Cup of Joe: All Hands On Deck
Time and time again, Erik Spoelstra has alluded to the fact that he’s going to need every guy on the roster to contribute at some point this season.
And lo and behold, we’ve reached that segment of our program.
Due to a number of injuries to key contributors and other extenuating circumstances over the past two weeks, the HEAT have had to adopt that “next man up” philosophy.
Enter James Johnson and Dion Waiters.
You’ve heard the expression before, stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.
Over the years, that simple yet imperative phrase has been a mantra of sorts for Miami.
And it’s a mantra that JJ and Philly Cheese have truly personified of late.
If you tuned in…err…read what we covered last time in this space, you should know all about Johnson’s resurgence. Outside of a tough outing against the Clippers on Friday, the burly 32-year-old has continued his onslaught on both ends of the floor, especially in crunch time.
From clutch threes…
…to some big-time blocks…
…Johnson has gotten it done more often than not.
In fact, the HEAT are outscoring the opposition by 8.7 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor in the clutch (last five minutes of games within five points), which is the highest mark on the squad.
Goran Dragić has certainly taken notice.
“I’m really happy for JJ because at some point, he didn’t get playing time, no minutes, and he stayed with it. He was putting a lot of hard work in and just staying ready. And when coach called his name, he produced,” Dragić said. “He has that ability that he can guard multiple positions, and he’s such an unselfish player that he tries to involve everybody else and in the end, you can see two games in a row, he makes those huge threes.”
Speaking of threes, Waiters sure made some noise in his season debut on Friday.
Despite missing a bunch of time, Waiters provided a spark off the bench and eventually came through with one of the more impressive two-way sequences you’ll ever see.
“At the end of the day, I know…with this team already being successful, what I could bring to it also and [how I could] try to help maintain that and bring a different element to the game,” Waiters said. “Creating for myself and others…guarding the best player…hitting those big shots.”
Being A Herro Down The Stretch
You know who else hits big shots?
Tyler Herro, of course.
Altogether, Herro leads Miami with 191 points on 70-of-154 shooting (45.5 percent), including 33-of-81 (40.7 percent) from three, in the fourth quarter and overtime period combined.
And among rookies, he’s ranked third in fourth quarter points and fifth in three-point percentage in the final quarter (minimum of 45 attempts).
“He’s not afraid of big moments,” Dragić said about Herro. “And we want him to be aggressive because he gives us that extra [push] in the offense. He can create his own shots, and he’s such a great shooter, he can make those explosive plays. Suddenly, you’re up nine points because of him. He’s just an unbelievable talent.”
Part of being an unbelievable talent is breaking records, which Herro did with a career-high seven triples against the Wizards on Wednesday.
No HEAT rookie had ever done that before.
Another Strong Month For Nunn
While we’re on the topic of rookies, it’s safe to say that Kendrick Nunn has had a pretty good first campaign thus far.
Seriously, though, his two Rookie of the Month awards speak for themselves.
And well, perhaps another one could be on the horizon.
Throughout the month of January, Nunn has expanded his playmaking menu, worked hard to improve defensively in both man and zone looks and continued to score from all three levels.
Since the calendar flipped to 2020, the 24-year-old has averaged 16.8 points and 3.5 assists on 50.7 percent shooting in 11 outings.
For context, he leads all Eastern Conference rookies in points per game and field goal percentage (minimum of 10 attempts per contest) during the month.
But again, Nunn has really developed his playmaking and court vision recently.
Just check out these nifty passes to Bam Adebayo:
Above all else, Spoelstra attributed Nunn’s success to his poise.
“K. Nunn is getting much better with his quarterback reads,” Spoelstra said. “He’s much more poised now, at this point in the season, than he was earlier in the season. He’s reading the defense, having poise in the pocket, taking his time with his decisions and he’s making solid decisions. [He] doesn’t turn the ball over very often.”
Odds & Ends
-On Sunday, the HEAT called up Gabe Vincent from the G League.
Vincent, a 23-year-old guard out of UC Santa Barbara, has averaged 15.5 points on 46.9 percent shooting, including 40.5 percent from downtown, in four games with the Skyforce.
Coach Spo has liked what he’s heard from Eric Glass about the sharpshooter.
“I’ve talked to EG regularly about him. He’s thrilled about him. He’s had a really positive impact, just on the overall team since he’s been there,” Spoelstra said. “…he’s right in line with a lot of the guys that we’ve brought in here: super-high character, relentless work ethic, and it doesn’t hurt that he can knock it down from deep.”
-Before I bid you farewell, let’s shine some light on another three-point specialist.
With his five treys against the Clippers on Friday, Duncan Robinson hit multiple threes for the 15th-consecutive game, which is a new franchise record.
Let’s talk about more records when we meet again, yeah?
Until next time.