Takeaways from the Heat’s 113-105 win against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night at FTX Arena:
▪ The Heat frittered away all of a 21-point lead - thanks to another third quarter collapse - but managed to survive, snapping a four-game losing streak to move to 8-11.
The third quarter served up yet another mini-disaster -- the fifth game in a row that Miami unraveled after intermission. But at least the Heat righted itself.
Down 60-43 at the break, the Wizards seized on Heat defensive breakdowns for three dunks early in the quarter, then found holes in Miami’s zone and kept whittling away at the Heat’s lead, closing to within 83-80 after three, thanks to big third quarters from Kristaps Porzingis (who scored 13 of his 21 in the third) and Will Barton (6 of his 13 in the third).
By the time the quarter was over, the Wizards had outscored the Heat 37-23.
This was hardly anything new for Miami; the Heat has been outscored by an average of 13 points in the past five games.
With Kyle Kuzma scoring 16 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, the Wizards then went ahead 93-92 - their first lead since the first quarter.
The lead flipped back and forth for a time before the Heat went ahead for good, thanks to two big threes in the final few minutes from Tyler Herro and contributions from others, including stout defense from Bam Adebayo (who won a jump ball against Porzingis with 1:09 left after a successful Erik Spoelstra challenge) and two baskets from Caleb Martin.
Miami’s zone defense was effective late, but Washington also missed several open shots down the stretch.
“We could have very easily crumbled by giving up that lead,” said Spoelstra, who is now 6-0 on challenges this season. “I thought we held our ground. I love [us] showing some collective resolve and grit.”
▪ Herro’s return featured pain, frustration and some rust early, but also four big fourth-quarter shots that were the difference in the game.
The pain came from a hard fall, when Herro collided with Porzingis and landed on his back during the first quarter.
He writhed in pain for several seconds, got up, missed two three throws and stayed in the game before going to the bench for a short time.
“My back hurts a little bit,” he said afterward.
The frustration came from foul trouble - two in the first 3:17 and then a third foul less than a minute into the second quarter, which sidelined him for the remainder of the first half.
He logged just seven scoreless first-half minutes, missing his only two shots.
But after scoring just five points on 2 for 7 shooting through three quarters, Herro nailed four threes in the fourth, including two pull-up threes in the final five minutes.
He finished with 17 points on 6 for 15 shooting, with five rebounds and three assists.
“Without Max [Strus] and Duncan [Robinson], someone has to be able to shoot threes,” Herro said. “I just wanted to stretch the floor.”
Herro said he hoped to take 10 threes and he finished with exactly 10 three-point attempts, making five of them.
This was Herro’s first game since scoring 29 points against Indiana on Nov. 4; he had missed eight games in a row with a sprained ankle.
▪ Kyle Lowry was spectacular in the first half, continuing arguably the best stretch of his Heat career.
On Wednesday, he delivered 24 points in the first half - his highest scoring first half in 1149 career games - and closed with 28 points on 7 for 12 shooting, including 5 for 6 on threes and 9 for 9 from the line.
Lowry picked up his fourth foul (which didn’t appear to be a foul) just 1:55 into the third quarter, with the Heat up 20.
Spoelstra left him in the game, but Lowry then picked up his fifth foul while jockeying for a rebound with 4:45 left in the third quarter.
He left with the Heat up eight. He returned with the game tied with 7:17 left.
From there, Lowry missed a jumper but hit two free throws, putting the Heat ahead three. Miami outscored Washington by 19 points when Lowry was on the floor.
Sometimes a reluctant shooter when the Heat’s at full strength, Lowry has been active and efficient in the continued absence of Jimmy Butler, volume scoring but also setting up others.
On Wednesday, Lowry opened 7 for 8 from the field.
He scored 14 of the Heat’s 28 first quarter points and 22 of the Heat’s first 50, hitting his first five three-pointers.
“They were playing zone and it was shoot the ball and don’t try to force something that’s not there,” Lowry said.
Lowry has been an ironman during this stretch when the Heat has been short-handed, averaging 41 minutes in the previous four games.
He played 39, 36, 51, 31 and 44 minutes in the previous five games and logged 35 on Wednesday.
Lowry averaged just 10 field goal attempts per game last season, his fewest since 2012-13.
But with Butler out the past four games, Lowry’s shot attempts have risen to 23, 10, 16 and 12 on Wednesday.
Lowry averaged 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds during the 0-4 road trip, and finished Wednesday with six rebounds, three assists and a block.
“I’ve learned I can still do it if I have to,” he said of looking for his shot more amid injuries to Butler and others.
▪ Both teams were missing their top scorers. And the Heat was without two of its three best long-range shooters.
Butler, who’s averaging 20.9 points, missed his fourth consecutive game with a sore knee, while Washington was without guard Bradley Beal, who’s averaging 22.7 points, while also playing without starting forward Rui Hachimura.
Without Butler out and Herro back, the Heat opened with its eighth different starting lineup in 19 games: Adebayo (15 points, 11 rebounds), Nikola Jovic (seven points, five rebounds in 12 minutes), Martin, Lowry and Herro.
Six reserves were available, and Spoelstra used four of them: Gabe Vincent and Dewayne Dedmon (who were both listed as questionable), Haywood Highsmith (who played 37 minutes and had a big fourth-quarter three) and Jamal Cain, who delivered a jolt of energy with six first-half rebounds.
▪ Martin continued his best offensive stretch of the season, while helping - as usual - in other ways.
Martin scored a season-high 24 -- his highest total with the Heat -- but this was about more than his scoring. He drew a charge, dished out four assists, pulled down nine rebounds, made two steals and blocked a shot.
He began the night with three strong moves off the dribble, then hit a three when Washington dared him to take it.
Martin scored in double figures just once in Miami’s 13 games.
He’s now done it five times in the past six.
Part of that is a byproduct of more shots being available due to injuries to Butler and Herro.
But he also has been more efficient offensively in this stretch. Martin is 14 for his past 31 on threes-pointers, including 4 for 9 on Wednesday.
When Washington pulled to within one point early in the fourth, Martin banked in a three.
Later, there was a driving layup to put Miami up six with just over two minutes to go and then a reverse layup to restore the lead to six with 51 seconds to go.
“Caleb was really good down the stretch, both ends of the floor,” Spoelstra said. “He’s really developing into a winning basketball player.”
Miami has outscored the opposition by 26 points with Martin on the court in the Heat’s past eight games.
The Heat and Wizards (10-8) play again on Friday night at FTX Arena.