Herro, Adebayo sizzle in Butler exhibition absence as Heat down Grizzlies
MIAMI – No, not a formal dress rehearsal, not with Jimmy Butler out for the third time in as many exhibitions.
But Sunday night’s 132-124 preseason victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at Kaseya Center gave some hint of who and what the Miami Heat might be when they open their regular season Oct. 25 against the visiting Detroit Pistons.
Kevin Love and Kyle Lowry each started for the second time in as many appearances this preseason.
Haywood Highsmith was cast as both a perimeter and power component, some type of rotation role now seemingly likely.
Thomas Bryant again played as preferred option at center behind Adebayo, closing with 13 points.
Jamal Cain again maximized his opportunity, after the forward on a two-way contract closed Friday night’s road loss to the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points and 10 rebounds. This time there were 14 points and seven rebounds.
But, most significantly, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo were giving the keys to the offense to do what they wanted as often as they wanted.
Herro led the Heat, scoring 21 of his 30 points in the first half.
“He’s so skilled and he can do it off the ball, on the ball,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “His reads are getting better and better each year. And he’s so eager to get out there.
“He just makes our offense so much more dynamic, and tonight was a case in point.”
After an offseason of trade rumors, Herro appeared to savor this Sunday moment.
“I’m always ambitious, motivated,” he said. “This year . . . is a year to be myself and have fun.”
Adebayo showed a diversity of offense and defense, including a 3-point attempt, in a 26-point performance that included four blocked shots.
Adebayo won his matchup against Jaren Jackson Jr., a player against whom he often is compared.
“I think great players want to play against other well-respected players,” Spoelstra said, “Bam is just reading the game and being a lot more assertive, no matter who it is. His aggressiveness was very good tonight.”
For Adebayo, it is getting back into a rhythm with Herro, who missed all but one game of last season’s playoffs.
“I don’t think the chemistry ever left,” Adebayo said.
Lowry moved the ball as needed, including six assists in his initial stint, closing with nine, as well as five rebounds and five points.
Five Degrees of Heat from Sunday night’s exhibition:
1. Still no Butler, Martin: Butler missed his second game due to a dental procedure, after sitting the preseason opener for rest.
Butler was at the arena, mingling with teammates in the locker without apparent discomfort.
The hope is for Butler to appear in at least one of the Heat’s two remaining exhibitions, with the expectation of his being ready for the season opener.
Forward Caleb Martin also missed his third consecutive game, due to knee pain that has lingered since his offseason workouts.
Martin went through shooting drills pregame.
2. Also out: Beyond Butler, the Heat for a second consecutive game were without forward Nikola Jovic and guards Jaime Jaquez Jr., R.J. Hampton and Josh Richardson.
Jovic is dealing with a bruised right knee sustained in Tuesday’s preseason-opening victory over the Charlotte Hornets. Jaquez strained his left groin in Wednesday’s practice. Hampton strained his right hip during pregame warmups for Friday’s road exhibition loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
In addition, guard Dru Smith, who had appeared in the first two exhibitions, was out Sunday due to a strained right hamstring.
“We’re listing everybody as day to day,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll get a better indicator over these next couple of days.”
3. First five: With Spoelstra’s rotation options limited by the absences, he opened with Adebayo at center, Love at power forward, Highsmith at small forward, Herro at shooting guard and Lowry at point guard.
Based on a mostly similar approach in the preseason opener, it is appearing more likely that Love and Lowry could be in the opening-night starting lineup.
Duncan Robinson, Bryant and Cain played as the Heat’s first three reserves, each entering before the end of the opening period. Cole Swider followed at the start of the second period, converting his first 3-point attempt.
Lowry and Herro showed solid early chemistry, with Lowry twice feeding Herro for hit-ahead layups. Adebayo and Herro took 15 of the Heat’s first 16 shots, scoring the Heat’s first 18 points, with Lowry assisting on six of the Heat’s first nine baskets.
4. Initial cuts: Spoelstra before Sunday’s game discussed Saturday’s release of Drew Peterson and Alondis Williams, who both were on preseason tryout contracts. Both are positioned to move on to the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
“We’re encouraged by both of them,” he said. “This was part of the agreement, to transition them and get guys on to Sioux Falls. It happens in stages. These could be great opportunities, still. We want to invest in them for the entire season.
“They got a lot better in these last eight weeks and I’m looking forward to this next step in Sioux Falls.”
5. What’s next: The Heat close out the home portion of their preseason with a Wednesday 7:30 p.m. game against the Brooklyn Nets, with their final exhibition on Friday night on the road against the Houston Rockets.