Heat Star Bumped From Starting Lineup: Is the Move Permanent?

Duncan Robinson

Getty Duncan Robinson #55 of the Miami Heat looks on against the San Antonio Spurs during their game at FTX Arena on February 26, 2022.

The Miami Heat entered the final stretch of the regular season in what appears to be in great shape. Not only were they in first place in the Eastern Conference, but their roster was finally returning to full health.

While Victor Oladipo and Markieff Morris, both of whom recently returned to action following extended absences, are not to blame for the Heat’s recent struggles, the major boost they were expected to give the Heat somehow backfired. Miami has gone 3-3 in games Oladipo has played, and 2-4 in tilts Morris got minutes.

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Following a four-game losing streak, it’s clear Miami has yet to figure out how to successfully implement these late-season additions to the lineup However, the Heat are still in first place with a 48-28 record and on Monday, March 28, broke their losing streak with a much-needed dominant 123-100 win over the Sacramento Kings. So, what changed?

Aside from the fact that the Kings have the third-worst defense in the NBA, there was one major tweak to the Heat’s starting lineup that led to their victory over Sacramento — sharpshooter Duncan Robinson was replaced with guard Max Strus.

Robinson, who signed a $90 million contract with the Heat this offseason, has made 67 starts this season, and the only games he didn’t start were due to an injury. It’s hard to make a definitive decision as to whether or not this move is permanent following just one win against a non-playoff contender, but Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra isn’t afraid to shake things up.

“These are tough decisions and there’s a lot of different things that could work,” Spoelstra said, per Miami Herald‘s Anthony Chiang. “We just felt at this time, this particular time, that these moves may clean up some things with the rotation. But those aren’t easy things. I think we all just have to have empathy and grace for some of these changes for the guys that didn’t necessarily play tonight.”

Robinson Said He Just Wants to Win Games

While some players’ egos would take a knock at getting bumped from the starting lineup, Robinson only has one thing on his mind, and that’s winning games. The 27-year-old told Chiang on Tuesday, March 29, that beating the Kings was a huge relief following their losing skid.

“To be honest with you, it felt like it was a big thing because it was and it is,” Robinson said. “We got to figure it out, especially this time of the year. The sense of urgency was high, guys want to win. Everybody in that locker room wants to win. That’s the one commonality. It was a big thing, for sure. But at the same, just learn from it and move forward.”

Spoelstra also noted that it wasn’t just Robinson’s role that was switched up against Sacramento, the rotation was tweaked in several places with Jimmy Butler playing fewer minutes alongside P.J. Tucker and Kyle Lowry. Oladipo and Morris didn’t play at all.

“This wasn’t a one-move thing,” Spoelstra said. “We were very disappointed about the last four games and this has been trending really even before that while we were winning. Again, it’s not an indictment on anybody. Sometimes these things can be chemistry things. Sometimes it’s just the flow of certain guys playing off of each other.”

Robinson finished Monday night’s game with 15 points, including five threes. Bulter led the team in scoring with 27 points while Bam Adebayo put up 22 points and Tyler Herro scored 20 points.

Butler Says They Have a Few More Games to Figure It Out

Mirroring Robinson’s comments, six-time All-Star Jimmy Butler is down to do whatever it takes if it means winning games, whether or not that means more or fewer minutes for him.

“I feel like we put together this roster to win a championship,” Butler said. “It feels like a championship caliber team, it does. We have lapses at times. We got a couple more days, games to figure that all out. But when we’re clicking, when we’re guarding, when we’re making shots, when we’re sharing the ball, then we’re going to be really tough to beat.”

The Heat have six more regular-season games left.

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