There have been similar moments in Miami Heat lore, including Rex Chapman going 9 of 10 on 3-pointers and a roster shorthanded at the 1996 NBA trading deadline beating Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, or more recently, the Heat signing an entire bench on emergency COVID-19 contracts last December and beating the Houston Rockets in what might somebody be reflected up on as The Kyle Guy Game.
This time, the odds again were stacked, injuries leaving the Heat without Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson, Dewayne Dedmon, Omer Yurtseven and Victor Oladipo. And with Udonis Haslem away for personal reasons, it left coach Erik Spoelstra with only seven available players.
And this time, something nearly rather remarkable again . . . nearly.
But, ultimately, a 107-106 overtime loss Friday night to the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena, with what otherwise arguably would have been the most improbable result of this NBA season.
What the Heat lacked in roster numbers they made up for with from-the-heart contributions.
From Kyle Lowry, it was his third Heat triple-double and 21st of his career, with 24 points, a season-high 15 assists and season-high 10 rebounds.
From rookie center Nikola Jovic there were 18 points and six rebounds.
From guard Max Strus 22 points, including three 3-pointers, on a night a fourth would have given the Heat victory..
From seldom-used forward Haywood Highsmith there were 12 points and 13 rebounds.
And even undrafted rookie center Orlando Robinson got in on act, with 14 points less than a week after being added from the G League.
Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 27 points, with Kristaps Porzingis closing with 20 points and a season-high 17 rebounds.
Five Degrees of Heat from Friday’s game:
1. Closing time: Despite an early 12-0 Wizards run, the Heat stood within 33-31 going into the second period. They then moved to a 15-point second-quarter lead and 69-57 halftime advantage.
But eventually the minutes on the Heat’s shorthanded roster began to exact the expected toll, with the Heat’s lead down to 88-81 at the end of the third period and then gone when the Wizards moved ahead 90-88 1:29 in the fourth.
It remained close from there, with the Heat eventually going up 104-99 with 61 seconds to play in regulation, only to see the Wizards send it to overtime on a Beal driving layup and a Kyle Kuzma 3-pointer.
A key moment then came with 2:28 to play and Washington up 107-106, when, after Taj Gibson was called for a three-shot foul on Orlando Robinson, the Wizards issued a successful coach’s challenge.
That’s where the score remained after the Heat won a coach’s challenge of their own on an out-of-bounds call, only to endure a costly turnover by Robinson on a post feed from Highsmith with 28 seconds left.
Eventually it came down to a Heat defensive rebound down one, possession with 2.8 seconds left and a timeout, with Strus off with a 3-point attempt.
2. Stand-alone star: With Butler, Adebayo and Herro out, and with no backup point guard available in the void of Vincent, Lowry had no choice but to play a lot and play as leading man.
In the first half, he did just that, playing all 24 minutes, with 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, at 3 of 6 on 3-pointers, with just one turnover over the opening two periods. No other Heat player went more than 20 minutes in the first half.
It was the first time a Heat player went all 24 minutes in a first half since the Heat’s final game in 2014-15, when Michael Beasley, James Ennis, Tyler Johnson, and Henry Walker did it in a game the Heat were trying to lose for lottery seeding.
Lowry’s first rest did not come until 1:10 remained in the third quarter, when he also had four fouls. That also was when the Wizards made their move from their 15-point third-quarter deficit, with Caleb Martin briefly cast at point guard for the Heat.
3. Coming, going: The expectation according to a league source is that Butler will return Saturday to South Florida to have his sore right knee checked, primarily as a precautionary measure.
Butler was moving gingerly in the locker room Friday night. By missing the next two games that conclude this trip, it would give Butler off until the Heat host the Wizards on Wednesday night.
While Butler is going, there was optimism around the team that Herro could be back with the team for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the third stop on this four-game trip that concludes Monday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Herro has missed the past six games with a sprained left ankle.
Herro not only would provide a scoring boost, but also an option at point guard if Vincent remains sidelined. Friday, there basically was no Plan B for Lowry at point guard.
4. Do the right thing: Spoelstra said as complex as Friday’s challenge became, it also was a matter of protecting his players.
Adebayo, for example, was not officially scratched until 45 minutes before tipoff.
“Bam really wants to get out there,” Spoelstra said, “but we have to be responsible.”
It was a similar approach with Vincent, who had participated in the morning shootaround.
“We want to be responsible to each player,” Spoelstra said.
Then there was Robinson, who added a unique element to the team’s laundry list of injuries after a seemingly benign moment at the team’s morning practice, then ruled out by mid-afternoon.
“It’s just one of those freakish things,” Spoelstra said. “He got his finger caught in a jersey.”
5. Dressed to impress: Unlike the team’s other ailing players, Vincent was in uniform to allow the Heat to meet the NBA requirement of at least eight players in uniform.
While there is no specific penalty for failing to dress the minimum required, teams face a $5 million fine for game forfeiture.
The Heat had a road game postponed last season in December against the San Antonio Spurs amid a COVID outbreak, when they were unable to dress eight players, even after trying to add players from the Spurs’ G League affiliate in nearby Austin, Texas.