The Miami Heat closed out a nail-biter Friday night, beating the Orlando Magic, 99-96. With Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry sidelined with injuries, this was a defensive battle won by Miami's depth and a 21st different starting lineup this season.
Why the Heat won: Defense
Miami challenged the Magic to attack the paint. They spent the night switching off ball screens and stepping up to Orlando’s 3-point attempts. This led to a 30% shooting performance from beyond the arc for the Magic, hitting 12 of their 40 attempts.
The main reason the Heat found defensive success was the play of their versatile wings. Martin, Haywood Highsmith, Jaime Jaquez Jr., and Josh Richardson covered one through five. There were height advantages that Orlando exploited at times -- mostly with likely All-Star Paolo Banchero -- but the Heat stood their ground in playing an extremely physical match.
Banchero was able to find his rhythm, but that’s expected with a player of his caliber. He got his 25 points for the night, but Miami held guards Jalen Suggs to two points and Markelle Fultz to three. They kept the game on the perimeter and forced Orlando into tough shots around the paint.
What we learned: The Heat need a true point guard
The Heat struggle to move the ball without a true ball handler in the lineup. Miami’s Kyle Lowry has been sidelined with a hand injury he suffered earlier this week, and Herro joined him Friday night with a shoulder injury. Head coach Erik Spoelstra threw in multiple options to lead the offense, but they played late into the shot clock and never found a true flow.
Nikola Jovic, Jaquez, and Martin handled a large portion of the point guard duties. Jovic played much of the first half, while Jaquez and Martin took control in the second. They were serviceable in terms of a playmaking standpoint, but the Heat won’t beat a lot of teams scoring 99 points.
Miami finished the night with Bam Adebayo leading in the assist category. Adebayo had seven on the night, but the pressure of him creating offense also led to four turnovers for the big man. The Heat have shown they can play through Adebayo, but that’s not the best option with limited playmakers on the court. Adebayo was the culprit of Miami's game-sealing jumper with under 30 seconds left in the game.
Quote of the game
Spoelstra was excited about the defensive effort. Miami is a white-collar city with a blue-collar roster. The Heat thrive in those physical contests that come down to the tougher competitor.
“This is a throwback Miami Heat game. Throwback Miami Heat, Orlando type game," Spoelstra said. "For the last 24 hours Pat [Riley] mentioned that a few times. It’s okay to keep the score down and defend and then find a way to win at the end. I thought it was fitting that we sealed it with a defensive stop, that part was encouraging to see."
The lineup should inch closer to what it’s supposed to look like, with Butler and Herro expected back soon, but Spoelstra doesn’t seem worried. Miami has a quick turnaround on Sunday (Charlotte Hornets, 6 p.m. at Kaseya Center), so it’ll be interesting to see what other sets and lineups Spoelstra has in his back pocket.