Heat still in shock, seek to regroup after crushing loss to Portland – The Denver Post


Of all of the Miami Heat’s cliffhangers this season, this was not one that requires inspection of the after-the-fact NBA officiating report.

But it was the one when time stood still.

And that added yet another layer to a start of a season built both on drama and disappointment for Erik Spoelstra’s team.

Already there has been Jimmy Butler closing out the Golden State Warriors in the final minute.

There was Tyler Herro converting a winning 3-pointer against the Sacramento Kings that the NBA later ruled a travel.

Then came Herro’s potential 3-point winner that was off at the buzzer in the road loss to the Indiana Pacers.

This time, in Monday night’s crushing 110-107 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers that completed a seven-day span that included the aforementioned drama, there was elation and deflation at FTX Arena interrupted only by the oddest of silences.

All of which was more than a bit perplexing.

The sequence began off a Heat timeout down three with 8.5 seconds to play. That’s when Spoelstra made an offense-for-defense substitution, inserting 3-point shooters Max Strus and Duncan Robinson for defensive aces Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin.

Off a scramble, point guard Kyle Lowry got the ball to Strus, who had to reload but still drained the tying 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds to play.

Tie game 107-107.

“I mean when anybody makes a two-pump-fake fader . . . it’s one of those things where you do got to sit there and be like, ‘That’s a tough shot,’ ” center Bam Adebayo said.


But then it got weird.

Portland coach Chauncey Billups appeared to walk on the court for a timeout to set up a final shot.

The Blazers showed no urgency to inbound, with former Heat forward Justise Winslow seemingly waiting for instruction, arguably risking a five-second inbounding violation, before eventually passing to All-Star point guard Damian Lillard.

“It was like everything stopped,” said Spoelstra, with the Heat now in a two-day break before hosting the Charlotte Hornets on both Thursday and Saturday nights. “I’m looking at Chauncey, looking at Justice. He had the ball out. And everybody just stopped.

“I don’t think the officials knew what was going on. And then they got it to Lillard.”

It was as if all involved expected an exhale.

“I hit the shot and then I saw Chauncey on the floor, so I thought they were calling a timeout, too,” Strus said. “But, yeah, I had the same thing. And all of us kind of just stopped. It felt like the longest six seconds possible. But he hit a tough shot.”

It was a moment that appeared to throw off the Heat’s reset to the defensive end.

“I think guys stopped like four seconds,” Heat point guard Kyle Lowry said. “It was a while. I guess Chauncey wanted to go. Justise set a good screen, Dame had a full head of steam.”

The strategy proved prescient, with Spoelstra then unable to sub Martin and Vincent back into the game for their defense.

So that’s when, after the brief pause, Winslow set a screen for Lillard, Lillard drew the defense of Jimmy Butler and Robinson, while also drawing the attention of Lowry. That hesitation by Lowry left the Blazers’ Josh Hart open in the left corner for a game-winning 3-pointer that cleared the net with zeroes on the clock.

“This one felt like it was 15 seconds, Lillard going fullcourt, got the switch and then made a heady play,” Spoelstra said of those final 6.2 seconds that dropped the Heat to 4-7. “I don’t think a lot of players make that play, particularly Lillard. You want to go for that kill yourself. That just shows you the class and IQ and trust and unselfishness and just about winning. He kicked it to an open guy.

“You probably see that across the NBA, nine times out of 10 the guy that’s dribbling it up is going to launch that. And I thought we probably would have had two guys contesting that, Duncan and Jimmy. But he made just the right play. Somebody was open for a count, he hit it. and Hart made a big one.”



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