Winderman’s view: Gabe Vincent as NBA Finals leading man, all part of this wild ride
DENVER – Observations and other notes of interest from Sunday night’s 111-108 NBA Finals victory over the Denver Nuggets:
– Say this about Gabe Vincent, he’s not afraid.
– Oh, and he’s going to be paid.
– There was a time when Vincent stood as the Heat placeholder at point guard.
– Now he essentially is irreplaceable.
– Basically picking up in this one with his 3-point shooting where Max Strus left off.
– Not, not your traditional assists point guard.
– But that is not the need with this team.
– It’s the shooting.
– Because it will take big shooting games for the Heat to conquer the Nuggets in this series.
– As it did Sunday.
– With the Heat 17 of 35 from beyond the arc.
– Who on their bingo card had Gabe Vincent as the leading scorer for the Heat in an NBA Finals game.
– Then again, who had the No. 8 seed tied 1-1 in the NBA Finals, for the four consecutive series stealing homecourt advantage during the first two games on the road.
– The trust in the bench Sunday from Erik Spoelstra was such that he went 10 deep before the end of the first quarter.
– The problem was there was too much trust.
– At least beyond Duncan Robinson, who came on late.
– While playing at altitude can require prudence with minutes, this also stood as the Heat’s lone game in a five game span, off since Thursday, not to play again until Wednesday.
– Still, Spoelstra tried it all.
– And all too often turned into nothing.
– Those initial Robinson might have been as bad as anything the Heat have seen in a while.
– And they arguably still were better than what Cody Zeller delivered in his initial stint.
– The Heat had five bench points at the half.
– Adding Kevin Love into the mix for the first time in four games was a factor.
– But this is a time of season when the best of the best are required.
– Yes, Love did his part.
– And, yes, Martin was ill.
– But Duncan Robinson or bust is no way to live.
– It was Love back in the starting lineup, again opening alongside Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Strus and Vincent, as he did for most of the playoffs until Boston went to its small lineup in the Eastern Conference finals.
– That shuffled Martin back to the Heat bench.
– The Nuggets remained with their usual of Nikola Jokic, Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter JrKentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jamal Murray.
– Spoelstra said his intention was not to hold Love out of Game 1, as he did.
– “I had every intention to play him in Game 1, and things just kind of went a bunch of different ways,” Spoelstra said. “Nothing seemed to look right, including my decision making.”
– Of Love, Spoelstra said. “But yes, he brings that veteran, decorated playoff championship-level experience, and you can’t really quantify what that means except for that he’s been here, he can infuse a bunch of confidence in the guys, and he just has a timeliness of his winning plays. He’s a tough competitor, and he’s had some really important moments in this playoff run.”
– After missing all 10 of his shots in Game 1, Strus opened 2 of 2, a pair of 3-point conversions.
– Kyle Lowry entered as the Heat’s first reserve.
– Martin and Zeller then followed together.
– With Robinson making it nine deep.
– And then Haywood Highsmith 10 deep.
– Adebayo’s fifth defensive rebound moved him past Chris Bosh for fourth on the Heat all-time playoff list.
– Vincent’s second 3-point attempt was 200th of his playoff career.
– Robinson’s first 3-point attempt tied Mario Chalmers for second on the Heat all-time playoff list.
– Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he was briefed on all the off-day talk of the Heat lamenting getting only two free throws in Game 1, an all-time NBA-playoff low.
– “I’m getting it from my assistant coaches. I’m not sitting there reading the ticker,” he said. “But we meet a lot, we talk a lot. When an opposing team only has two free throw attempts as a team and Jimmy Butler, who was third in the playoffs coming into this series at 9.1 per game and he gets zero, it’s just common sense that they’re going to be a hell of a lot more aggressive, understanding that they have to get there more than two times a game, because that’s who they’ve been.”
– Malone added, “I think Game 1 obviously was not who we’ve seen from the Miami Heat throughout these Eastern Conference playoffs.”