Even with all the moving pieces, with Tyler Herro back and Max Strus now out, there remained a pair of constants Wednesday night for the Miami Heat — no lead is safe and almost every game is harrowing.
This time it was a 21-point advantage early in the third period, and then another wild scramble to the finish, which seemingly has been the story of this young season.
This time, though, the Heat found a way, holding off the visiting Washington Wizards for a 113-105 victory.
With Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson and Strus out for the Heat, and with Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura and Monte Morris out for the Wizards, there was an air of desperation each way.
But for the Heat, it was a desperation that came attached to a four-game losing streak.
Last Friday, there was a blown 15-point lead in what turned into an overtime loss in Washington. That was followed by a blown 15-point lead in Monday night’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at the close of an 0-4 trip.
This time, with Kyle Lowry keeping the Heat float early and Herro providing a late spark, the Heat held on.
Lowry led the Heat with 28 points, with center Bam Adebayo adding a 15-point, 11-rebound double-double. The Heat also got 24 points from Caleb Martin and 17 from Herro, including a pair of late 3-pointers.
Kyle Kuzma led the Wizards with 33 points.
Five Degrees of Heat from Wednesday’s game:
1. Closing time: The Heat led 28-26 after the first period and 60-43 at halftime, matching their largest lead to that stage.
The Heat then went up 21 early in the third period, only to see the Wizards rally within 84-80 at the end of the quarter, allowing 37 Washington points in the quarter. Lowry had one basket in the third, Adebayo none.
Lowry and Adebayo then returned with 7:17 to play in a 98-98 tie.
From there, Herro stepped up with a pair of 3-pointers, to give the Heat a 107-101 lead with 3:28 to play.
Eventually, with the Heat’s lead at 109-105 with 1:16 to play, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra issued a challenge on a foul on Adebayo.
Spoelstra was proven correct, moving to 6-0 on such coach’s challenges, with the Heat regaining possession.
A Martin second-chance layup followed for a 111-105 Heat lead, with the Heat holding on from there.
2. Lowry’s wild ride: Having entered the night second in the NBA in minutes, Lowry again played as a leading man as long as allowed by his foul trouble, starting with 14 first-quarter points.
At one stage in the second period, Lowry was 3 of 3 on 3-pointers, with the rest of the roster 0 for 10.
He kept going from there, moving to 5 of 5 on 3-pointers by the midpoint of the second period, to punctuate a 17-3 Heat run, before missing his sixth attempt from beyond the arc.
Lowry’s 24 points at the intermission were a career high for a first half and matched his previous high for a game this season.
But there then were dual moments of concern when Lowry first was called for his fourth foul just 1:55 into the second half and then his fifth with 4:45 to play in the third.
Caution marked Lowry’s play from that stage moving forward.
3. Herro back: Herro was called for two fouls in the opening 3:17, but Spoelstra left him in, as the Heat attempted to restore a degree of continuity.
Herro then came out with 5:33 to play in the first after taking a hard fall after a driving layup attempt.
Shortly after checking back in, Herro then was forced to the bench 31 seconds into the second period with his third foul.
Eventually, though, the timing came around, as did his late 3-pointers.
With his 14th point, Herro passed Josh Richardson for 20th on the Heat all-time scoring list.
4. On the outs: Even with Herro back in the mix, the Heat played a fourth consecutive game in Butler’s absence, due to knee soreness.
In addition, Robinson missed a second consecutive game due to an ankle sprain, with Strus missing his first game of the season, due to a shoulder impingement.
That was with Victor Oladipo (knee tendinosis) and Omer Yurtseven (ankle surgery) yet to play this season.
Making it back was guard Gabe Vincent, who had missed the previous three games with swelling in his left knee.
Listed as questionable but also available was center Dewayne Dedmon (foot).
In addition, captain Udonis Haslem was back on the bench after missing the previous four games for personal reasons.
5. Short, as well: Injuries certainly haven’t been the sole province of the Heat over the first month-plus of the season, with the Wizards on Wednesday night without rotation regulars Beal (right thigh contusion), Hachimura (right ankle soreness) and Morris (right ankle soreness).
That was after the Heat already this season have gotten the Cavaliers without Kevin Love, Raptors without Pascal Siakam, Suns without Chris Paul, Hornets without LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward, Trail Blazers without Gary Payton Jr., Kings without De’Aaron Fox, Celtics without Robert Williams and Bulls without Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball.