Tyler Herro was ruled out for the Miami Heat due to “health and safety protocols” about 17 seconds prior to tip-off. Everyone wanted to know what happened to the young guard, but head coach Erik Spoelstra had no update following a hard-fought 101-94 win.
It marked the fourth straight “dub” for the Heat who had been tumbling down the Eastern Conference standings. Herro’s absence opened up the door for reserve guard Max Strus to shine in extended minutes as he popped off for 21 points while Kendrick Nunn started for a third straight game with Herro out.
“I have no more information,” Spoelstra said of why Herro was out. “I’m not allowed to say anything else.”
Later, Spoelstra chuckled to himself and once again praised his team’s mental toughness. He knows what kind of guys are in that locker room, always ready to prove the doubters wrong.
“We’ve been dealing with this for five weeks,” Spoelstra said of the COVID-19 protocols. “Everybody has this twisted about this team, saying that there’s a lack of whatever … whatever the stupid narrative that is out there. We have incredible mental toughness and stability in that locker room and as a staff because we’ve been dealing with it. We’re not making any excuses for it. This has been going on for five weeks, and guys have been able to stay focused and on the task at hand.”
Spoelstra is right. Miami has gone long stretches without key players. Jimmy Butler has missed 13 games. Avery Bradley, 15 games. Goran Dragic, eight games. Herro, eight games. Meyers Leonard is out for the year. Adversity? The Heat invented it.
“I think it’s the norm now, guys missing games,” Butler said. “It’s not a good thing obviously, but like I said, we still expect to win. We got guys that are capable of doing what other guys are doing when other guys go out so that’s the best thing about this team. And we’re just gaining more and more confidence.”
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Strus Takes Center Stage in Heat Win
Strus is on a two-way contract and making the most of every opportunity. The 24-year-old shooting guard has strung together a few impressive games, including a 19-point performance on Feb. 1 and a 12-point showing on Jan. 28.
Unexpected? Maybe to Heat fans. Not to his teammates.
“He had just as much to do with us winning as I did,” said Butler, who posted a triple-double (27 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists). “That’s what he does is shoot the ball. I’ve seen him do it every single day … that’s his role on this team, and he’s really f***ing good at it.”
His 21 points on Thursday night versus the Houston Rockets were a new career-high and included a highlight-reel dunk over John Wall. Strus is averaging 5.9 points per game while shooting 39.1% from deep.
“Just another guard down, I figured it’s time for me to step up if I get my chance and obviously I stayed locked in,” Strus told reporters after the game. “Every time I get on the court, Jimmy says ‘every time I pass you the ball, shoot the ball’ so just having him have that confidence in me is extremely helpful and it gives me confidence.”
Next Up, Utah Jazz
Miami will board a plane and fly to Utah next for the second game of their seven-game road trip. Luckily, they get a few days off before returning to the court on Saturday night (Feb. 13). The Heat will be facing a red-hot Jazz team that has won five straight games and 16 of their last 17 contests. Insane.
“We know what we’re capable of and we know what we got to do,” Butler said, “so moving forward, let’s keep this thing rolling.”
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