When faced with a thin front court, Erik Spoelstra has alternated between calling up Omer Yurtseven and KZ Okpala. Nov. 10 at the Los Angeles Lakers, the Miami Heat played their first game without Markieff Morris. Jimmy Butler suffered an injury in the first half. Yurtseven played spot minutes in that game.
Five days later, in Oklahoma City, Bam Adebayo, Butler and Morris all sat out. Yurtseven was the first reserve off the bench, but he missed a lob pass from Kyle Lowry and committed a moving screen violation. Spoelstra gave him a quick hook, and Okpala played well as a small-ball five. The third-year forward finished with eight points and five rebounds.
Wednesday night against Cleveland, Spoelstra stuck with Okpala and didn’t play Yurtseven until garbage time. But in last night’s encouraging win over the Indiana Pacers, Yurtseven played 19 minutes — including the entire fourth quarter — while Okpala did not play.
It’s also true that the 41-year-old Udonis Haslem has already played in five games — the combined total of games he’s played in over the last two seasons.
Adebayo will be out for the foreseeable future. The Heat haven’t indicated when Morris will return. And last night, Yurtseven made the most of his opportunity.
Although the rookie big man committed a turnover right after he checked into the game, he played much better in the second half. He kept Domantas Sabonis off the glass and made two put-back layups. When the Pacers went to a zone defense, Yurtseven went right into the middle of the zone and made an eight-foot jumper.
Because of Yurtseven’s strong play, Spoelstra rested Dewayne Dedmon the entire fourth quarter of last night’s win over Indiana. Considering the Heat played the first night of a back-to-back, with a road game at the Milwaukee Bucks tonight, that’s huge.
Before the season, I said that injuries and load management could give Yurtseven an opportunity to play. I didn’t foresee Adebayo — who had an iron-man streak of 158 consecutive games played — missing significant time. But without many other bigs on the roster, Yurtseven has an opportunity to fill in as a competent NBA backup center.