Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra spoke to the media after the Heat defeated the Utah Jazz, 111-105, in Utah, on Nov. 12, 2021. By Miami Heat.
It was a challenging West Coast trip for the Heat.
First came the challenge of moving past the emotion of the Nikola Jokic-Markieff Morris situation, then came Jimmy Butler’s sprained ankle that kept him out for most of the trip and then came the frustration of consecutive three-point losses on back-to-back nights in Los Angeles.
If that wasn’t enough, the Heat had to play on Monday without both Bam Adebayo and Butler.
But the Heat (9-5) found a way to end its five-game trip with a 103-90 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder (5-8) on Monday night at Paycom Center. After an 0-3 start, Miami won two straight to close the trip at 2-3.
Butler missed the final three games of the trip because of a sprained right ankle and Adebayo missed his first game of the trip because of a left knee bruise.
In their absence, Tyler Herro came through to score nine points in the fourth quarter to help lift the Heat to the win. Herro started in Butler’s place and finished with 26 points while shooting 9 of 18 from the field and 5 of 8 on threes, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.
The Thunder still managed to hang around, trailing by eight with 2:36 to play. That’s when P.J. Tucker and Duncan Robinson made back-to-back threes to put the Heat ahead by 14 with 1:18 left and put the game out of reach.
It was a sloppy, but close game before the fourth quarter. The Heat led by seven after the first three quarters and the teams were tied at 43 after halftime.
Heat guard Kyle Lowry finished with 11 points and 11 assists. Robinson contributed 21 points with the help of 5-of-12 shooting on threes.
The Heat now returns to Miami for a quick two-game homestand that begins Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Here are five takeaways from the Heat’s win over the Thunder:
The Thunder’s offense has not been good this season, and the Heat’s defense took advantage even without two of its best defenders.
Despite missing Adebayo and Butler, Miami managed to limit Oklahoma City to 90 points on 41 percent shooting from the field. The Heat scored 31 points on 20 turnovers from the Thunder.
The face that the Thunder was the opponent helped. Oklahoma City features one of the worst offenses in the NBA, entering with the third-worst offensive rating this season.
How inefficient has the Thunder’s young roster been this season? Oklahoma City entered shooting an NBA-worst 56.3 percent from within the restricted area and the second-worst percentage from three point range at 30.4 percent.
On Monday, Oklahoma City shot just 13 of 25 (52 percent) at the rim.
The Heat entered with the league’s ninth-best defensive rating, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that it won its matchup against the Thunder’s struggling offense. But doing without Adebayo and Butler is noteworthy.
Without Adebayo and Butler, the Heat’s offense came alive in the second half.
It was a rough first half for the Heat’s offense, as it totaled just 43 points on 32.5 percent shooting from the field while committing 11 turnovers in the first two quarters.
But the Heat’s offense was much better in the second half, when it scored 60 points on 48.8 percent shooting from the field.
The three-pointer was there for Miami throughout the game, though. The Heat shot an efficient 9 of 19 from deep in the first half and 9 of 21 from deep in the second half to finish 18 of 40 from three-point range.
What the Heat’s offense struggled with was two-point opportunities. Miami shot just 4 of 21 (19 percent) on two-point attempts, including 3 of 18 (16.7 percent) from inside the paint, in the first quarters.
Without Adebayo, rookie center Omer Yurtseven was the Heat’s sixth man on Monday. But he did not play past the first quarter.
Reserve center Dewayne Dedmon moved into the starting lineup in place of Adebayo, and that had Yurtseven playing in Dedmon’s usual role of backup center.
Yurtseven was the first Heat bench player to enter the game, but he was shaky during his first-quarter stint that lasted 3:33. He mistimed his jump for an alley-oop lob from Lowry that went over his head and out of bounds for a turnover, was also called for a moving screen before he was subbed out, but did block a block a layup attempt by Oklahoma City’s Darius Bazley.
Those were the only minutes that Yurtseven, 23, played on Monday. He missed his only shot attempt to finish without a point.
It marked Yurtseven’s ninth appearance of the season, but only the second that he has played meaningul minutes in. He also logged four first-half minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Yurtseven’s first seven appearances of the season came late in either blowout wins or losses.
After the first quarter, the Heat chose to use forward KZ Okpala in the non-Dedmon minutes instead of Yurtseven.
Okpala, 22, took advantage of the opportunity with the best performance of his third NBA season. He finished with eight points and seven rebounds 15 minutes.
It was a rare appearance for Okpala, who has played in just six of the Heat’s 14 games this season. It also marked his first meaningful minutes of the season because his first five appearances came in the fourth quarter of either blowout wins or losses.
The good news for the Heat is that it may not have to play without both Adebayo and Butler for long.
The Heat was without Butler for the third straight game because of a sprained right ankle. But Monday marked the only game that Adebayo missed during the trip.
The hope is that Butler will be able to return when the Heat returns home to face the Pelicans on Wednesday. And the team is taking a proactive approach with Adebayo’s lingering knee bruise.
“Our schedule has been pretty intensive and he hasn’t had any opportunity for it to really get better,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Adebayo before Monday’s game. “It hasn’t gotten worse, but he hasn’t gotten better. So we’ll just continue to treat him and evaluate him.”
Adebayo has been dealing with a bruised left knee for the past two weeks and missed the Heat’s road win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Oct. 30 because of the injury. He was listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against the Jazz because of swelling in the knee but ultimately played.
Adebayo’s injury stems back to a knee-to-knee collision early in the season, and Spoelstra said “he hit it again” during the Heat’s current trip. Butler sprained his right ankle early in Wednesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center and has not played since the first quarter of that game.
The Heat was also without Marcus Garrett (right wrist tendinitis) Victor Oladipo (right knee injury recovery) and Markieff Morris (whiplash) on Monday. Miami had 11 available players against the Thunder.
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