The Miami Heat had to play a basketball game on Wednesday night but it was a tough decision to actually walk out onto the court. Before the game, emotions were running high about the Jacob Blake verdict and the Donald Trump riots in Washington, D.C.
So the Heat and the Boston Celtics protested on their own terms. The teams put out a joint statement before tip-off saying they would play while acknowledging the day’s two divisive events and instructing people to “not forget the injustices in our society.” The Heat and Celtics both briefly left the court during warmups and then returned to kneel for the national anthem. One Heat player, Meyers Leonard, stood for his hand over his heart.
Heat and Celtics players kneel for anthem. pic.twitter.com/2QrAtszPaT
— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) January 7, 2021
The Heat lost 107-105 on a last-second layup from Celtics rookie Payton Pritchard in a back-and-forth battle that saw Miami trail by as many as 16 points. For once, the final result played second fiddle to the larger issue at hand. There is an unequal racial balance in the country: we are living in “two different USAs.”
“Everybody knows what’s going on in the world, man, and you can’t hide from that,” Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler told reporters. “We see the two different USAs that we live in. It’s sad, it truly is, it’s sad … but all in all we came to the conclusion that, ‘Look, man, we gonna go hoop’ because we know what it is, you can’t fool us, you’re not fooling nobody else. It’s just sad, man, and everybody sees it, everybody knows it now, you can’t say that you don’t understand it.”
Butler scored a team-high 26 points for the Heat, but everybody in the locker room had their mind somewhere else. Head coach Erik Spoelstra recalled getting a phone call from Celtics head coach Brad Stevens just as he was leaving his office to address the team. The two men chatted for a bit and then felt their players out for what they should do.
“You really have to just tip your hat to all the pros in both locker rooms,” Spoelstra told reporters. “Because it’s legitimate that everybody does have a lot on their mind and heavy hearts and disappointment, discouragement — all of these different emotions and then they hand you a ball and just say, ‘OK, you got to go compete and forget about it.’ It’s not an easy thing to compartmentalize time and time again, particularly after the Bubble where we shut it down hoping there would be change.”
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 7, 2021
The Heat will meet as a team later this week to decide if future anthem protests will occur, per Spoelstra, and they will talk either “formally or informally” about everything that has happened.
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Heat Keep Kelly Olynyk in Starting Lineup
There was a game played and the Heat stuck with the same starting lineup for back-to-back contests for the first time this season. Kelly Olynyk replaced Andre Iguodala at forward again and scored 11 points in 21 minutes. The offense wasn’t flowing as smoothly as it did on Monday night, particularly in the first quarter as the Heat dug themselves a 16-point deficit.
The streak ends. The Heat are using the same lineup for the first time this season: Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, Kelly Olynyk, Duncan Robinson and Bam Adebayo start.
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) January 7, 2021
Miami eventually figured it out — thanks to Butler putting the team on his shoulders — but the lineup is far from set in stone. Spoelstra praised the “consistency” of the nine guys in the rotation, including Butler, Olynyk, Iguodala, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Goran Dragic, Avery Bradley, and Precious Achiuwa.
“I think guys are pretty comfortable with that,” Spoelstra said. “And, like I said earlier, the flow and the energy in the third quarter was much better and our starters really set the tone for that.”
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 7, 2021
Butler seemed offended when asked if the Heat had landed on a permanent starting five. He doesn’t care which group the coaches throw out there, none of them have shown enough effort.
“You could put anybody out there, we’re still going to have to box out and chase and get the ball and share the ball and guard,” Butler said. “But I don’t think any lineup that has been put out there yet has done that. Rotation or not, we ain’t done that yet.”
Figuring It Out Before It’s Too Late
Butler wasn’t the only one who seemed upset about the Heat’s recent struggles. The team shot 43.2% from the field against Boston, including 36.1% from deep. They also got beasted in the paint, getting out-rebounded 53-42 and out-scored 56-40. It’s time to start figuring it out.
“We’re to the point where we got to figure this out. Before it’s too late,” center Bam Adebayo told reporters. “We don’t want to build no habit of, ‘OK, we’ll get the next game, OK we’ll get the next game’ because then we look up and we’re at the eighth seed. We need to fix this situation right now.”
"We need to fix this situation right now."
— FOX Sports Sun: HEAT (@FOXSportsHEAT) January 7, 2021
Butler’s trademark snarl could be seen through the surgical mask he was wearing during his post-game media availability. He inferred the squad was slacking off and not hustling for 48 minutes.
“We know what we got to do. There’s no excuses to not playing hard and not finishing possessions,” Butler said. “If we want to win, that’s how we’re going to have to play. Get out of the mud, claw, scratch, to get a dub … but we better figure it out real soon.”
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