The mission, at least the regular-season challenge, is almost complete. And it might be over before they take the court again.
With Tuesday night’s 144-115 victory over the Charlotte Hornets at FTX Arena, the Miami Heat need only one victory in their final two games to wrap up the No. 1 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.
And even that might not be necessary, the Heat potentially clinching in advance of Friday night’s return to the court, against the visiting Atlanta Hawks, pending the result of upcoming games for the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
With assistant Chris Quinn guiding the Heat for a second consecutive game with coach Erik Spoelstra still in NBA health-and-safety protocols, the Heat found ample answers on a night Kyle Lowry was given off for rest, producing the second-highest scoring game in the franchise’s 34 seasons. The record remains 149 in a March 2018 double-overtime game.
“You can tell we have a lot of weapons on that end of the court,” Quinn understated.
There were a career regular-season-high 35 points from Tyler Herro, 27 from Jimmy Butler, 22 from Bam Adebayo and 21 from Duncan Robinson.
“I think it’s just continuing to play to our strengths,” Robinson said.
The 35 points from Herro tied Dwyane Wade’s franchise record for regular-season points by a reserve.
“He’s special,” Butler said. “Yes, his confidence is at an all-time high, as it should be,” Butler said.
Herro’s effort helped fuel the Heat’s 23-of-42 3-point shooting, setting the franchise record for 3-pointers.
“Yeah, I was having fun, for sure,” said Herro, who closed 6 of 10 from beyond the arc.
With the victory the Heat matched their season-best five-game winning streak.
Five Degrees of Heat from Tuesday’s game:
1. Closing time: The Heat fell behind by 10 early, trailed 32-29 at the end of the first period, and led 70-60 at halftime.
After falling behind in the third, the Heat regrouped to take a 102-97 lead into the fourth.
A turning point then came with 10:26 left, when Quinn successfully challenged what was ruled a charging foul on Butler. With the reversal, a foul was called on Kelly Oubre, with Butler’s two free throws putting the Heat up 109-99, matching the Heat’s largest lead to that stage.
A Herro 3-pointer followed for a 112-99 Heat lead that quickly was pushed to 18.
“We knew the way they play we could score a lot of points tonight,” Herro said.
The Heat scored 42 points in the fourth, 7 of 13 from beyond the arc in the period.
“I think it’s our spacing has improved, and guys are working to help guys get shots,” Quinn said. “Our guys are really doing a great job of helping one another.”
2. Tucker exits: At a time of year you don’t want to be losing players, starting power forward P.J. Tucker exited to the locker room midway through the third period, lost for the game with a strained right calf.
That came with Markieff Morris, who had started Sunday night in Toronto, already sidelined with strained left hip flexor.
Tucker, who was given Sunday off in Toronto, had been listed as questionable with an irritated left knee.
He closed with seven points and seven rebounds in 21:47.
“He’ll get looked at tomorrow,” Quinn said.
3. Rested, rejuvenated: But Sunday off apparently did wonders for Butler, who scored 14 first-half points, including a buzzer-beating jumper than staked the Heat to their 10-point halftime lead.
Butler also had a team-high five assists and two steals in his 18 first-half minutes, helping the Heat end the second quarter on a 12-3 run.
“Jimmy’s a total winning player,” Quinn said. “He can feel a game, when the game’s going on, what a team needs.”
Butler closed with a game-high eight assists.
“The confidence, the ball movement always helps,” Butler said.
4. Space race: Robinson provided exactly the type of spacing Spoelstra envisioned with his move to the second unit, shooting 6 of 7 on 3-pointers in the first half, after Max Strus opened 2 of 3 from beyond the arc in his initial stint.
The six 3-pointers were Robinson’s high for any half this season.
Robinson closed 7 of 11 from beyond the arc, his only shots of the game, seizing the moment in his new bench role.
“For me,” he said, “it’s just about wrapping my mind around that. It’s definitely not something that’s easy, per se.
“Whatever’s required of me on a nightly basis, I’m two feet in, four feet in.”
5. Rotation revision: Herro, Robinson, Caleb Martin and Omer Yurtseven played as the Heat’s four primary reserves, with Yurtseven’s chance coming with Dewayne Dedmon missing the game with an ankle sprain.
The reshuffle left Victor Oladipo on the outside of the rotation, after his 21 points sparked the Heat’s win over the Raptors.
“Tonight, with Jimmy back and some other guys back,” Quinn said, “it was a decision to do what we were kind of doing before that Toronto game.”
Source: Berkshire mont