As the Heat’s offense diced the Grizzlies through the first quarter, Tyler Herro turned into the lane against the drop but landed on Jaren Jackson Jr.’s foot, twisting his ankle like a wet towel. He hopped to the locker room on one leg as soon as he could stand and was ruled out for the rest of the night.
Bam Adebayo and the crew registered its next 25 of 59 attempts for Miami, closing out the evening in a six-point win. He followed up Monday’s monstrous triple-double versus the Lakers with 30 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in Memphis. As the game approached its conclusion, he and Jackson dueled for supremacy of the paint.
Adebayo threw his body around like a cannonball ripping through a naval vessel and converted 10 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter alone. Through four periods, his midrange jumper battered Memphis, and the remaining mob filled in for Herro.
Haywood Highsmith swished open 3-pointers, ran the break successfully, dropped a couple of floaters and pestered his matchups. Kyle Lowry was a mobile artillery unit, recording four of seven trifectas, and finished an assist shy of a triple-double. And Jaime Jaquez’s double on Jackson, stripping him in the lane and outrunning two Grizzlies for a layup, put the Heat ahead by 10 with fewer than four minutes left.
Miami secured its first road win of the season via 13 second-chance points, 13 more on the break, another 13 off turnovers and making 39.3% of hoisted trays. Its primary issue, aside from losing Herro, was committing 19 turnovers that allowed the Grizzlies to stay within striking distance.
As for what follows, getting through Herro’s absence won’t be easy. He drove to the cup 12.4 times per game, up from 10.7 tries last season and splashed 42.1% of above-the-break triples (8.1 attempts). In multiple matches through the early campaign, he was the offense and made an early case for the Most Improved Player award. After the win, he speculated that the injury is “probably a couple of weeks” from healing, but based on how his limb bent, it’s probably wishful thinking.
While he’s out, the Heat are missing a creator, who assisted on 22% of his teammates’ shots. The club will depend on Lowry setting up Adebayo with additional frequency.
The Heat will likely have to keep burning with Duncan Robinson starting. He can’t create off the dribble like Herro, but he’s not a one-dimensional player anymore. This season, 31.6% of his shots are two-pointers on cuts or jumpers, when the last two years, it was 16.5%. Additionally, he’s picking up 9.7 more paint touches per contest.
Spamming two-man actions with Adebayo will still give opponents trouble because Robinson is more mobile with the ball, making it harder to trap him after the screen. In eight games, he’s averaging 11.3 points and his confidence is back.
Jaquez was second in minutes off the bench behind Robinson (21) in the win at Memphis. With Caleb Martin still recovering and Josh Richardson looking like a dud, it shouldn’t shock anyone if coach Erik Spoelstra starts depending on the rook further. His defensive instincts are solid, he’s an under-regarded athlete with exceptional footwork and 21.2% of his points scored so far have been on the break.
After the win, Adebayo was asked on the court about drawing fouls. He said, “Looking at the defense, realizing what I got, I could always get to that jumper, but [Spoelstra] wants me to get fouled more…”
Guaranteed, it’s not just Spoelstra but his teammates, too. His midrange attack was flowing, but when Adebayo is attacking the paint and forcing contact like on Wednesday, he puts the ultimate pressure on the defense because he attracts another defender. If that guy keeps showing up, and Jimmy Butler eventually does too, the squad might be able to go better than .500 while it waits for Herro.