Typically, an NBA team has a sense of identity and direction by the time it hits its 20th game. For the Miami Heat, who has 20 games coming up on Friday night.
But this was such an atypical season that coach Eric Spoelstra is not only reserving judgment, he almost puts such a decision in favor of simply trying to make it through this rough package of injuries and absences.
“I don’t think we’ll see that sign any time soon,” he said, as his team took home a 113-105 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday night in a rematch of Wednesday night’s victory. Heat 8-11
So far this season, the Heat have started their starters against Bam Adebayo, Caleb Martin, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry seven times and not once since Nov. 1.
The blue print of that line was effectively put on mothballs for one month.
“I felt like I spent all of July and August and September with her,” Spoelstra said, “a full coaching retreat” all that. For neither himself nor
“I’m at the point now, we’ll get to it when we get to it. It’s been three months since I ran into it. What will be good is a higher order question when we get to it. And when we are fully healthy, our depth, which we have said, would be a greater force.
But there have already been eight lineups, five in the past six games, with eight players starting at least one game.
“Now,” Spoelstra said, “it’s about what’s available, what we need to do to get to work and our identity, the more we see.”
While the leader of the Heat’s starting lineup stands with a 3-4 record, Lowry said he believes he can hit the ground running now that he has grown with the team’s sidekicks in the meantime.
“I think we’ll understand what we are as a group when we all get together,” he said. “I think guys missing time and guys being able to fill in and step up, it gives everyone a sense of confidence to know what they can achieve, and then network it together.
“I think this time, and everyone takes a healthy time, we hit our bad juju now. But when it came together properly, I think we all came together and bonded together very well.
Unless Wednesday’s start proves to be a four-game winning streak, the Heat will exit November with a losing record. But Spoelstra said he has a feeling better days are ahead.
“Any team is going to go through it,” Spoelstra said, “and you have to go through some tough times and hopefully come out of it better. I think it’s better to come out of this. I see Ultrices being more consistent in extending our identity further.”
Butler is scheduled to return Friday against the Devils, the fourth consecutive game he will miss due to a sore right knee.
Heat injury Friday issued the following day:
Exit: Butler (knee), Victor Oladipo (knee), Omer Yurtseven (ankle).
Doubt: Duncan Robinson (ankle), Maximilian Strus (shoulder).
Doubt: Herro (ankle), Dewayne Dedmon (foot), Gabe Vincent (knee).
Probably: Adebayo (knee), Haywood Highsmith (hip).
The only six Heat players reported to be uninjured are Martin, Lowry, Nikola Jovic, Jamal Cain, Orlando Robinson and Udonis Haslem.
For the Wizards, Bradley Beal (thigh), Johnny Davis (groin), Rui Hachimura and Monte Morris (ankle) are doubtful, while Delon Wright (nerve) is out.
Vincent is sick
Although Vincent made it back on Wednesday after sitting out the previous three games with a swollen left knee, Spoelstra said issues remain with the backup point guard.
“Gabe doesn’t have great mobility. I had to pull him out,” said Spoelstra, with Vincent at 18:56 Wednesday, even with Lowry in foul trouble.
He also guarded Wednesday’s backup for Herro, who missed the previous eight games with a sprained right ankle. Herro closed with 17 points, 5 of 10 on 3-pointers.
Herro said the 3-pointer was a priority, with Strus and Duncan Robinson coming out.
“At the end of the climb I had three X threes, so I got the X,” he said. “That was the goal, without Maximilian and Duncan, who could shoot three. So I just wanted to extend it a little bit, take three threes and try to get a win.”
Herro was 4 of 7 on 3-pointers in the decisive quarter, matching his career high for fourth-quarter 3-pointers.
“Tyler came alive,” Spoelstra said.