The chances of the Miami Heat fielding a competitive starting five looked dire after eight players were ruled out. Then again, one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity. And 24-year-old point guard Gabe Vincent made the most of his leading role.
Vincent, who went undrafted in 2018, made his first NBA start and scored 24 points in 36 minutes during a 137-134 loss on Tuesday night. He was part of a Heat lineup featuring three guards — Vincent, Tyler Herro (34 points), Duncan Robinson (26 points) — as they took the Philadelphia 76ers to overtime on their home floor.
The 6-foot-3 player of Nigerian descent was a bright spot for the losing team, making an impact on the defensive end and hustling for every loose ball. Vincent went 4-of-12 from deep while dishing out three assists, grabbing two rebounds, and recording two steals. He went 9-of-20 from the field.
“Opportunity comes few and far between,” Vincent told reporters after the game. “We just try to be ready for when it does, not happy about the circumstances obviously. I’d love for the rest of our team to be here with us, competing with us, but I just tried to take advantage of it. I tried to impact the game on both sides of the floor and, unfortunately, we came up short but we’re looking forward to Thursday.”
The Heat (4-5) return to action tomorrow (Jan. 14) in Philadelphia for a rematch. Five Heat players scored in double figures in a limited eight-man rotation employed by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
“Guys really wanted to get out there and compete,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve been holed up in a hotel room for the last 48 hours.”
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Vincent Looking to Rub Off Labels
Vincent has been told his whole life that he belongs out on the perimeter, as a catch-and-shoot sniper. While it’s true he can light it up from beyond the arc — 42.3% on three-pointers last year in the G-League — the point guard wants people to know there is more to his game.
The UC Santa Barbara product looked very comfortable slashing through the lane and bringing the ball up the court. His play on the defensive end was instrumental in holding 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons to five points and chasing him out of Tuesday’s game with six fouls.
“This world does label. We’re so quick to label people for everything,” Vincent said. “I’m a basketball player at the end of the day. I can make plays off the ball. I can make plays on the ball. I can handle it. I can defend. So I was able to showcase a little bit of that tonight in terms of getting to the hole and shooting the three, and getting to the free-throw line so it was a little bit of everything.”
Since he’s on a two-way contract, Vincent can only play 50 regular-season games (out of 72) for the Heat. After that, his season is done since the franchise decided not to field a G-League squad. Vincent averaged 23.7 points per game while splitting time between the Stockton Kings and Sioux Falls Skyforce last year. He was named the 2019-20 NBA G League Most Improved Player.
Picking Goran Dragic’s Brain Always Good
Goran Dragic was the man Vincent replaced in the Heat starting lineup. And the savvy 34-year-old veteran was anxiously awaiting a text back from Vincent after his debut. Dragic knows all about unwanted labels, especially as a “three-point specialist,” and the one-time All-Star guard has done his best to break them.
Dragic is averaging 14.8 points and 5.0 assists in eight games this year. Vincent has been leaning on him for support.
“I do have a text from him right now in my phone,” Vincent told reporters on Tuesday. “I’m picking his brain any chance that I can get, so I’m looking forward to talking to him and finding out what he saw, things I can get better at for the next game.”