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‘The game looks better when Kyle is out there.’ Here’s one way Lowry is helping the Heat

·5 min read

Miami Heat players and coaches call it Kyle Chaos. For the orchestrator of that chaos, his approach is simple.

“Just keep pushing,” Kyle Lowry said. “Don’t have to wait. Just keep trying to keep the pace up. Even with a dead-ball turnover, just try to keep the pace up. We’ve got guys that are really good defensively and we have one of the best rebounders in the game with Bam [Adebayo]. We have great shooters, so just trying to get open looks for everybody, just keeping the pace high no matter what happens. Dead ball, turnover, rebound, just continue to keep a steady pace.”

The Heat’s new pace has been on display with Lowry, 35, on the court after finishing last season as the second-slowest team in the NBA (97.1 possessions per 48 minutes). Miami is playing at a speed of 105.2 possessions per 48 minutes when its new starting point guard is playing through the first three games this season, which is very quick considering the fastest team in the NBA last season (the Washington Wizards) averaged 104.7 possessions per 48 minutes.

The Heat (2-1) didn’t play at a very fast pace in Monday’s 107-90 home win against the Orlando Magic (98 possessions per 48 minutes). But Miami did use its newfound speed to capitalize on 18 turnovers from the Magic to finish with 21 fast-break points, and entered Tuesday averaging the sixth-most points off turnovers in the NBA at 19.7 per game.

“We have some quick guys and guys that can anticipate, quick hands, see plays before they actually happen,” coach Erik Spoelstra said, with the Heat set to take on Kevin Durant, James Harden and the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday at Barclays Center (7:30 p.m., Bally Sports Sun). “We were good at forcing turnovers in previous years, we just didn’t necessarily convert them well. I think that would be a good quality for this team going forward. Then the pace and the random situations, we have a lot of guys that have good instincts, good feel.”

Without Lowry on the court, though, the Heat’s pace has slowed to 98.7 possessions per 48 minutes. That number would have ranked 10th-slowest in the NBA last season.

The one game that Lowry missed because of a sprained ankle — Saturday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers — ended up as the slowest performance of the Heat’s first three games. Miami played at a speed of 96.9 possessions per 48 minutes against the Pacers and was outscored 18-10 in transition.

In the two games that Lowry has played in, the Heat has outscored its opponent by a combined score of 43-12 in fast-break points.

It helps that the Heat has been able to run off of a lot of misses to start the season, as it entered Tuesday with the NBA’s top defensive rating (allowing 92.6 points per 100 possessions). Opponents have shot just 39.3 percent against Miami in the first three games.

“He’s one of those players who definitely has an impact on the game,” Adebayo said. “Yes, it feels different when Kyle is on the court. He’s an incredible player and he’s really smart. How he just thinks the game is really incredible. ... He really pushes the pace. We’ve said this all before and you can also see it. He’s one of those dudes that doesn’t care about turnovers, all he’s trying to do is pitch the ball ahead to get guys easy buckets.”

But playing fast doesn’t just create fast-break opportunities, it’s also about generating quality looks early in the shot clock.

Last season, only about 15.1 percent of the Heat’s shots came with 18 or more seconds on the shot clock. That number has jumped to 19.3 percent early this season.

“It’s pitch aheads. That’s the biggest thing you see about Kyle,” Adebayo said. “It’s pitch aheads and his next-play speed to get the ball in while somebody is arguing with the ref and then get a layup. Little stuff like that, where those extra six or eight points will help you at the end of the game.”

The question is: Will the Heat actually finish in the top half of the league in pace this season?

The Heat has started past seasons fast before slowing things down as it advanced deeper into the schedule. Miami played at the NBA’s fifth-fastest pace over the first 10 games of last season before ending the regular season with the second-slowest pace in the league.

But this is nothing new for Lowry, who helped the Toronto Raptors finish in the top half of the league in pace in each of the past four seasons. He thrives in chaos, as has already totaled 14 assists to only four turnovers in the two games he has played in with the Heat.

“It’s definitely a difference,” forward Duncan Robinson said of the Heat’s Lowry-led pace. “We’re used to scouting it and preparing for it. Now we’re the team kind of doing it to people. Obviously, he’s got an incredible next-play speed and he finds ways to kind of like take advantage of those little areas in between possessions and that sort of thing. It’s an adjustment like anything, a new kind of play style. But at the end of the day, I think it’s going to be an advantage, for sure.”

An advantage that has already become an important part of the new-look Heat’s identity.

“He’s just really smart,” Jimmy Butler said of Lowry. “He’s a great screener. He’s so unselfish in the sense that he’s going to make the right play, he’s going to set a great screen to free somebody else up. ... He does so many things for us, he does so many things well that the game looks better when Kyle is out there.”

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