The Miami Heat (1-0) took down the Boston Celtics with a 118-107 victory during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday, May 17. The Heat’s starting five included Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and P.J. Tucker. With Kyle Lowry still sidelined with a hamstring injury, Gabe Vincent once again stepped up into the starting lineup, as did Max Strus, who seems to have permanently taken over Duncan Robinson‘s spot.
The first half of the game started out rough, with Boston outscoring Miami 13-6 in fast-break points. The Heat entered halftime down 62-54. While it seemed inevitable that Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra would throw Robinson some minutes in the second half, the team’s sharpshooter never stepped onto the court.
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While Butler absolutely went off in the third quarter to turn things around, finishing Game 1 with 41 points, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals, and three blocks, NBA analysts and fans couldn’t get over the fact that Robinson, whom the Heat re-signed to $90 million contract this offseason, didn’t play.
The Athletic’s Will Guillory tweeted, “Miami really gave Duncan Robinson 90 Ms and was like ‘Nah we good’ after one year.”
Coach Spo Faced Major Backlash for Not Playing Robinson During the Heat’s Game 4 Loss Vs. Sixers
Robinson becoming a benchwarmer has become a hot topic during the postseason. Following the Heat’s 116-108 Game 4 loss against the Philadelphia 76ers, during which Miami went 7-of-35 from beyond the arc, Spoelstra was slammed for not giving Robinson any minutes.
Clutch Points reporter Jason Patt asked on Twitter, “Is the refusal to play Duncan Robinson just pure stubbornness from Spo? Weird that he’s not even getting a shot. The other role guys all have stunk.”
Hot Hot Hoops reporter Naveen Ganglani tweeted, “Spo historically doesn’t change his rotations unless his hand is forced by the game. How long will he go before finally giving Duncan Robinson some minutes? The Heat have been horrible from 3 now for 3/4 games this series. And how much of a sacrifice will that be on defense?”
On Monday, May 9, Robinson’s agency put out a tweet reminding everyone how dominant Robinson was during the 2020 NBA Finals. During Game 5 against the Sixers, Robinson’s number was finally called, but it wasn’t exactly a redemption story.
The 27-year-old undrafted forward out of Michigan played 14 minutes on May 10, scoring four points while shooting 1-of-3 from the beyond the arc. During Game 6, Robinson played a total of four minutes and scored zero points after making just one three-point attempt.
NBC Sports analyst Darren Hartwell wondered before the Heat/Celtics series started if Robinson would see any playing time. “While Robinson is a prolific outside shooter — only Buddy Hield has made more 3-pointers than Robinson (752) since the start of the 2019-20 season — the New England native and former Williams College star isn’t as prolific defensively,” Hartwell wrote.
“Like Boston, Miami hangs its hat on the defensive end, so head coach Erik Spoelstra has shelved Robinson in favor of Max Strus, who’s a sturdy 6-foot-5, 215 pounds and has been an elite defender in the postseason (94.1 defensive rating) while making 35.1 percent of his 3-pointers.”
Robinson Has Taken a ‘Professional’ Approach to Getting Benched
Earlier this month, Robinson opened up about falling out of the Heat’s rotation. Throughout the regular season, Robinson started 67 games before Strus took over his role in the starting lineup.
During Game 1 of the Heat vs. Hawks playoffs series, Robinson put up 27 points in 23 minutes of play. Throughout Miami’s first four games against the Sixers, Robinson played one minute.
“It has been a challenge,” Robinson said. “But it comes with the territory. It’s part of being a professional.”
“If I’m on the court, it’s my job to play basketball to the best of my abilities and help us win. If I’m not on the court, help us win. If that’s being a supportive teammate, that’s what I do… Whatever coach needs me to do. If he tells me to go in, I go in. If he doesn’t tell me to go in, I don’t go in.”
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