‘Should have had it’: Heat let G2 lead slip away
12:39 AM ET
NEW YORK — Even without star forward Jimmy Butler for Game 2 against the New York Knicks, the Miami Heat felt good about their chances on Tuesday night.
Despite missing production from Butler (right ankle sprain), Tyler Herro (right hand fracture) and Victor Oladipo (torn left patellar tendon), the Heat were still in the mix for most of the game. But in the end, the lead slipped away as the Knicks pulled out the 111-105 victory to even their conference semifinals series at one game apiece.
“We just got to find a way to try and win without our main guy,” Heat guard Kyle Lowry said about not having Butler. “We were close and we had an opportunity. We didn’t win the game so it doesn’t really matter. But we did a good job of just going out there and playing hard.”
Miami grew accustomed to playing with new pieces throughout the season. Tuesday night was the Heat’s seventh playoff game, and coach Erik Spoelstra was forced to use his fourth different starting lineup. Herro was injured in Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, and Oladipo was hurt in Game 3.
Butler had been receiving treatment around the clock, according to Spoelstra, but wasn’t cleared to play. Without Butler, the Heat leaned heavily on their role players to step up.
“We really wanted that one and I thought we should have had it,” Heat guard Max Strus said. “It was in our hands and kind of just let it slip away. It’ll be a tough one, but to play without our best player was inspirational. It was good to see other guys step up and put up a good fight like that, but we definitely wanted to go home with the win.”
Strus was one of several undrafted players to step up in a big way for Miami. Caleb Martin had 22 points and eight rebounds, and Gabe Vincent had 21 points and five assists. Strus himself had 17 points while dealing with a lower back contusion he sustained in the game that caused him to briefly go to the locker room in the third quarter before he returned in the fourth.
Throw in Duncan Robinson‘s nine points and Haywood Highsmith‘s five and the undrafted players for Miami combined to score 74 of the team’s 105 points. The 74 points by undrafted players were the most for any team in the modern draft era (since 1966), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
In fact, it was the fifth time a team has had undrafted players account for 50 points or more in the playoffs — and all five times it was done by the Heat, in the past two postseasons. It was also the first time in the modern draft era that a pair of undrafted teammates each scored 20 in a game.
The game featured 16 lead changes and 13 ties. Heat center Bam Adebayo said the team needed to regroup and figure out what went wrong before stopping himself.
“I know what went wrong,” Adebayo said. “The turning point of the game was me running into Isaiah[Hartenstein[Hartenstein]then[[Jalen]Brunson got the and-1 3 technically.”
After the Heat took a six-point lead with 7:06 to play, the Knicks called a timeout. On the ensuing play, New York got the ball to Brunson in the corner as he shot a wide-open 3. Adebayo tried to close out and, in the process, he ran into Hartenstein. He was whistled for a foul, officials counted the bucket and then Hartenstein shot a free throw to cut the lead to two.
On the following possession Brunson came down and hit a 9-foot jumper to tie it and the momentum shifted. The Heat got three points back when Vincent hit three free throws, but the Knicks answered with a possession that featured four offensive rebounds and a corner 3-pointer. Miami never had the lead after that.
“I just got to play better,” Adebayo said. “I feel like this game was on me and I lost it for us. So I just got to be better. I played terrible. I’ll put this one on me.”
The Heat will get three nights off, with Game 3 set for Saturday night in Miami. Spoelstra said that his guys can’t wait to be back on the floor.
“It can’t happen soon enough to get out there and compete again,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody just feels like we had a real opportunity.”
But will Butler be able to go for the Heat on Saturday night with some extra rest?
“His body will let you know. Me know. Him know. Team know,” Spoelstra said. “There’s no way to predict it, but glad we have a couple extra days.”
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