All it took was a six-hour flight, three time zone changes and a disappointing 1-3 finish to see the Miami Heat much closer to the team that finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season.
And to start it off 2-3, the Heat rolled past the previously unbeaten Portland Trail Blazers 119-98 on Wednesday night at the Moda Center.
“It sets the tone for our road trip,” guard Max Strauss said. “We needed a win in the worst way.”
The 3-pointers were flowing and falling, Kyle Lowry was playing like the QB1 that coach Erik Spoelstra so often praised last season, the bench got a boost, and the defense before Blazers point guard Damian Lillard lost. It was disturbing and productive. Night in third trimester with calf strain.
It was, in the end, the kind of late-night theater the Heat lacked during Miami’s season-opening four-game homestand.
“There was a lot of activity throughout the game,” Spelstra said.
There’s certainly work to be done, but it was a fluke, from Jimmy Butler and Lowry’s 17 points, to Bam Adebayo’s 18 points in the fourth quarter, to Caleb Martin and Max Strauss’ 16 points and 14 points, respectively. From Tyler Hero.
Lillard scored 22 points in 26 minutes for the Blazers, as Portland lost for the first time in six outings.
As a reward, next up for the Heat on Thursday night at Chase Center are the defending champion Golden State Warriors, a Warriors team that had Wednesday off, a Golden State team that suffered a loss in Phoenix. All of this with Klay Thompson coming off an injection in the loss to the Suns.
“We just tried to get off to the best possible start, knowing that we’re going through a rough patch in San Francisco,” Martin said.
Five degrees warmer than Wednesday’s game:
1. Closing Time: The Heat led 61-56 at halftime and then pushed their first double-digit lead of the game in the third quarter en route to a 14-point lead, before going into the fourth up 94-81.
From there, a Duncan Robinson 3-pointer pushed the Heat lead to 16 just 33 seconds in, with the Heat leading to 26 before the starters were pulled.
The route also allowed for Udonis Haslem’s season debut, officially making it the team captain’s 20th season with the Heat. Haslam played the final 2:16.
2. Jovek’s debut film: Nikola Jovic, drafted No. 27 by the Heat of Serbia in June, made his NBA debut when Adebayo was forced to the bench with a third foul with 7:30 left in the second period.
Instead of falling back on backup center Devin Dedmon, who had two fouls in his opening four-minute span and struggled early in the season, Spoelstra turned to his 6-foot-11 rookie.
“I was like, “Who, me?’ “Jovk said of his early calling.
Jovic was called for a foul 31 seconds after entering, given the beefy assignment of defending Josef Nurkic, who, at 290, had 65 pounds on Jovic.
Jovic’s first NBA basket came on his own miss, but he was also called for his third foul 3:39 after the inbounds and then his fourth 5:22 into the period, prompting him to be benched in favor of Dedmon. forced to
“It feels amazing,” Jovic said of his film debut. “Luckily, I made a basket.”
Jovic then got the call before Dedmon in the third period, when Adebayo went to the bench.
He finished with two points and two rebounds in 13:43.
“Even though he fouled a lot,” Spoelstra said, “a lot of them were Lillard pick-and-rolls, and he’s going to foul your best defenders.”
3. Three Lullabies: Entering 7 of 25 on 3-pointers through the first four games, Lowry was 5 of 5 through the early stages of the third quarter, going 5 of 7 from beyond the arc.
Lowry’s hot start helped offset early struggles from Tyler Hero, who went 1 of 5 on 3-pointers.
“I thought he was consistent on his catches,” Spoelstra said of Lowry.
Lowry’s first 3-pointer moved him past former Heat guard Joe Johnson for 14th place on the NBA’s all-time list.
“I just made shots,” Lowry said. “The game said what it called for.”
Lowry also reached 300 career blocks with one in the third quarter.
4. Bench Promotion: After Martin returned from his one-game NBA suspension and returned to the starting lineup for Saturday’s kerfuffle with the Raptors, the Heat got a number of bench boosts.
Struss, who started in place of Martin on Monday, had 13 points, three 3-pointers and six rebounds by halftime. The reserves again got solid support from guard Gabe Vincent, including a pesky defense against Lillard.
“That second unit was really impressive,” Spoelstra said.
5. Martin defines: Martin drew particular praise from his coach and teammates after going 7-of-8 from the field, with eight rebounds and a career-high four steals.
“If he doesn’t score a basket tonight, regardless, he’s going to be the best player in the game,” Spoelstra said. “It was like he was the matrix in there.”
But he got the baskets.
“It was about giving the ball to Caleb and getting out of the way,” Butler said.
“I thought tonight was the reason it paid off,” said Lowry of Martin, who earned a three-year, $20 million free agent contract in the offseason.
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