The message throughout the season from the Miami Heat veterans to the youth on the roster has been focused and consistent.
Every step taken, every triumph and stumble, everything that happened from the start of the retreat to the close of the season in early March until the resumption of the regular season last month, was all the preparation for a moment like the one presented to the Heat on Monday.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn all had their moments helping to finish round one of the Indiana Pacers’ Heat.
Adebayo played all four games well, even when his raw numbers didn’t jump off the stat sheet. Especially on nights like this, where his 14 points, 19 rebounds of the season record and six assists loomed extra large with fellow Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler limited by a sore left shoulder.
Robinson triggered the three-point barrage of the franchise playoff record in Game 2, going 7 for 8 from the deep to tie Mike Miller’s franchise record on his way to a 24-point playoff record.
Herro scored a total of 36 points in games 3 and 4, getting some of the biggest plays on both ends of the pitch during Monday’s 99-87 series crunch. He led a bench brigade that overtook the Heat starters at half time, 25-23, and the Pacers bench, 41-3, on the night.
Nunn, a finalist for Kia Rookie of the Year, finally made her playoff debut on Monday night, after facing a positive test for coronavirus that halted her playoff preparation as the season resumed on the NBA campus in Orlando.
The Heat simply wouldn’t be headed for the semi-finals of the conference, they will likely face the number 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks (who leads the Orlando Magic, 3-1), without the input of a young core group who have played over their collective years.
“It’s fun,” Butler said. “We love when others are successful. We praise them and tell them to keep attacking, if you are making stops keep making stops. This is how basketball should be played. You should have fun, you should enjoy the game. And it shows. by the way we play. We share the ball, we are excited because I don’t know what when someone hits a three or DJ (reigning NBA Slam Dunk Derrick Jones Jr) gets a dunk or someone takes a it’s so much fun to play this way and I’m happy that we continue to play that way. “
Butler was on the bench during a stretch of the fourth quarter when the Pacers shot everything they had to try and keep the series alive. Heat manager Erik Spoelstra went with veterans Goran Dragic, Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder who work in concert with Adebayo and Herro to fend off the threat and give Butler that extra rest.
Dragic, who started in Nunn’s place, scored 23 points, his fourth straight 20-point game in the series. Iguodala, the 2015 Finals MVP acquired on commercial deadline, has played every quarter to fourth minute of the series. Crowder came into the deal with Iguodala of Memphis, but watching them operate you wouldn’t know they haven’t been with this team since the beginning.
“For me, that’s normal,” Butler said of the approach of the next Heat man. “It might take some people by surprise, but I see it every single day in training. When we don’t have training and these guys go to the gym, all year round and for how many games we play. They are always taking and making big shots and in defensive position. , and just playing hard, getting down to the ground for loose balls.
“You know, Tyler got like three offensive rebounds in a row or something. That’s winning basketball. And we preach to him every single day. ‘Spo’ always talks about ‘ball in the air, ball on the floor.’ These are the ones. league habits, league games. Obviously the boy can put the ball in the basket, but as long as everyone plays hard, you can’t help but be happy for them. “
Spoelstra is happy that his youngsters have continued to grow and earn their levels, understanding exactly what awaits them more deeply this team plays in these playoffs.
It is one thing for Butler, Dragic, Iguodala and Udonis Haslem to tell them what to expect, but more important to watch them play in those moments and do it at a high level. Offensive rebounds and Herro’s defensive and shooting work on Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo in the final minutes, it all resonated with Spoelstra now that the Heat can move on to the next challenge.
“[Bam] He was that big on glass with six offensive rebounds, “Spoelstra said.” And everything else on the defensive side, passing to the guards, protecting on the edge if someone was beaten by the dribble. Trapping when necessary and then closing our defense with great pursuit of the ball. But here’s who Bam is. He is a winner and I am so happy that he is able to experience like everyone else a first round victory where he had a major impact, I don’t care what the stats say. “
Butler’s aching shoulder forced Herro down on Monday, although it was actually just a continuation of his 20-point burst in Game 3.
“We need him,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t think we designed in our offensive system for him as an offensive rebounder. But he went after the ball. Those were stray balls and he got his nose on them. He has a knack for being around the ball. But more importantly, he’s improving defensively, he’s learning what playoff basketball is, the intensity level anyway every single match and every single possession is important, and that offensively is a serious weapon for us. He can play off the ball for us, which is important, but he can also have the ball in his hands and play for our team, and things are only getting better. “
The Heat will need better, from all over the roster, against this Bucks team. Milwaukee offers an entirely different level of competition than the game, but the injured Pacers – particularly by missing their best player, All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis (foot injury) – could rally.
“I have until midnight to enjoy this,” Adebayo said of the first playoff win of his career. “And then back to work in the morning.”