MIAMI -- The Miami Heat’s Wednesday night bout featured the first game for newcomer Terry Rozier, and the testing stage didn’t go well, with the Heat falling, 105-96, at home for their fourth straight loss.
Rozier came off the bench for head coach Erik Spoelstra and the Heat. He replaced Josh Richardson in the lineup with 3:37 left in the first quarter, entering the game with Kevin Love. Tyler Herro and Rozier split point guard duties while they were in the lineup with each other, with Caleb Martin sharing a similar role later in the game.
Miami brought in a 20-point scorer who has the skills to find the bottom of the net at any level. Rozier is what’s widely known as a hooper. He usually needs the ball in his hands to make an impact, using combo dribbles and different maneuvers to score. Thrown into a new lineup, Rozier had trouble finding that offensive success.
This was a game that came down to the final seconds, in classic Heat fashion, and Miami was looking at Rozier to make something happen in the clutch. The Grizzlies led the entire second half after heading into the locker room with a 49-42 edge, but Miami climbed back from 12 points down after three quarters and cut the deficit to three in the final 2:20 after Rozier found Martin in the corner for a 3-pointer. But it was too little, too late for the Heat. The Grizzlies made shots in the final two minutes to steal a win on the road.
Rozier ended his Miami debut with nine points, shooting 3 for 11 from the field and 1 of 5 from 3-point range. He struggled to find his rhythm but made an impact in other aspects of the game, totaling three steals, four rebounds and five assists.
The rough shooting night didn’t start or end with Rozier. The Heat shot 40.2% from the field to finish the game, which is, unfortunately, an upgrade from 33.3% at the half. Miami didn’t have any player crack 20 points. Herro shot 8 of 15, while Jimmy Butler went 4 of 10 and Bam Adebayo shot 4 of 13.
“It’s going to take a little time," Rozier said. "I don’t expect things to be perfect on day one. I feel good playing with those guys. As time goes, things will be way easier. We all play basketball, so we all feed off one another."
There was immense hesitation from Rozier, and even from other guys in the lineup when Rozier was on the floor. It’s going to take some time for Rozier to adjust to Spoelstra’s system, but his stalled offense was contagious. Rozier passed up open opportunities from beyond the arc and elected to kick the ball out in driving situations.
In his first outing Rozier showed flashes of Heat Culture. His shots may not have fallen, but defense was a priority. If you want to play with Spoelstra and Miami, defense is necessary, not merely optional. Rozier showed he can make a difference on that end.
He had a knack for finding the weak handle when reaching for steals, creating most of that damage on help defense. Rozier made his presence felt, leading to fast-break opportunities. Forcing turnovers and pushing the pace was Rozier’s calling on night one.
Rozier had the chance to put the Heat on the leaderboard for the first time in the second half with a step-back 3. With minutes left in the game, Miami sparked a comeback behind back-to-back 3s and Rozier had the chance to pop the cap off the champagne bottle. But Rozier's go-ahead shot rimmed out, and the Grizzlies escaped with the win.
"I make no excuses," Rozier said. "If I’m going to play, I’m going to give it my all and I just didn’t play pretty good today. Onto the next one.”
It was a difficult night for Rozier, but the pressure can’t lie on him with Miami having one of its worst performances of the year. Only time will tell how Rozier will get accustomed to the Heat’s system and how Spoelstra will use the explosive scorer.