Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Gabe Vincent Should be Miami’s Starting Point Guard for the Rest of the Season

On Saturday night, the undermanned Miami Heat completed its eighth set of back-to-back games for the season, winning both- at home versus Houston and on the road in Orlando, matched up with a group that had won 18 of its last 31 before tipoff.  


The Magic’s unorthodox, lengthy lineup swarmed the passing lanes, forcing six turnovers in the first quarter.  The Heat was also off-target on shots against drop coverage and inaccurate defended by the 2-3 zone.  Through the first half, the visitors could only pierce the lane and convert seven out of 13 times.  The hosts’ backline defenders forced Miami into taking most of the attempts from the outside.


Guarding the other end was problematic early too.  Miami was carved up by ball movement, resulting in late closeouts in transition and in the half-court with the occasional mismatch hunting.  Multiple times when the Magic’s bigs attacked the middle, the Heat collapsed too hard, giving up the baseline to Paolo Banchero and Jalen Suggs for various buckets.


With over a few minutes left in the second quarter, the Heatles went down by 17 points.  They cut the deficit to eight going into the intermission by drawing cheap fouls in the bonus, earning them six made free throws, Jimmy Butler using his size over Suggs in the post, an elbow jumper from Bam Adebayo, and Max Strus hitting a right-wing triple behind #13’s pin down.


Coming out of halftime, Kyle Lowry’s understudy, Gabe Vincent, had seven points on 40% efficiency.  Defensively, he forced Orlando’s Gary Harris to pick up his dribble from 21 feet out and take a well-contested shot. Against Markelle Fultz, Vincent got a hand up to bother an elbow fadeaway that missed.  In those 24 minutes, he also had two deflections and contested six shots.


In the third quarter, Vincent hit a left-wing 3-pointer off an offensive rebound by Caleb Martin.  Setting up Tyler Herro from the left corner, #2 broke into the paint and passed to his man.  The hard closeout by Fultz and screen assist by Adebayo allowed Herro to penetrate the interior for a floater over Carter.  


Gabe’s heat check occurred with under eight minutes left.  He sized up Franz Wagner in the left corner, breaking his defensive stance with a jab step.  Suddenly, he burst left and slit the lane for a reverse layup with his man on his back hip.


In the fourth, he scored seven points, but none greater than his pair of free throws with Miami down two and 12.9 seconds left. Without emotion, he tied the game.


Vincent then opened the extra period with a top of the key trifecta.  As he turned the corner of  Butler’s screen, he swiftly noticed Banchero didn’t switch as Carter got to JB. The rookie was too late.


The Heatles’ decision to defend the last possession while up three points instead of fouling to send the opponent to the line was a head-scratcher, but it didn’t hurt them.  The Magic was able to hoist off a look; Harris’ right corner 3-pointer was defended in textbook fashion by Strus.  Banchero recovered the miss, but on his way to the arc, he stepped out of bounds. 


Next, Herro subbed in for Martin and was take-fouled by Banchero for a freebie.  Miami won 107-103.


At the postgame presser, an elated Spo said his team is must-see TV “because it’s always going to be a close game.”


Adebayo, Strus and Vincent played all of the fourth quarter and overtime.  Spo said he knew his team wouldn’t feel great, but they needed to do whatever it took to win.  


“We burned the boats and figured we just have to go for it,” Spo said.


The dub pushed Miami to seven wins above .500 for the first time this season.  The Heat’s long-range bombardment cooled down as the game went on, but Vincent finished with four out 10 makes and 20 points in his fourth consecutive game starting for Lowry.  


It was his ninth start of the season.  In those games, Vincent is averaging 15.4 points on 47% efficiency, while Miami is 7-2.


This is no shot at Lowry.  He’s had a hall-of-fame career and has logged 37,769 minutes in the regular season and playoffs.  But the burst he had in his first step is gone.  The only way Lowry would get into the lane was with the help of a screen or when he was driving downhill on the break.  


In the half-court, if he wasn’t hitting trays off a pick, he’d turn exclusively into a passer.  It wouldn’t take long for the opponent to figure it out as Miami was playing four on five.  Father Time matured #7 into an outside-only guard that can’t stop the point of attack. 


Lowry is out indefinitely, but if he were to come back before the season is kaput, he should play behind Vincent.  The Heat needs to build on #2’s performances with the other four main guys or, at the very least, evaluate what is has with him.



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