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Heat fall 112-81 with shorthanded summer roster; Nikola Jovic returns to Serbia for World Cup

A month later, it was an NBA Finals rematch of the Miami Heat vs. the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. In a far, far, far different setting.

The competition this time was in the NBA2K24 Summer League in Las Vegas, on a night the Heat opted to sit many of the leading men from their summer roster.

Playing in the absences of Nikola Jovic, Orlando Robinson, Jaime Jaquez Jr., Dru Smith and Drew Peterson, the Heat looked like a team poised to leave Las Vegas, falling behind by 40 at one point on the way to a 112-81 loss to the Nuggets’ summer roster.

The Heat got 20 points and six rebounds from guard Jamaree Bouyea and nine points from forward Jamal Cain, albeit on 4-of-14 shooting, the only two regulars from the team’s summer roster seeing action.

The loss dropped the Heat to 3-3 in summer-league play, 2-2 in Las Vegas.

The Nuggets got 23 points from first-round pick Julian Strawther, the forward out of Gonzaga, and 31 from second-round pick Hunter Tyson, the guard out of Clemson.

Five Degrees of Heat from Friday night’s summer-league game:

1. For starters: With the game part of a back-to-back set, most of the Heat’s prime rotation was given the night off a night after Thursday’s 91-72 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Without Jovic, Robinson, Jaquez, Smith and Peterson, the Heat opened with Cain and Bouyea in the starting lineup, alongside Alondes Williams, Patrick Gardiner and Chase Audige.

Such tends to be the approach toward the end of summer league, when those who committed their time since the start of the month are rewarded with minutes.

That had the likes of Ja’von Franklin, Trenton Massner, Taylor Funk, Caleb Daniels, Brandon McCoy and Justin Powell also seeing action for the Heat.

Gardner, the outside-shooting center who went undrafted out of Marist, scored 14, shooting 4 of 7 on 3-pointers.

2. Jovic gone: Jovic left Las Vegas to return to Serbia and begin preparations for a possible spot on his country’s World Cup roster, with that competition later this summer.

Jovic had been limited in the Las Vegas games with a sore foot but put together solid stats in the California Classic in Sacramento the previous week, with 21- and 22-point performances in that summer league.

Jovic said he was looking forward to the time with the national team.

“It can help me a lot,” the 20-year-old No. 27 pick in the 2022 NBA draft said.

3. Jaquez on hold: It appears summer league is over for Jaquez, who injured his shoulder in the second of the Heat’s two games in Sacramento and has been sidelined since that July 5 game.

Jaquez had gotten off to a solid summer start, with 22 points in the opening game in Sacramento, a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

The time in Las Vegas allowed Jaquez, the guard out of UCLA taken with the No. 18 pick last month, to participate in the NBA’s rookie transition program and the league’s rookie photo shoot.

4. The prime attractions: Cain and Bouyea stood as potentially the only two players in Friday’s mix who will be with the team in training camp in October.

Cain missed his first seven shots, before somewhat coming around with his offense.

Bouyea, forced to play more of a scorer amid Friday’s mix after previously serving as playmaker, showed a bit more of that element.

“We came out slow, flat-footed.” said Bouyea, with the Heat down 57-36 at halftime.

Cain, who spent last season on a Heat two-way contract, has yet to receive a Heat commitment for the coming season.

Bouyea was signed to a two-way contract ahead of summer league.

5. What’s next: The Heat went in needing to win by at least 13 points for a chance to advance to the semifinals of the tournament bracket. Instead, they will conclude with a consolation game Sunday to end their seven-game summer run.

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