Kyle Lowry has missed the majority of the Miami Heat’s playoff run but the veteran guard has still played a major role in mentoring the players who have filled in for him.
Gabe Vincent has been a major beneficiary of more minutes with Lowry on the sideline and the 25-year-old has produced. His latest performance in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics was his best thus far, notching 17 points in 34 minutes. The Heat are 7-0 with Vincent in the starting lineup.
Vincent credited Lowry with his improvement and being able to see the game better.
“I feel like my IQ has grown a lot being around him,” Vincent said, per the Miami Herald. “Learning how to read defenses differently. I think I’ve become a much better passer. A lot of that has to do with being able to see things develop or see where I can get guys the ball where the defense can’t get it. I think you see that most for me particularly with pitching the ball ahead.
“It’s those kind of bold plays that as the year has gone on, I’ve become more and more comfortable and learned how to pick my spots and time and score, flow of the game, when to do it, when not to do it. His impact on me has shown in a number of ways. Definitely in terms of passing the ball and reading the game.”
Lowry Dealing With Nagging Hamstring Issue
Lowry has missed eight of the Heat’s first 13 playoff games, returning briefly during the series against the Sixers but being forced to exit.
“I’d put it this way, you don’t want to play with it,” Lowry said during the second-round series against the Sixers.
The 35-year-old Lowry started 63 games for the Heat this season. He averaged 13.4 points and 7.5 assists, also producing on the defensive side of the ball. But with 15-plus seasons under his belt, Lowry’s leadership and experience are tough things to be replaced.
Heat skipper Erik Spoelstra credited Lowry for putting the team over his own ego.
“It’s a great dynamic and a really unique relationship because a lot of it has been mentoring a guy without even knowing it when Kyle is out that this guy now can handle more responsibilities,” Spoelstra said. “That’s how unselfish Kyle is. It also takes the right kind of mindset from Gabe to be open-minded to that mentorship and not ever think, even after success, that ‘Oh no, I got this.’ They really feed off each other.”
Celtics Expected to Get Marcus Smart, Al Horford Back
While the Heat have ruled out Lowry for Game 2, the Celtics are expected to be a bit healthier with starters Al Horford and Marcus Smart returning to the lineup. Smart is probable with a foot injury, while Horford has been cleared from the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols.
Boston missed the veteran duo during Game 1, especially when the Heat went on a massive third-quarter run that put them in control of the game.
“We definitely weren’t prepared to be without Al and Smart. It’s not an excuse, we gotta be better,” Celtics star Jaylen Brown said. ”We still had control of the game in the first half. We lost control in the third quarter a little bit. We just got to be better.”
The Heat are a 2.5-point favorite for Game 2 at home.