For the first time in two weeks, the Miami Heat’s starting lineup again became available to coach Erik Spoelstra, with point guard Kyle Lowry available for Wednesday night’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center.
Previously listed as questionable, Lowry had missed the previous four games due to discomfort in his left knee.
His return follows the Monday returns of starting power forward Caleb Martin from a five-game absence with a strained left quadriceps and starting shooting guard Tyler Herro from a three-game absence due to a sore left Achilles.
The previous time the Heat had their preferred starting lineup of Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Lowry, Herro and Martin available was the Jan 4 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, a game when Martin still was hampered by his quadriceps injury.
The Heat went into Wednesday 6-8 when starting Adebayo, Butler, Lowry, Herro and Martin.
Gabe Vincent had started in place of Lowry the four games prior to Wednesday.
Spoelstra said at the morning shootaround that Lowry was working toward his return.”
“He’s made improvement,” Spoelstra said. “He’s been doing a lot of work behind the scenes.”
Remaining behind in Miami for the three-game trip that concludes Friday against the Dallas Mavericks are Duncan Robinson (finger surgery), Omer Yurtseven (ankle surgery) and Nikola Jovic (lower-back stress reaction).
Lining it up
With Butler averaging 10.5 free-throw attempts over his previous six games going into Wednesday night, Spoelstra said there is nothing inflated about those numbers.
Even if they leave the veteran forward somewhat inflamed afterwards
“Particularly when you’re on the road,” Spoelstra said, “you’re doing whatever you can to try to control the game, and control the tempo of the game. There’s no better way to do it offensively than getting to the free-throw line.
“And Jimmy is able to do that in a way that it’s an art form. And not trickery. He just understands how important it is. So it’s an aggressiveness, it’s assertiveness, it’s understanding when to attack, when defenses aren’t quite set, and you take advantage of poor body position. He’s rugged. He’s physical. But he has a very quick brain, which allows him to draw fouls in a way that.”
Even with recent 10-of-10, 23-of-23 and 11-of-11 performances from the line by Butler, Spoelstra said it’s 100 percent real.
“I don’t think it’s trickery. He earns them,” Spoelstra said. “And you can just see that with the ice bags he has after a game.”
Unlike Butler, Adebayo hasn’t necessarily been getting to the foul line in recent games, but he has been punishing defenses in the paint. He exited Monday night’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks, at the start of this three-game trip, tied with Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo for most points in the paint in the NBA.
“And Bam is becoming that, as well,” Spoelstra said while reflecting on Butler’s recent aggressiveness. “And that’s really important for us to establish Bam and get him aggressive in places where he can really be efficient.
“We’re at our best when both of those guys are getting to the free-throw line offensively.”
Back working with the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, forward Jamal Cain closed with 36 points and 14 rebounds in a Tuesday night loss to the Orlando Magic’s affiliate. Averaging 14.5 rebounds per game with the Skyforce, Cain, who is on a Heat two-way contract, now ranks second in the G League in rebounding.
All two-way contracts became guaranteed for the season Wednesday, due to the two-way waiver period, meaning Cain and center Orlando Robinson will fully collect on those Heat deals this season. The Heat still have the ability to sub out other two-way players to their roster. Two-way contracts do not count against the NBA salary cap or luxury tax.