Max Strus came back from a four-game absence to lead the Heat with 25 points on 9-17 shooting and 7-13 from deep as well as six rebounds and five assists. Miami’s bench contributed 44 points, twice as many as Portland’s reserves.
Though it was a crucial win in the middle of a difficult road trip and two consecutive frustrating losses, but Miami showed plenty of resolve on an emotional night that was overshadowed by Lowry’s bizarre first-half ejection and later a scuffle between Herro and Jusuf Nurkic that resulted in a double-ejection with less than a minute left in the game.
Lowry’s absence was hugely felt — and more than unfortunate considering the Heat were without Jimmy Butler once again, but more so because he was heading towards one of his best games in a Heat uniform. In just 16 minutes, he had already racked up nine assists (including six assists in the game’s first eight minutes) along with seven points. Under his guidance, the Heat raced out to the early lead by shooting 6-9 from beyond the arc in the first quarter and crisp playmaking highlighted by nine assists off their first 10 field games.
An 18-3 run punctuated by a Lowry assist to Omer Yurtseven for the easy basket made sure their lead kept swelling. Miami’s lead then ballooned to 19 points but Blazers came back to cut it to 50-40 with two minutes left in the first half. Haywood Highsmith responded with a 3-pointer (his only score of the game) and Lowry capitalized on a Portland turnover for two free throws but the night’s most controversial moment soon occurred when the point guard — who had already been called for a technical foul with three minutes left in the second quarter — was tossed out of the game after flipping the ball to rookie official Matt Kallio after a foul was called.
Kyle Lowry has received his 2nd technical and has been ejected from the game after tossing the ball back to the official after a play...— Bally Sports Florida & Bally Sports Sun (@BallySportsFL) January 6, 2022
Lowry has 7 points and 9 assists.@MiamiHEAT | #HEATCulture pic.twitter.com/YGnVMlag22
Miami would try to move on from the shock of losing their floor general, but the ball movement and creativity simply wasn’t there in the third quarter as Portland got back into the game. They would pull within 83-80 entering the fourth quarter. Anfernee Simons did it practically single-handedly by nailing one 3-pointer after another and he scored 20 of his 28 points in the third quarter. Nick Powell also was a constant source of frustration for the Heat’s defense with 26 points.
PJ Tucker shifted to more of a playmaking role in the second half and his influence was felt as he helped settled the Heat’s offense while also getting to the free throw line. Assists once again started racking up again with the ball flowing while Strus was clutch in the end.
Herro struggled mightily from the field, continuing a recent trend of forcing difficult shots, but still knocked down some timely shots before he got ejected.
As impressive as Strus’ performance was, Yurtseven was a rebounding machine and even made his first NBA three at a very opportune time for Miami as they were staving off Portland in the closing minutes. Just look at what he accomplished with yet another double-digit rebounding performance.
Miami needed this one, not just to snap their two-game losing streak but also with their next game a tough one against the Phoenix Suns on Saturday at 9:00pm.