The Heat earned its third-largest win of the season (19 points) while hosting the Grizzlies minus Ja Morant, Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke.
Through the first half, Miami pierced the heart of Memphis’ defense 13 times and unexpectedly shot 40% (6/15) from 3-point range. On the other side, the Heatles forced eight turnovers, held the visitors to 18 long-range misfires (7/25), and only allowed three free throw attempts in the first 24 minutes.
Jimmy Butler scored easily against single coverage and couldn’t be restrained from getting to the line. Defenders couldn’t stop the ball when he drove left or beat him down the court when he picked off a pass.
Bam Adebayo had a dozen points coming from transition, pick and pop, putbacks, and a bailout jumper, and Herro had nine points with four dimes in the first half.
Coach Erik Spoelstra stashed Victor Oladipo on his bench and rolled with Kyle Lowry and Haywood Highsmith as his second-quarter substitutes. Lowry hit a triple in the left corner when the ball swung back to him after Memphis sent two at Herro at the key. He also beat David Roddy off the dribble from the top to the inside for a three-foot bank shot. Highsmith defended well in his four minutes and picked up two rebounds.
Despite the absence of Morant’s speed in the last six games for Memphis, the outfit’s pace has dropped from seventh in the league to ninth with Tyus Jones at point guard. On Wednesday, the Grizzlies tried to outrun the slower Heat but got beat in fastbreak points 16-10.
Without two solid backline defenders in Adams and Clarke, Memphis was exposed in the interior when point-of-attack defenders were caught on the ball handler’s back hip. The visitors gave up 62 paint points and 16 second-chance points to Miami.
Adebayo didn’t encounter much difficulty matching up with Jarren Jackson Jr. and Xavier Tillman. #13 logged his first basket from six-feet away in front of both of them when they doubled him after the catch. His next three field goals came against Tillman, and he finished the night with two more scores with Jackson as his defender, hitting a floater over him in the lane and dunking past him on the break.
At the intermission, Miami was up 63-51. In the second half, the Heat’s defense was not as strong, allowing 68 points, but the squad put 75 on its scorecard. In the third quarter, the hosts logged 42 points, making it the second-best 12-minute stretch of its season behind the 45 points scored in the third quarter of a win at home versus Charlotte on Nov. 12.
In the third frame, Herro shook Dillon Brooks on the baseline, hitting a 15-foot jumper. Against drop coverage, #14 sliced into the paint and nailed a floater over Jackson.
Adebayo, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin didn’t miss from the field in quarter three either, combining on impeccable six baskets.
At the start of the fourth, the Heat had a 28-point advantage. Butler didn’t play a minute of this stretch, but Spo kept Adebayo in until there were over five minutes left while the lead was at 26. Max Strus and Martin were the only team members to stay on the court all of the fourth quarter.
In his new role as the second-string point guard, Lowry put up eight points with four boards and four assists in 20 minutes. Spo is still tinkering with lineups as the season nears its closing, but the win over Memphis was the second straight game Kyle’s minutes have been that low. If the Heat’s offense continues to blossom with this experiment, it may be worth keeping in action long term.
At the postgame presser, Spo joked that he had to look at the scoreboard 10 times during the fourth quarter to confirm the lead.
“It does feel good to have one of these kind of games where a lot of guys play well,” Spo said.
Over the last eight matches, the Heat averages 121.1 points a night. The offense being more intentional and the team getting to its “strike zones” is what Spo said pleased him most about the plan of attack.