Heat’s Loss To Cavs Shows Continued Need To Step It Up A Notch

If you want insight on how the Cavalier won against the Heat, 105-94, check out Sam Amico’s Dribbles on the Cleveland win.Tyler Herro

If you’re interested in how the Heat let this one slip, stick around.

After a two-game streak without the availability of All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, the Heat (16-12) appeared primed for a test against a superb Cavs team (17-12). Without sufficient stars — to which no fans like to credit a loss — their interim success proved unsustainable on Monday. And it’s all on the offense (or lack of) this time.

Against the Cavs, Miami’s attack was so sluggish it featured PJ Tucker as its leading scorer (which is not an indictment on Tucker, a great stand-in for the missing Adebayo). Tucker reached a team-high 23 points with the help of going 5-for-8 on threes.

Tyler Herro, Gabe Vincent and Duncan Robinson had to step up, and aside from Herro’s 12 points, minutes were the only column showing double digits for the Heat’s young core.

While it’s easy to harp on Herro after putting himself in the same category as Luka Doncic or Devin Booker, it’s nights like this — without his All-Stars or enough high screens — where Herro’s prospects of becoming a top-two scorer on the Heat falter.

As for Robinson, he may have lucked out by having his six-point outing in Cleveland, since fans at FTX would have shaken him down for his contract extension after this performance.

KZ Okpala also had a bad outing, tallying three points in 17 minutes. Okpala appeared to be climbing in the team’s favor with back-to-back double-digit games, but the 1-of-4 on threes highlighted the deficiencies currently ailing the Heat without Butler, Adebayo and others to aid in scoring. There is no offense to be seen outside of the marquee names.

Anchored as the bona fide leader with this current lineup is Kyle Lowry, who went 8-for-16 shooting for 22 points in 38 minutes. Lowry needed to stay on the floor, and his minus-11 on the night did not complement that move too well.

In the third quarter, and possibly the Heat’s final swing of momentum to tie the game, Lowry tried to put the team on his back — even sending Lauri Markannen on his own back after a mean ankle break. Still, Lowry’s solo effort fell short of catching up to the Cavs.

The young guys form a nice nucleus for the Heat, but in the long run (and potentially the playoffs), Miami and coach Erik Spoelstra will need to hope that the vets are all rested and ready to lead the charge.

A silver lining remains. Losing to the Cavs by only 11 as a foundation ahead of Butler and Adebayo’s returns can be read as more of a pro than con. Throw Caleb Martin into the health and safety protocols mix, and the Heat were short nearly 50 points on offense.

Miami still appeared to be in the game for long stretches, flashing some good defense and boasting a stronger third quarter than Cleveland.

And to be fair, Monday’s Cavs did not play like the Larry Drew or John Beilein teams. The Cavs and coach J.B. Bickerstaff are quietly figuring out how to win against solid teams, and the NBA still doesn’t appear aware. And defeating top teams in the Eastern Conference — the superior conference concerning teams this season — is no small feat. After all, the previously fourth-seeded Heat defeated the three-seeded Bulls on Saturday. So make of that what you will.

The loss was compounded by a standout night from veteran Cavs antiquity Kevin Love — scoring 24 points and grabbing nine rebounds in 23 minutes.

Cleveland’s last three losses have come against the Bucks, Jazz and Suns.

Miami faces off against the 76ers on Wednesday.

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