Jimmy Butler returned to the lineup and scored 30 points in 34 minutes. That was the good news in a 105-104 win for a Miami Heat team looking to get all its players back to full strength.
However, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra revealed more problems related to COVID-19 protocols after the game. Tyler Herro learned at halftime that his housemate tested positive for the novel coronavirus, per ESPN. Herro missed practice on Sunday, according to the Heat, and is questionable for Monday’s game.
Meanwhile, Kendrick Nunn sat out Saturday’s contest due to an unconfirmed test result. Nunn tested negative and could have started the second quarter, but Spoelstra erred on the side of caution.
“We were waiting for his test results,” Spoelstra said. “At that point, he wasn’t available, in the first quarter, so I went a different direction and just didn’t go back to him. I guess if those types of things are going to happen, they’ll happen to us. We’ll test it out first and find a way to make it work.”
Spoelstra was half-joking when he made those “test it out” comments but it’s true. No team in the league has endured the same uncertainties as Miami when it comes to health and safety protocols. Butler missed 10 games while Avery Bradley sat out nine games. And Herro was already sidelined for seven games due to neck spasms and now may have to quarantine.
“There’s always beauty in the struggle,” center Bam Adebayo said. “We gonna figure it out.”
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Adebayo: ‘Got My Running Mate Back’
Adebayo had 18 points and 13 rebounds in his first game playing alongside Butler since Jan. 9. There had been talk about the All-Star tandem needing a few games to gel and get their timing right. Nope. They picked up right where they left off and hopefully started a winning streak.
“I got my running mate back,” Adebayo said. “We feed off each other and we did that tonight. You got two guys that want each other to be aggressive and do the things that they need to do to help this team be successful. So you figure it out, and as you can see, we already got that handled.”
Butler set two significant milestones on Saturday, too. He reached 10,000 career points in the first half, then grabbed his 3,000th career rebound in the third quarter. The star forward didn’t even know what he had done until teammate Goran Dragic told him.
“Goran being Goran,” Butler said. “But, man, look points or not, I just want to win. I gotta win. We gotta have it so here’s to a couple more points, I guess.”
Heat Getting Healthy, Making Playoff Push
It’s way too early to give up on the season, regardless of what Paul Pierce says. The Heat own the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference at 7-12, but they still have championship aspirations. It began with Butler’s return and now they’ll look to start stacking up the “dubs.”
“It’s a start. We just have to continue to forge ahead and it has to be that important where you simply do whatever it takes, or do more,” Spoelstra said. “And that was the key word tonight, everyone had to do more but our spirit has been lifted the last three games, just having everyone back.”
The losing is over, according to Butler.
“It’s time to start stringing together some W’s,” Butler said. “The losing is over. That’s not what we practice here with the Heat so we got to get that losing put behind us. It happened already and start stringing together these W’s.”