What the Miami Heat have accomplished in the fourth quarter of their past two games has been particularly notable, with a season-high 37 fourth-quarter points in Friday night’s victory over the Orlando Magic and three nights earlier outscoring the Boston Celtics 23-13 in the fourth quarter of that win.
What has been missing has been particularly noticeable, as well, with point guard Kyle Lowry appearing in neither of those final periods in the two home wins.
Coach Erik Spoelstra said the decisions had nothing to do with the recent knee soreness that had limited the 36-year-old veteran.
“The last game,” Spoelstra said of the victory over the Celtics, “the second unit really took over, and they deserved to play that out. I wouldn’t look into it more than that. Just what was it, three games ago? Sometimes there’s recency bias, right? He had all the big plays against New Orleans down the stretch.”
Indeed, in last Sunday’s victory that opened what turned into the 3-0 homestand, Lowry not only played as closer against the Pelicans, but scored nine consecutive points in the final period to help close out New Orleans.
Since then, Gabe Vincent has played 20 of the 24 fourth-quarters minutes while Lowry has sat, with Max Strus playing all 24 of those fourth-quarter minutes.
Lowry closed Friday night’s game with six points on 2-of-6 shooting, five assists, four rebounds and two steals in 25:08, fewest minutes among the starters.
Spoelstra said it is a matter of considering his entire rotation menu.
“We have a lot of guys, like I said, that live for those moments,” he said, with the Heat turning their attention to Sunday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets at the start of the four-game trip. “And that’s what I love about this group. But, also, sometimes, not everybody can be in at the end.
“And I have as much respect for Kyle and his pedigree in those moments over the course of his career. He’s one of the biggest clutch players in this game. So I wouldn’t look into it more than that.”
By contrast, with Friday’s 110-105 game in the balance, Jimmy Butler not only was reinjected into the Heat mix, but took it upon himself to get himself back in the game.
He entered with 6 minutes remaining, scoring seven of his game-high 29 points over the final 1:29.
“To be frank,” Spoelstra said, “Jimmy just walked to the scorers’ table. Because he and I have an understanding. It’s usually around just under eight. But we let it ride. Then I forgot about it, for a second. And he just like walked up and he said, ‘Who am I going in for?’ I said, ‘Well, there’s a timeout. Let me figure it out.’ “
That timeout came with those 6 minutes to play, the Heat up five at the time.
Butler figured his time had come.
“Just ‘cause normally at about like 6:45 he’s looking down there as like, ‘Jimmy check in,’ ” Butler said of Spoelstra. “And he didn’t do that. So I put it on myself to walk up to the scorers’ table.
“And I don’t do that very often. I actually walked up there for no reason, because there was a timeout that was coming anyway.”
With Bam Adebayo scoring 12 of his 20 points in the paint Friday night, he now has scored double-figure points in the paint in 30 consecutive games, the NBA’s longest active streak.
A similar such streak came to an end two nights earlier, when the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James saw his 25-game such run end with eight paint points against the San Antonio Spurs.