For weeks, Kyle Lowry has spoken of the build up to when the stakes go up. Amid the Miami Heat’s few shaky moments, the veteran point guard stressed that what matters is getting to your best game for the playoffs.
Those playoffs are now 10 games away. And, no, the Heat did not look anything close to their best selves in Monday’s 113-106 road loss to a Philadelphia 76ers team that gave Joel Embiid and James Harden the night off.
“We’re still not there,” Lowry said, as attention shifted to the Golden State Warriors’ Wednesday night visit to FTX Arena at the start of a four-game Heat homestand. “We should be. We’re closer. And we should in one more step be there.
“But it’s just about communication and understanding of what’s going on and coverages and situations that we’re going to be in, and we’re all on the same page. You know, we haven’t had the opportunity to have our finishing lineup as much as we would like. And we don’t even know what our finishing lineups will be.”
So even now, with the regular season closing April 10 and the playoffs opening April 16, Lowry warned about getting too caught up in the one that got away at Wells Fargo Center against a remaining 76ers roster that was more lottery fodder than playoff material.
“We still have time,” he said, “and we still have situations where we will adjust and adapt and get better.”
Considering the Heat’s lack of bad losses, the types of indecipherable losses that dropped them to a No. 6 playoff seed last season, Monday was mostly absorbed as a one-off.
“I feel as though we’re at the top of the East for a reason,” forward Jimmy Butler said, with the Heat still in control of the race for the conference’s No. 1 seed, even after settling for a 2-2 split in the season series against the 76ers. “It’s all about being healthy at the end of this thing and playing our best basketball at the right time, figuring out the little bit of kinks that we do have.
“We’ve got a group of guys that want to win, that play for one another, that get along with one another. And I think that’s going to be the biggest key for us down the stretch.”
Against the league’s best, the Heat often have been at their best this season. Against what the 76ers offered Monday, there was something decidedly less.
“I just feel that we didn’t bring that intensity that we usually have throughout these games,” center Bam Adebayo said. “I feel like we came out lackadaisical, without having that chip on our shoulder.”
While the loss cost the Heat a potential three-team tiebreaker with the 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, their superior conference record still gives them the head-to-head tiebreaker against either, with a 2 1/2-game lead over both after Monday’s loss.
“We got 10 games left,” Adebayo said. “Can’t be too concerned with this one game. We’ve got 10 left that we’ve got a good chance of winning.”
So loss absorbed, with the team leaders assuring that confidence remains.
“It happens,” Lowry said. “You still got to stay even-keeled.
“It’s not worrisome. We just lost.”
What would be worrisome, coach Erik Spoelstra said, is if lessons were not learned.
“We’re much better than that,” he said, with the 76ers shooting 70 percent from the field in Monday night’s fourth quarter. “I’m going to chalk this up, hopefully, as an anomaly. But hopefully it catches our attention, as well.
“We couldn’t keep them out of the paint, particularly trying to contain them off the dribble, regardless of the scheme. It was not our best version.”
That, Lowry said, has to be the next step in these final 10 steps of the regular season.
“We’ve got to figure out and find ways to make stops and kind of help each other,” he said, “and get to the point of we know exactly what we are doing defensively at all times if a breakdown happens.”
Source: Berkshire mont