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Shorthanded Heat needs whole roster to put ‘fingerprints’ on game. What that looks like

·4 min read

In the grand scheme of the Miami Heat’s shorthanded win over the Indiana Pacers on Friday, it could be easy to overlook Gabe Vincent’s two key shots — one at the end of each half.

In the waning seconds of the second quarter, he drove to his left from midcourt, getting a screen from Dewayne Dedmon, and sank a 29-foot three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left to give the Heat an eight-point lead going into halftime.

In the fourth quarter, with Indiana getting back to within nine points after Miami led by as many as 20, Vincent took a pass from P.J. Tucker, stepped forward and hit a 30-footer to all but ice the Heat’s win at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

By themselves, they were just two shots, six points out of 113 for Miami.

But looking at the bigger picture, they exemplified what the Heat needs to be doing in this moment as it maneuvers a course to staying afloat during a stretch in which it is playing without Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler.

Contributions from up and down the roster. Role players taking on added responsibility. Work behind the scenes coming to the limelight, especially when the starters are on the bench.

“We knew we were going to have a lot of guys contributing,” coach Erik Spoelstra said, “and putting their fingerprints on this game.”

They got their expected — and needed — contributions from the likes of Kyle Lowry (26 points, nine assists), Duncan Robinson (24 points) and Tyler Herro (18 points).

But it was those key contributions away from that group that rang true on Friday and will need to keep doing so with Adebayo out for likely six weeks due to a right thumb injury and Butler set to miss his fourth consecutive game Saturday when Miami plays the Milwaukee Bucks with a tailbone injury.

“One thing about this league is that it’s not just two, three, four guys on the team,” Lowry said. “You’ve got a bunch of guys who are trying to prove themselves.”

Guys like Vincent, who scored 12 points on Friday and has tallied double-digit points in four consecutive games while averaging just shy of 29 minutes per game in that span.

Guys like Omer Yurtseven, who had averaged just 3.1 minutes per game before Friday but is being looked on now to fill minutes as the team’s backup center depending on matchups. On Friday, Yurtseven was on the court for 19:18, scored 12 points (10 in the second half), grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots.

Guys like Caleb Martin, who is on a two-way contract but has been a steady part of the rotation. He’s averaging six points and three rebounds through 20 games this season.

“Those guys are there every single day with us doing the same work, if not more,” Herro said. “Work hard 35 minutes, 45 minutes before practice. It’s a process, and it’s good for guys to get opportunities.”

This and that

Among players who have played at least 15 games entering Saturday, Heat center Dewayne Dedmon ranks seventh in the NBA with a 13.5 net rating, meaning the Heat is outscoring opponents by an average of 13.5 points per 100 possessions Dedmon is on the court.

Lowry’s scored 20 of his 26 points against the Pacers on Friday in the first half, just the fifth time in his NBA career that he recorded 20 points prior to halftime. The last time he did it: Jan. 20, 2018, when playing for the Toronto Raptors against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Despite averaging 14.8 points per game throughout his career, Lowry has taken on more of a facilitator role so far this season, prioritizing setting up his teammates to score more so than himself. He’s averaging what would be a career-high 7.6 assists per game as a result.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t have big scoring nights himself. Friday was one of the latest examples of that. He went 7 for 12 fro the field (including 4 for 8 from three-point range) and made both of his free throws in the first half.

“I haven’t been scoring this year as much as I can,” Lowry said, “but I thought this is one of those games to play more aggressive.”

There will be a lot of star power missing on the court at Fiserv Forum on Saturday. In addition to the Heat being without Butler, Adebayo and Markieff Morris, the Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo listed as doubtful with a calf injury. Antetokounmpo did not play in Milwaukee’s loss to the Toronto Raptors on Thursday, just the second game he did not play this season.

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