Winderman’s view: Highsmith again a catalyst as Heat keep on rolling
Observations and other notes of interest from Tuesday night’s 111-105 victory over the Charlotte Hornets:
– Sometimes it’s the little things.
– At the end of a week on the road, that often can make the difference.
– Tuesday night, it was Haywood Highsmith making that difference.
– Injected into the starting lineup to add vitality to the mix, Highsmith did that again against the Hornets.
– This time it was four first-half steals.
– A total that matched his career single-game high.
– He also converted 3-pointers when needed.
– And basically never stopped moving.
– In a starting lineup with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, Highsmith doesn’t get in the way.
– He also helps space the floor with Duncan Robinson.
– As a bonus, it has allowed for Kevin Love rejuvenation with the second unit.
– Yes, it makes the Heat smaller.
– But even when the Hornets upsized Tuesday night, the Heat still found a way.
– As they now have going on two weeks.
– Two weeks when Highsmith has started.
– The Heat got back to their preferred non-Tyler Herro lineup, opening with Adebayo, Highsmith, Butler, Robinson and Kyle Lowry.
– Butler had missed Saturday’s game in Atlanta for personal reasons, with Lowry given Sunday in San Antonio off for rest.
– The (very) shorthanded Hornets opened with Mark Williams, JT Thor, P.J. Washington, LaMelo Ball, Theo Maledon.
– No, really.
– Both teams dressed 11, four below the game-night maximum.
– The Hornets with no choice.
– The Heat as a means of preserving two-way days for players on those contracts, with Cole Swider, RJ Hampton and Jamal Cain inactive. Cain is in the G League. Swider remains with the Heat. Hampton is dealing with a knee issue.
– Cain started Tuesday for the Heat’s G League team.
– Lowry was called for two fouls in the game’s opening 49 seconds.
– He remained in.
– Until his third with 8:31 left in the opening period.
– That had Dru Smith entering, with Smith quickly called for a pair of fouls of his own in his first 3:29.
– Love, Josh Richardson and Jaime Jaquez then followed off the bench, with Richardson taking over at point guard for Smith.
– With more Love, Thomas Bryant did not enter until late in the second period.
– His role reduced by the play of Highsmith and Love.
– Butler tied Kevin Edwards for 14th place on the Heat all-time list of games scoring in double figures.
– Butler’s fourth basket was the 4,500th of his career.
– Adebayo made it five consecutive double-doubles.
– Adebayo’s first blocked shot tied Shaquille O’Neal for sixth on the Heat all-time list.
– Robinson’s third rebound was the 800th of his career.
– Neither of the Martin twins were available, Caleb Martin out for the Heat due to ongoing knee soreness and Cody Martin out for the Hornets, also with pain in his left knee.
– Caleb, however, went through vigorous drilling at the morning shootaround and could be on the verge of a return within the week.
– Heat coach Erik Spoelstra went in continuing to stress defense first, particularly in the extended absence of Herro, who will be reevaluated next week with his Grade 2 ankle sprain.
– “That’s our quickest path to success,” he said after the morning shootaround. “Our guys are wrapping their minds around that. We have probably the most potent right now with moving parts of locking in defensively, making it tough on our opponents.”
– Spoelstra added, “It gives you a chance to weather storms on the road, which are inevitable to happen. It gives you the best chance to win on the road.”
– But Spoelstra said it’s not as if the Heat still aren’t capable of finishing touches on offense.
– “We have a bunch of closers still,” he said. “Even without Tyler, we have guys that feel comfortable closing games offensively and we’re making progress, too, there. But defensively, we’ve probably made the most progress on this road trip.”
– Spoelstra said the Hornets being shorthanded did not have the Heat taking anything lightly.
– “I mean, we started out this season 1-4. We don’t have time to mess around,” he said. “We’re definitely not in any kind of position to overlook anybody.”
– Spoelstra added, “We had a couple games this year where we’ve had guys out and I don’t think Milwaukee or Minnesota showed any mercy to us and nobody really cared and nobody even remembers that we didn’t have guys in those games. It’s still ultimately whether you can get the win or not.”
– Hornets coach Steve Clifford went in with his typical pregame praise of the Heat, “They don’t give possessions away. They play with great discipline. They’re never out of a game. You have to play well to beat ’em.”
– Clifford also noted his team’s defensive deficiency, “We don’t run back on defense all the time. We foul, which is just a sign of discipline defensively.”
– Tuesday was expected to be the final game the Hornets were without forward Myles Bridges, after serving a 30-game NBA suspension for a domestic-violence incident.
– Bridges was credited for serving the first 20 games of his suspension last season, after sitting out all of 2022-23, with Tuesday the Hornets’ 10th game of this season.
– Bridges still has a pending court case regarding an alleged violation of a domestic-violence protective order. That case has been continued over until Feb 20.
– Spoelstra went in duly impressed with the recent dynamic offensive play of Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball.
– “It starts as the rebound happens,” he said, noting a pair of Heat comparisons. “These pitch-aheads that Kyle and K-Love get, Ball is that kind of guy. So immediately you have to be alert, get your two guys back to take away some of those relief points, and then get him to graduate to now the other stuff, which he has great court vision. He has great pace. He has size to be able to see any kind of opening.”