The Miami Heat didn’t just win their 2021-22 NBA season opener against the defending champs, the Milwaukee Bucks, they swept the floor with them in a dominating 137-95 win.
While the Heat’s newly restricted roster sounded fantastic on paper, no one knew how the newly acquired member would gel on the court with the team’s returning players. The chemistry, however, was off the charts at the FTX Arena on October 21.
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After the game, Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra couldn’t help but gush about forward P.J. Tucker. The 36-year-old forward, who was a key player in helping the Bucks win the NBA title last season, signed a two-year $14.4 million contract with the Heat during free agency.
Spoelstra revealed that the relentless aggression seen in Tucker’s Heat debut did not just stem from the fact they were playing against his former team for the first time. That’s just how Tucker plays every day.
“He’s really inspiring. He’s so inspiring,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody, Heat Nation was able to see this tonight. He’s literally like this in every single practice. You have to like dial him down.”
“He’s competing every single possession like it’s his last possession,” Spoelstra continued. “He’s yelling at people to do their job defensively. All the details and everything, he just takes so much pride on that side of the floor.”
Heat President Pat Riley Gushed About Tucker’s Offensive & Defensive Talent
Tucker finished his first tilt as a Heat player with eight points, 3-of-4 on shooting from the field, 2-of-3 from beyond the arc, six rebounds, two assists, and one steal in 22 minutes of action.
His former Bucks teammate, Giannis Antetokounmpo said after the game, “P.J. is P.J. He is going to play hard. Miami was a physical team before P.J., he just adds to it. They always play physical,” per Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang.
Tucker’s natural fit into Heat culture has not only impressed Spoelstra but “The Godfather” himself. During Heat president Pat Riley’s first media conference since the Bucks swept Miami in the first round of the playoffs last season, singled out Tucker as one of the most exciting additions to the team.
“He’s three times more than what I thought he was. He just is,” Riley said of Tucker on Tuesday. “If I wanted to put on a defensive clinic, I would probably use him as an example on how to close out, how to get in a stance, how to slide your feet, how to stay in a play when you’re beat, how to get over a pick, how to communicate and talk. These are just on the defensive end, and how to blitz, switch and those kind of things.”
As for Tucker’s talent on the offensive end, “He’s a heat-seeking missile,” Riley said.
Spoelstra Says, ‘The Biggest Thing Is Our Group Is Excited About This Season’
Tucker wasn’t the only Heat player to shine in their season opener, with six-time All-Star Kyle Lowry speeding up the pace on the floor, the entire offense turned up against the Bucks. Tyler Herro (27 points), Bam Adebayo (20 points), Jimmy Butler (21 points), and Duncan Robinson scored his 1,000th three-pointer.
“It’s really because of Kyle, in all honesty,” Adebayo said after the game. “The way he pitches the ball ahead, the way he keeps the pace going, I feel like it’s a big part of Kyle. He likes to get other people involved. His biggest thing is to get me and Jimmy to our spots.”
Butler agreed.”With Kyle playing the way he plays, it gives everybody freedom to just hoop,” Butler said.