There were dual victories Tuesday for Erik Spoelstra. Not only did his team get the win against the Boston Celtics, but the Miami Heat coach secured a valuable teaching point.
Because on a night Tyler Herro was awful with his shooting, the fourth-year guard was spot on at the moments of truth in what turned into a 98-95 victory.
Such as a key late assist for a Haywood Highsmith 3-pointer, a pull-up 3-pointer in transition, the assist on Bam Adebayo’s go-ahead basket with 20.4 seconds to play, and a steal with 1.2 seconds left when Boston was down two with a chance to tie or go ahead.
“Tyler made some big plays down the stretch,” Spoelstra said.
All while having the perseverance to push through a 4-of-19 night from the field that included 1-of-7 3-point shooting.
“This is what we’ve been emphasizing with our team right now,” Spoelstra said, with the Heat in a two-day break before hosting the Orlando Magic on Friday night at the conclusion of this three-game homestand. “We can win basketball games right now whether we feel like we’re in rhythm, whether we feel like the offense is flowing, whether we have confidence or not. It doesn’t matter. It’s about impacting the game and impacting the win.”
No, Herro couldn’t make a shot. But with the game on the line, he also didn’t miss a beat.
“If we have to win, ugly,” Spoelstra said, with his team a season-best five games above .500, “so be it.”
That had Herro able to discuss stepping up, rather than shots that didn’t go down.
The assist to Adebayo was one of his six, with his second moving him past Rory Sparrow for 20th on the Heat all-time list. It came out of a double team.
“I mean, I’m expecting it now,” Herro said of the attention. “I’m surprised if I don’t see some sort of double or something. So I’m coming into the game with the mindset of being aggressive, but also being ready to make the right play if a trap or a double comes.”
As for the steal, Herro first made light of his reputation.
“I can’t play defense, man,” he said. “I don’t play defense.”
But at a moment of truth he did, picking off Jayson Tatum’s pass, one of seven Tatum turnovers.
“We were in zone, so I was up a little bit, knowing there was a guy in the corner,” Herro said. “I just wanted to be up higher, so if he did make that corner pass, I could play both. Even if I didn’t get the steal, I was there to close out.”
The irony is the Celtics opted to play in transition because they did not want the Heat to be able to make a defensive substitution and remove Herro, as Spoelstra did for the Heat’s final defensive sequence up three with sixth-tenths of a second to play.
“I’m sitting there and I’m saying if we call one, they get to their defensive lineup,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “They may go zone, they may go man, you’re not really sure. They may blitz, they may switch, they may maintain.
“What I did know is the absolutes. The absolute was we had the ball in our best player’s hands. I knew that because of their offensive lineup, they were going to play this coverage, I just didn’t call the right play. I have to call a better play to get the better spacing for him to see it better.”
Another close one
With Tuesday’s victory, the Heat are 10-6 in three-point games this season, roughly one-third of their schedule to this stage. “Heat Nation’s getting its money’s worth, if you’re in this area,” Spoelstra quipped . . .
The Heat on Wednesday participated in their eighth annual Beach Sweep. As part of NBA Green and in conjunction with One Tree Planted, the Heat planted 30 native trees at Oleta River State Park’s Gilligan’s Trail in North Miami. In addition, staff from Florida International University led volunteers to test the water for microplastics in Biscayne Bay and record plant and animal observations in response to climate change.