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Shorthanded and superb: Heat pull off 123-97 stunner in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE – The pregame questioning included Erik Spoelstra being asked about his team being shorthanded.

The questioner barely got four or five words out before Spoelstra gave the look, the one that lasers through anyone who dare suggest the Miami Heat don’t have enough.

Which, by all reasonable measure, they didn’t.

Which, by final score, didn’t matter.

With Jimmy Butler, Terry Rozier and Josh Richardson away from the team, the Miami Heat not only stood up to the challenge Tuesday night of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard and the Milwaukee Bucks, but ultimately stole into the night with a 123-97 victory at Fiserv Forum.

Aided by 19-of-40  shooting on 3-pointers.

With 2022 first-round pick Nikola Jovic scoring a career-high 24, with Duncan Robinson recovering from Sunday’s run-in with Boston Jaylen Brown to score 23, with Terry Herro and Kevin adding 19 apiece and with Bam Adebayo going for 16 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists, the Heat made it five victorIes in their last seven games, with only Wednesday night’s road game against the Philadelphia 76ers left before an eight-day All-Star break.

It was Adebayo’s second triple-double of the season.

So, yes, they had enough to more than offset the 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists of Antetokounmpo and 16 points and five assists of Lillard.

Bucks coach Doc Rivers pulled the plug, and his starters, down 29 with 7:40 to play, with Spoelstra emptying his bench shortly thereafter.

Five Degrees of Heat from Tuesday night’s game:

1. Game flow: The Heat led 40-28 at the end of the opening period, shooting  7 of 11 on 3-pointers in the period, and then moved to a 69-52 halftime lead. The Heat shot 12 of 21 on 3-pointers in the first half, their season high for 3-pointers in a half.

From there, the Heat pushed their lead to 25 in the third period and went into the fourth up

98-76, later pushing the lead into the 30s.

2. No. 29: It was lineup No. 29 for the Heat in Game 54, this time as much out of necessity as strategy.

With Butler on bereavement leave, Rozier out with a knee strain and Richardson sidelined by a dislocated shoulder, the Heat opened with a lineup ofAdebayo, Herro, Robinson, Jovic and Caleb Martin.

It was Jovic’s 13th start and first since the Jan. 21 road loss to the Magic, with his presence adding height against the Bucks’ front line of Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez and his ballhandling helping to compensate for the absences of Rozier and Richardson.

Jovic opened defensively against Lopez, draining a 3-pointer on the Heat’s first possession. He closed the first period with 11 points and already had matched his previous career high of 18 points by the opening minutes of the third period, after previously eclipsing his season high of 15.

Jovic closed 8 of 13 from the field, including 5 of 8 on 3-pointers, with seven rebounds and three assists.

3. Robinson for 3: Robinson opened 5 of 6 on 3-pointers after being listed as questionable for the game with a sprained left elbow/shoulder, the result of Sunday’s kerfuffle with the Celtics’ Brown.

Robinson was hurt on a play when Brown appeared to attempt to pull Robinson’s arm out of socket, a play where Robinson was cited for blame in some quarters.

“It was an unfortunate play,” Spoelstra said pregame. “If opponents are thinking that Duncan is the enforcer and the overly physical defender, then that means we’re doing some good things.

“He has gotten a lot better on the defensive side of the floor and he’s gotten a lot stronger, and he’s been able to do things with more force. And fortunately, he was able to come out of that healthy enough to play.”

Robinson had 11 first-quarter points and kept going from there. He finished 8 of 12 from the field, including 6 of 8 on 3-pointers.

4. Adebayo triples up: Adebayo was up to six points and six rebounds by the midpoint of the first period, playing with more force than in recent games. He was up to 12 points and nine rebounds at the intermission.

He reached his 178th career double-double with a rebound with eight minutes left in the second period. He now is eight double-doubles shy of passing Hassan Whiteside for third place on the Heat all-time list.

Adebayo’s eighth rebound, secured in the second period, was the 4,000th of his career.

5. Herro’s roll: Herro’s second 3-pointer, converted early in the second period, moved him past Eddie Jones for third place on the Heat’s all-time list at 712. Only Robinson and Tim Hardaway have more.

Herro also extended his streak to 15 consecutive games with multiple 3-pointers, two games from the longest streak of his career, one set last spring.

Hero closed 3 of 8 on 3-pointers.

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