Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat start In-Season Tournament Group Play with a dub over Wizards

The inaugural In-Season Tournament commenced for East Group B with the Miami Heat earning its second win of the year. Debuting its City Edition jerseys on a loud red court, featuring a large trophy at the center, in Haywood Highsmith’s first start of the season, the hosts burned the Wizards at the stake.

Group Play was all gas, no brakes in the first quarter as the visiting Wizards cast a spell on the Heat, preventing it from containing a cascade of bombs and inside blows. The defense was sagging off and unable to stop dribble penetration. Yet, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo were in command of the offense, retaliating with four of nine 3-point makes and six buckets in the restricted area.

Butler scored 11 early points, posting up, running the break, firing from distance and at the line with two steals. For Washington, Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Poole shot over openings on the perimeter and raced down the floor for quick scores, totaling 17 points on nine attempts. At the end of the first, the game was tied at 34, yet Miami put opposing center Daniel Gafford in foul trouble with two penalties and tried four additional free throws.

In the second quarter, Washington’s pick-and-roll defense was powerless against Herro driving to the cup or feeding his big man when doubled. In a 90-second span midway through the frame, he was the architect of a 9-0 run, scoring or assisting on four straight baskets. Duncan Robinson recorded nine points, cutting to the hoop and connecting on a corner banger on his second attempt.

Defensively, Miami held Washington to 40.9% shooting and didn’t allow any of their starters multiple field goals in interval two.

In the last 35 seconds of the first half, Highsmith’s knee collided with Washington’s Deni Avdija, covering a dribble drive. Next, coach Erik Spoelstra subbed in Josh Richardson and got Highsmith checked out in the locker room. Fortunately for Miami, he was able to play almost 10 minutes in the following quarter.

At halftime, the Heat was up 60-54 with eight points scored off turnovers and seven on second opportunities. Herro was more than halfway to a triple-double, accumulating 12 on his scorecard, eight rebounds and seven helpings.

In the third period, Miami logged 41 points for the second time this season in a 12-minute span, on this occasion mainly behind Adebayo finishing on jump shots and at close range. Butler made all three of his attempts on cuts and a pick-6. Herro contributed two trays as well.

Entering the final quarter, the Heat was ahead 101-81, but the Wizards deployed full-court press, trapped Herro at midcourt, plus forced seven turnovers to cut Miami’s lead to 10 with four minutes left. It was as if the Wizards heard Miami’s play-by-play broadcaster Eric Reid say during the third quarter, “Some empathy for Wizard’s head coach Wes Unseld Jr. It looks like they have a long year ahead of them in the nation’s capital…”

Washington beat Miami in transition, delivered the entry pass to the middle and burned the perimeter protection, outproducing the hosts 33-20. Yet, Herro put them down, sizing up rookie Bilal Coulibaly and hitting a baseline jumper over him. He finished an assist shy of a triple-double with 24 points.

The Heat won 121-114 and had a seven point advantage in the rebounding department.

At the postgame presser, Spoelstra said he hated changing the starting rotation after losing four in a row because outsiders look at it as an indictment of a member. “This is just a move for now. [Kevin] Love is going to have a role with us. Everything that we wanted last year, I just feel like we are going to need that kind of decorated veteran experience…”

The win was Miami’s second of the year. The regular season record is 1-4 and its mark in Tournament competition is 1-0.

The Heat will not practice on Saturday.

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