Well this was a wild one.
The Heat having seven available players battled like no other in Washington, really showcasing themselves individually on all fronts.
Yet they came up just short in OT.
Here are some takeaways…
#1: Throwback Kyle Lowry appearance?
This wasn’t a normal night in the NBA. Kyle Lowry was the sole veteran on the floor for Miami who had 7 available players, and he turned back the clock. After the extensive talks about his physical conditioning this off-season, he went out in Washington and played every second of that first half, dropped 14 points with 9 assists and 7 rebounds. But beyond the stats, he was the engine to every action they ran. Off a miss, he was running with the young guys breaking free in transition. In the half-court, they did what they always do without their main guys: run post splits non-stop. They used Lowry as a hub in that high-post to hit cutters off stagger screens, which is where the lay-ups and trips to the foul line were coming from. Good stuff.
#2: The rookie Nikola Jovic is here, and he shouldn’t be going anywhere in terms of this rotation.
Nikola Jovic has been given opportunity in the midst of the loaded injury report, and it might have just cemented his spot in the rotation for good. All teams need sometimes is an extra eye of game-time from a young guy, and that seems like the case for Jovic. He’s played a role he’s uncomfortable with to say the least, and still played it at a high level with zero experience. That’s usually the tell. Offensively he’s just a supreme talent. A skilled passer on the move or stationary, moves off the ball at levels that even I didn’t expect, and can shoot/score when put in a position to do so. Let’s save the starting four conversation for another occasion with deeper dialogue, but the rotation stuff should be a no brainer on this roster. He’s a lock in the big man room. (With more to explore next to Bam…)
#3: Orlando Robinson showing some skill.
Tonight’s game was one for the kids (which feels wild to say with them being older than me), and we got a deeper look into specific skill-sets at the end of the roster. The one who debuted tonight was Orlando Robinson, who we saw for a bit in Heat Summer League next to Jovic. But I’d say he was pretty solid in this one to say the least. Good looking foot-work, great use of shot fakes in the interior, and an overall slow-paced flow to him once he gained possession of the ball. We’ve seen a lot of guys debut and not really know where to locate on the offensive end, but Robinson fit right in and attacked. We will need to see more, but a pretty intriguing starter kit when the Heat need an extra push on night’s like this one.
#4: Max Strus deserves another segment of shine, but for a different reason.
When looking at Max Strus in this one, I can have a similar conversation that I have as of late. The shooting will always be there, but the development off the attack continues to impress. He was blowing by the point of attack consistently and finding creases around the basket with scoops and runners from all spots on the floor. But aside from me going on that tangent again, he needs credit for another reason: cardio. Not just because this group was playing high minutes, but combining that with Strus’ role in this one. There’s already an element of this where Strus has to non-stop move in this offense to create shots for both himself and others, but that was taken to new heights in this one. That led into him struggling in the second half with every shot being short, but tonight was unique all in all.
#5: Fourth quarter/OT watch.
Now getting away from the player story-lines, let’s get back to the actual game. Lowry sat for the first time with 1 minute left in the third quarter, which was long overdue, but one thing was clear: the offense would fall off a cliff in the time he sat. He re-entered with 11 minutes to go in the fourth, meaning he sat for 2 minutes, and we saw that flip with an 8 point swing. There’s nobody to emulate what he was providing. But once he came back in, he picked up right where he left off. Big threes, more paint touches on drives, and finding the balance of a settled offense with a faster pace. Eventually, the Heat found themselves in a tie game with 3 and a half minutes left. Haywood Highsmith was putting together a rough offensive night, but his rebounding was one of the keys to the game. I noted it prior, but at that point in the game, he got 2 offensive boards with one being a tip-in to take the lead. After some other necessary plays, he hit an open three to take the lead late, giving Miami real hope. A possession after this, Kyle Lowry went deep in his bag for a fadeaway baseline jumper to extend the lead to 5. Washington bounced back with clutch buckets themselves though, sending the game to OT. Some back and forth continued, with some questionable calls late, and Miami found themselves in an awkward position. Down 1 for a good portion of time, they couldn’t get over that hump offensively with all shots coming up short: for obvious reasons.