season.

“We just need to move the needle this week.”

Five Degrees of Heat from Monday night’s game:

1. Closing time: It was tied 28-28 after the first period, with the Heat then going down 14 in the second period and trailing 62-52 at half.

The Bucks then seized control in the third period, taking a 97-73 lead into the fourth, with the Heat nonetheless opening that final period with Butler on the bench.

On a night the Heat needed the longball to stay competitive, they were 6 of 23 from the 3-point line through three quarters.

But the Heat later got within 107-96 with 5:55 to play on a Duncan Robinson 3-pointer, within 109-100 with 4:43 left on a Herro basket, and then within 113-105 with 3:33 to play on a Nikola Jovic 3-pointer.

From there, a Robinson lane floater with 1:22 pulled the Heat within 115-109, with another Robinson 3-pointer with 28.6 seconds to play. Robinson closed with 15 points.

But the late surge with Herro as the only starter on the floor proved to be too little too late.

“We earned that 25-point deficit,” Spoelstra said, “and then that young group came in and really battled, did a lot of good things.”

2. Adebayo out: With Adebayo ruled out after struggling through a pregame warmup with limited mobility due to a hip contusion, Thomas Bryant was moved into the Heat starting lineup.

With Butler back after getting Saturday off in Minnesota for rest and Kevin Love back after missing the loss to the Timberwolves with a shoulder injury, those two rounded out a starting lineup that also included Herro and Lowry.

The absence of Adebayo left the Heat without three of their top frontcourt defenders, with Caleb Martin again out with knee pain and with Haywood Highsmith back in Miami rehabilitating a sprained knee.

In addition to Adebayo, Martin and Highsmith, forward Cole Swider also was inactive, in order to save against the quota of total days the Heat can have two-way players active.

“We almost had to hold him back,” Spoelstra said of Adebayo attempting to play.

3. Richardson returns: Projected as a prime backcourt component after his offseason return in free agency, Josh Richardson was back in the mix for the first time during the regular season, after dealing with foot issues since the preseason.

“I’ve been itching to play,” Richardson said.

Richardson joined the team Sunday in Milwaukee, after remaining behind in Miami for the first two games of the three-game trip.

Richardson entered for the first time with 6:02 remaining in the first quarter, in place of Herro. He missed his first two shots before converting a 14-foot jumper on his third attempt, while playing as point guard at the time. He was at two points on 1-of-4 shooting at halftime.

He closed with six points on 3-of-7 shooting, three rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes.

“We have a lot of guys that are going to be able to help that are getting back to health,” Spoelstra said when asked about Richardson.

4. Herro homecoming: The last time Herro played in Milwaukee, he was lost for the balance of the postseason in the first half of the Heat’s playoff opener, with a broken hand. He then missed the opportunity to return to his hometown for the Heat’s clinching Game 5 victory over Bucks, undergoing surgery that day.

This time he opened 4 of 5 from the field, the first Heat player to score in double figures, and was up to a game-high 18 points at intermission.

“I thought Tyler was very good tonight,” Spoelstra said. “He was very assertive. I felt like he was making the right plays.

“He’s just continuing to grow as a young, emerging player in this league.”

Herro closed 12 of 21 from the field and 9 of 10 from the line, adding eight rebounds.

“It’s probably the best I’ve felt all season,” Herro said. “Mentally, I was slowing down.”

Herro entered having converted 42 consecutive free throws, with that streak ending at 48 in the third period. Glen Rice holds the franchise record of 50 in a row, set in 1994. Herro’s previous longest such streak was 33.

5. The Dame factor: Unsuccessfully pursued by the Heat on the offseason trade market, Lillard largely picked his spots for the Bucks after Antetokounmpo got off to a solid start.

But unlike the Bucks’ 127-100 Sunday home loss to the Atlanta Hawks, when he finished 2 of 12 from the field for six points, he this time had his meaningful moments.

One of them was when he drained a 3-pointer with 9:12 to play in the third quarter to give the Bucks a 73-56 lead, leading to a Heat timeout.

“They come at you in so many different ways,” Herro said. “Keeping up with that offense isn’t particularly easy.”

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