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Winderman’s view: Heat still in search of offense as clock ticks toward possible expiration

PHILADELPHIA – Observations and other notes of interest from Wednesday night’s 105-104 NBA play-in loss to the Philadelphia 76ers:

– The zone defense was energizing and effective.

– The effort on that end of the floor was undeniable.

– Could not have been much better.

– But you also have to score.

– Which made this much like the Heat’s season.

– Heart and hustle will get you to places such as the play-in.

– Points will put you over the top.

– This is why the Heat got Terry Rozier.

– And this is why the Heat badly missed Rozier in this one.

– Tyler Herro couldn’t make a shot until late.

– Jimmy Butler couldn’t make a shot after hurting his knee.

– Duncan Robinson was unable to get off the bench to shoot.

– And Rozier was back in Miami with what continue to be listed as back spasms.

– The reality is that Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Haywood Highsmith are only going to get you so far.

– In this case, an all-or-nothing play-in game Friday night at Kaseya Center.

– When points again could be at a premium.

– When even the most determined defense might not be enough.

– The Heat fought the good fight in this one.

– It’s the other end of the court that continues as the bane.

– Winning in the mud did not work Wednesday.

– Now the question is whether the Heat can regain their footing Friday.

– The Heat opened the postseason as they ended the regular season, with a starting lineup of Bam Adebayo, Nikola Jovic, Butler, Herro and Caleb Martin.

– That was with Rozier remaining out with what has been listed as neck spasms.

– That lineup went 4-3 during the regular season.

– Because two-way players are ineligible for the postseason and because there is a playoff 15-player active limit, there were no inactive Heat players Wednesday. So Rozier and Josh Richardson (shoulder) remained out, but also were on the active roster.

– Butler opened defensively on Tyrese Maxey.

– Kyle Lowry opened defensively on Butler.

– Kevin Love entered first for the Heat, after Adebayo was called for a pair of early fouls.

– Highsmith and Jaquez Jr. then followed together off the bench,

– Then, instead of Robinson, who remained on the bench with a wrap around his problematic back, Delon Wright entered.

– Records from play-in games count neither toward the regular season or playoffs, with the NBA likely to start a play-in record book once there is a large enough sample size.

– Although a direct berth in the playoffs would have been a road easier traveled, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said pregame he had no issue with the play-in format.

– “It’s obviously been really good for the league, super competitive,” he said. “You can’t hide from it. You have a lot less teams tanking.”

– And, so, what he was left with Wednesday night.

– “Both teams had to deal with a lot of different adversity, but we basically ended up in the same spot,” he said. “So it’s the way the seven-eight should be.”

– Spoelstra was asked pregame about the legend of Playoff Jimmy.

– “I don’t know. Obviously there’s been a lot of narratives about that,” he said of the Butler narrative. “But this is just high-level competition, when you get to these scenarios. Even the play-in, it’s really high-level competition.”

– Spoelstra was asked pregame about the changes in the 76ers since the team last met in the postseason in 2022, particularly about Maxey.

– “Confidence. More than anything, confidence,” he said of Maxey. “Usage has been up and he’s been able to do this all season long. He’s dynamic with his speed, his quickness, his shooting. It requires your full attention as a team.”

– Spoelstra went in acknowledging there might have to be a Plan B against Joel Embiid and Maxey.

– “Ultimately,” he said at the morning shootaround, “you just got to find a way to get the job done at the end and make more plays. If it goes according to play and we’re able to get them out of their comfort zone, that’s great. If it doesn’t, then we figure out a different path to get the win.”

– The Eagles’ Brandon Graham rang the pregame Liberty Bell.

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