The first two games of the Miami Heat’s season highlighted the value of Kyle Lowry, especially on offense.
The veteran point guard played in the Heat’s season-opening blowout win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday at FTX Arena, and Miami set a franchise record for the most points scored in an opener with 137 points. The Heat also shot 53.1 percent and dished out 28 assists while committing only 11 turnovers.
The veteran point guard did not play because of a sprained left ankle in the Heat’s second game of the season, a 102-91 overtime road loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday and Miami shot just 38.5 percent from the field, 9 of 33 (27.3 percent) on threes and committed 22 turnovers to only 18 assists. The Heat also posted its worst single-game regular season offensive rating since scoring 86 points in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 15, 2019.
“That’s a factor,” coach Erik Spoelstra said when asked how Lowry’s absence affected the Heat’s offense. “But we should be able to function, at least be able to get into offense and get the ball where it needs to, get the shots that we want up even without him.”
The Heat (1-1) now returns home to face the Orlando Magic on Monday (7:30 p.m., Bally Sports Sun). Lowry is listed as questionable for the contest, with Spoelstra declining Saturday night to speculate on a timetable for his return.
If Lowry does not return against the Magic, the learning process of playing without him will continue.
Gabe Vincent made his eighth NBA start on Saturday in place of Lowry, but was quiet with just two points on 1-of-3 shooting, three assists and three turnovers in 25 minutes. Vincent did not play late in the fourth quarter or in overtime, as Spoelstra went with Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro at point guard down the stretch with the Heat limited because of its lack of depth at the position.
“Obviously, without Kyle things are much different,” said Herro, who scored a team-high 30 points on a career-high 28 shots in Lowry’s absence against the Pacers. “He’s such a leader. The way he gets everybody to their spots and just orchestrates everything for us offensively. We definitely missed him.”
The Heat scored 22 fast-break points and played at a speedy pace of 106 possessions per 48 minutes with Lowry available in Thursday’s season opener. Without Lowry, the Heat created just 10 fast-break points with a pace that slowed to 96.9 possessions per 48 minutes in Saturday’s loss.
“It shouldn’t be that hard,” Butler said of playing without Lowry. “But I guess we made it seem as that. We just got to do better sharing the ball and getting guys to their spots. A lot of that is on me, honestly, whenever Kyle is not out there playing.”
It didn’t help that the Heat’s leading duo of center Bam Adebayo and Butler were inefficient, combining for 36 points on 13-of-37 (35.1 percent) shooting, nine assists and nine turnovers in the loss.
“He knows how to control the tempo, knows how to keep the pace,” Adebayo said of Lowry. “So when you’re missing that type of attribute, that’s going to leave a hole in your offense. For us, we just got to do a better job of staying cohesive, staying with that pace and just keep getting into triggers fast and making the easy plays.”
The positive news for Miami is its defense still looked good without Lowry. The Pacers scored just eight points on 4-of-17 shooting from the field and 0-of-6 shooting on threes in the third quarter, which is tied for the fewest points that the Heat has allowed in a third quarter in franchise history.
For the game, Indiana scored 102 points on 39.2 percent shooting from the field and 10-of-39 (25.6 percent) shooting on threes. The Heat posted a defensive rating of 96.2 points allowed per 100 possessions in the loss.
Usually that’s enough to win, as the Heat has posted a 25-2 record over the previous three regular seasons when allowing 97 points or less per 100 possessions. But its offensive struggles were just too much to overcome against the Pacers.
“That was really inspiring,” Spoelstra said of the Heat’s defensive performance on Saturday. “The third quarter, we really came out with great toughness and multiple efforts, the urgency, the communication, all of it. This is the identity that we want. On the road, that’s what you want to do. You want to be able to defend and put yourself in a position to have the opportunity to win. They just made more plays, that’s the bottom line. We had a lead, weren’t able to hold onto the lead and we missed some shots that probably could have extended it a little bit more.”
Looking for some sort of positive sign for the Lowry-less Heat offense? The unit managed to generate 40 shots from inside the paint against the Pacers. But Miami made just 18 of those attempts for an underwhelming shooting percentage of 45 percent.
Butler shot just 6 of 15 (40 percent) from inside the paint against the Pacers. He made 57.3 percent of his shots from that area of the court last season.
“We definitely missed a lot of shots that we normally make, myself included,” Butler said. “But as did they. We got to keep taking those shots, getting into the paint, looking to kick out a little bit more. ... I smoked way too many layups and jump shots that I got to make those. Back to the drawing board.”
Lowry could return Monday or he could miss another game. The Heat knows its offense must be better than it was Saturday whether it has its starting point guard or not.
“Usually you’re going to always have a Plan B when somebody is out,” Adebayo said. “Especially somebody like Kyle, especially somebody in the starting unit because now you have to bring somebody in to pick up that cohesiveness, that tempo with the starting unit.”
▪ Aside from Lowry, the only other Heat player on the injury report for Monday’s game is guard Victor Oladipo, who remains out as he continues to recover from May knee surgery.