Heat overcome 19-point deficit, extend win streak to five with 118-113 decision in San Antonio
The exhaustion was legitimate, the Heat playing in San Antonio on the second night of a back-to-back set that began with Saturday night’s victory in Atlanta.
The challenge was tangible, Tyler Herro remaining out with his ankle sprain and Kyle Lowry, at 37, given the night off for rest.
But the groove is real.
So for the first time in two seasons, the Miami Heat are on a five-game winning streak.
Overcoming an early 19-point deficit and embracing the return of Jimmy Butler after he was missing a night earlier for personal reasons, the Heat pushed past the Spurs 118-113 Sunday night at Frost Bank Center.
“There were no excuses,” guard Duncan Robinson said, after the Heat improved to 3-0 on the four-game trip that ends Tuesday night against the Charlotte Hornets. “Wanted to get greedy, get three in a row here on the road. It didn’t start where we wanted to, but battled back.”
With former Spur and once-and-again Heat guard Josh Richardson converting two key late shots and with the Heat scoring on 12 of their final 14 possessions, Erik Spoelstra’s team again found a way.
“We didn’t want to make any excuses,” Spoelstra said, “and these can be some of the more gratifying wins during a season, when you could mail it in, you could come up with all the reasons why you might not.
Robinson led the Heat with 26 points, with center Bam Adebayo adding a 24-point, 11-rebound double-double.
With Butler adding 19 points and four other teammates scoring in double figures, the Heat were able to overcome 18 points and 11 rebounds from Spurs rookie phenom Victor Wembanayama.
“Pushing back, 19-point deficit on the second night of a back-to-back,” Adebayo said, “that just shows our grit, shows our dedication, perseverance, and showing we can will a win.”
Five Degrees of Heat from Sunday night’s game:
1. Closing time: The Spurs led 29-15 at the end of the first period, a quarter the Heat shot 6 of 23, including 0 for 8 on 3-pointers.
From 19 down, the Heat then tied it in the second period, before going into halftime down 53-50.
The Heat then moved ahead in the third period, sparked by Kevin Love’s 12-point quarter, before going into the fourth down 84-82.
The Spurs then went up 10, before the Heat tied it 103-103 on an Adebayo hook shot, with Robinson putting the Heat up 105-103 with a layup with 3:55 to play.
It went back and forth from there, with a pair of Robinson free throws giving the Heat a 109-108 lead with 2:29 remaining, a Richardson 3-pointer with 1:58 left pushing the Heat to a 112-110 lead, and another Richardson basket making it 114-110 with 1:24 to play.
“J-Rich was great,” Spoelstra said. “He was our proverbial player of the game. It was good for him to have that kind of game, in a place where he played really well.”
2. Battle of the bigs: In the midst of arguably the best statistical week of his career, Adebayo was up to 12 points and five rebounds by halftime. At the same stage, Wembanyama had eight points and six rebounds, but on 4-of-14 shooting, compared to Adebayo’s 4 of 8.
Adebayo’s fifth point moved him past Tim Hardaway for ninth on the franchise all-time scoring list.
Adebayo closed 10 of 20 from the field, Wembanyama 8 of 22.
Adebayo exited impressed with the Spurs rookie
“He’s living up to his expectations,” he said. “He’s trying to get the job done. He’s starting to figure it out.”
Based on the Heat going 4-0 and Adebayo’s numbers, being named NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday looms as a possibility.
3. Back at it: After missing Saturday’s victory in Atlanta for personal reasons, Butler got off to an uneven start but was up to 11 points and six rebounds by halftime.
A Butler 3-pointer late in the second period allowed the Heat to close within three at the intermission. That 3-pointer was the 600th of his career.
He closed 5 of 14 from the field, but also 8 of 9 from the line, with six rebounds and four assists.
“The resilience that we play with, we never gave up,” he said.
Butler said he was glad to share in such a collective performance.
“We want to continue to build everybody’s confidence,” he said.
4. Another one: With Lowry giving the game off on the second night of the back-to-back set, and with Butler back, the Heat opened with their seventh lineup in 10 games, with Butler, Adebayo, Haywood Highsmith, Richardson and Robinson.
That made it consecutive starts for Robinson since Herro went down with his Grade 2 ankle sprain in Wednesday night’s victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at the start of this four-game trip.
Even without the ballhandling of Lowry and Herro, the Heat committed only seven turnovers.
“We simplified it on the second night of the back to back,” Spoelstra said of his offense.” A lot of it was playing out of Jimmy’s and Bam’s post-ups.”
5. Statement period: Out of the Heat mix for four games before his start in Saturday’s victory, Love was back as a reserve Sunday and even ceded some first-half minutes to Thomas Bryant.
But with the game getting sideways for the Heat in the third, Love scored 12 in the third, his physicality at times getting the best of Wembanyama.
It was the 700th time Love has scored in double figures in his career.
“K-Love’s minutes were so important,” Spoelstra said. “In the second half, those buckets were such relief points for us and you don’t want Victor Wembanyama to be able to totally control the paint, and K-Love was able to draw him out two or three times, open up some space.”