The one constant with this season’s Miami Heat has been an abject lack of consistency.
Even with the starting lineup again whole at the start, that pattern continued in Friday night’s 111-108 loss to the visiting Indiana Pacers.
The last time the teams met, the Heat limited emerging Indiana guard Tyrese Halibruton to one point on 0-for-9 shooting in a Heat Dec. 12 victory in Indiana. This time, Haliburton erupted for a career-high 43 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds to play.
“He was in one of those modes,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said, “where he had something to prove.”
So he made the Heat pay.
As many have this season.
“Until it hurts enough for us to fix it,” Adebayo said, “we’re going to lose games like that.”
Because when it comes to the 2022-23 Heat having good things, there clearly is a statute of limitations.
So six days after moving above .500 for the first time this season, the Heat dropped to 16-17 for their two-day Christmas break, now 0-2 on their four-game homestand – now with a new injury concern, just when it appeared the roster had healed.
With Jimmy Butler turning an ankle in the first half and forced to sit late, the Heat lacked a counter to Haliburton, although Tyler Herro nearly came close at closing time, tying it with a 3-pointer of his own with 14.9 seconds to play, before missing a potential tying heave just before the buzzer.
“Once again we glitched, and they made us pay for it,” Butler said.
Herro led the Heat with 28 points, with Kyle Lowry scoring 21 and Bam Adebayo 18. Butler’s abbreviated 28-minute night ended with 20 points.
Five Degrees of Heat from Friday’s game:
1. Winning play: Haliburton’s 28-foot winning basket came when the Heat botched pick-and-roll coverage at the worst possible time.
Herro and point guard Kyle Lowry appeared set to switch – and then didn’t.
“Me and T just didn’t communicate well enough for the help,” Lowry said. “That’s one of those situations we’ve got to learn from.”
Said Herro, “Initially it was a clean switch, and then [Haliburton] went against the switch.”
And, so, wide open.
“It was just kind of a miscommunication on that pick and roll,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Spoelstra said he did not sub in defensive ace Caleb Martin because Martin had sat too long for a player just returning from injury.
Halburton was up to 30 points by the end of the third period, already with a career-high eight 3-pointers. He closed 14 of 20 from the field, including 10 of 16 on 3-pointers, also with seven assists.
2. Closing time: The Pacers led 31-28 at the end of one, paced by 14 first-quarter points from Haliburton. The Heat then moved to a 58-56 halftime lead, before Indiana responded to take an 84-82 advantage into the fourth.
A 10-2 run to open the fourth then staked Indiana to a 92-84 lead, the game’s largest advantage to that point, part of a 24-9 run going back to the third period.
Indiana eventually would build its lead to 12 with 4:34 to play, before the Heat moved back within 105-98 with 3:50 left.
A Haywood Highsmith driving layup then got the Heat within 107-103 with 1:57 to play, with a pair of Herro free throws getting the Heat within 108-105 with 34.3 seconds left.
Then, off an inbounds play with 16.9 seconds left, Herro seized the moment with his game-tying 3-pointer – only to see Haliburton then convert the winner.
3. The real deal: For only the 12th time, the Heat rolled out their projected preseason preferred lineup of Adebayo, Martin, Butler, Kyle Lowry and Herro.
Lowry had missed the previous three games, Martin the previous two and Butler the previous outing on Tuesday night against the Bulls.
Spoelstra said prudence required the team to give Lowry the past week off.
“He always wants to play,” Spoelstra said of his 36-year-old point guard. “But from my standpoint, when you see guys that you know are not moving the way that they’re capable of moving, you want to try to take care of it. I think these days have been really helpful.”
Now, however, it appears Butler again could miss time.
“My luck,” Butler said, “is not the greatest right now.”
4. Rotation alternation: Even with Gabe Vincent active for the first time in nine games following time missed with a knee ailment, he was not in the rotation, nor was Duncan Robinson.
Instead, the first four off the Heat bench were Victor Oladipo, Max Strus, Orlando Robinson and Highsmith.
Orlando Robinson played as backup center, ahead of Nikola Jovic, with Dewayne Dedmon dealing with ongoing foot soreness. Oladipo played as a backup point guard instead of Vincent.
Spoelstra said there were too many moving injury parts shortly before tipoff to get Vincent immediately back into the mix.
5. Return engagement: After missing Tuesday night’s loss to the Bulls with a stomach illness, Butler returned to score 12 points in the first quarter, shooting 4 of 6 from the field and 4 of 5 from the line in the period.
Butler had missed 12 of the Heat’s previous 24 games.
Butler’s early offense was needed, with the Heat opening 1 of 8 on 3-pointers.
But once he turned his ankle, Spoelstra’s options again were limited.
“We’ll have a better idea the next couple of days,” Spoelstra said, with the Heat next hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night. “You could see he was able to get in a little bit of a rhythm and a flow in the second quarter. But it tightened up at halftime.”
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