No, far from the depths of disappointment the last time the teams met, but for the Miami Heat, the sting was significant.
Now 0-2, the Heat left the field again Friday night at the FTX Arena against the Boston Celtics on the short run of the score, just like they did in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals of last season.
Even with more of their leading men stepping up than in Wednesday night’s season-opening loss to the visiting Chicago Bulls, the Heat again lacked 3-point skill and defensive deterrence, this time dropping 111- 104.
While center Bam Adebayo and point guard Kyle Lowry both rebounded from shaky play in Game 1, Boston still had enough behind 29 points from Jayson Tatum and 28 from Jaylen Brown to make it 2-0. The Celtics closed .519 from the field, which helped overcome their 20 turnovers.
“I thought the competitive disposition was definitely higher tonight,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
For the Heat, there were 25 points from Tyler Herro, 19 from Adebayo, 18 from Jimmy Butler, 17 from Lowry and 17 from Gabe Vincent. Butler didn’t reach the line after coming off the line 14 of 16 in Game 1.
It’s the first time the Heat have opened 0-2 since 2007, Pat Riley’s last season as coach, before he handed over the reins to Spoelstra.
“We just have to stay the course,” Spoelstra said, “there was definitely an improvement from game one to game two.”
Five degrees of heat from Friday’s game:
1. Closing time: Down 59-51 at halftime, the Heat took a 71-69 lead in the third before the Celtics closed out the third on a 20-6 run to enter the fourth quarter with an 89 lead. -77.
The Celtics then went up 14 points in the final period, before the Heat closed at 100-95 on a Butler dunk with 4:12 remaining.
But four consecutive Celtics points followed to cut the Heat rally.
“Every time we won those swing moments,” Spoelstra said, “they came back and were able to get some separation.”
2. Adebayo cannot miss: After missing his first six shots on Wednesday on his way to a 5-of-15 night, Adebayo converted his first six attempts on Friday on his way to an 8-of-11 finish.
When asked during the morning shootout if he was looking forward to getting his shot back on track, Adebayo said, “I can’t wait to not shoot like this anymore. First game of the season, get all the nerves out, butterflies.
Adebayo, however, was called for his second foul with 6:16 left in the first quarter, benched in favor of Dewayne Dedmon.
Adebayo was then called for his fourth foul with 5:12 left in the third period, also called for a technical foul for expressing his displeasure. It eventually turned into an uneven night that included five turnovers.
“Him being in trouble,” Spoelstra said, “I think two of the calls were tough calls.”
3. And then: When Dedmon was also called for a second foul in the first quarter, it led to Haywood Highsmith entering as the Heat’s de facto center.
This left Butler playing alongside Highsmith, Max Strus, Duncan Robinson and Vincent. . . not a single player drafted.
As much as Spoelstra has touted the depth of the team, without Victor Oladipo there remains precious little shot creation beyond the top five. Beyond Vincent, there were only four more Heat points reserved.
Not only did Oladipo miss a second game in a row with tendinosis in his left knee, but Spoelstra gave the impression that a pattern could once again be at play.
“I wouldn’t say very cautious,” Spoelstra said of the team’s approach. “I would say appropriate, a measured approach with that. We look at the long game.
“It’s been about investing in him and his health for two years now. And we just want to make sure that we take all the necessary steps to get him back out there, where there are no setbacks.
4. Lowry intervenes: After a forgettable opening night, when he was limited to two points on a 1-of-7 shot, Lowry was much more active from the start on both sides of the ball, including several attempts to step in and take charge.
With his fifth assist, Lowry passed Nate Archibald for 26th on the NBA’s all-time list. Also,
Lowry’s first steal put him past Charles Oakley for 68th on the NBA’s all-time list, with his second taking him past Derek Fisher for 67th.
Still, the shot isn’t quite there, with Lowry shooting 4 of 13.
5. Herro’s bag: Herro scored 13 of his 15 first half points in the second period, when he shot 5 of 8. The quarter also featured a shot blocked by Herro, one of Herro’s two on the night.
Herro then went back to his bag with a 3-pointer from 31 feet early in the third quarter, up to 21 points at this point.
The trade-off for the Heat leaves Herro’s defense exposed at moments of truth.
California Daily Newspapers