The Miami Heat found themselves in a second consecutive down-the-wire matchup against the Sacramento Kings, locked in a back-and-forth affair that led to sweaty palms and beating hearts on Wednesday night at the FTX Arena.
In a game that featured two teams on the upward track (the Kings entered winners of two straight, one of which came at Miami’s expense in California over the weekend), both clubs were presented the opportunity to continue building on winning momentum following slow starts to the season, despite the absence of each team’s respective leading scorer.
Both Miami and Sacramento took turns wrestling the advantage away from each other for four quarters, but the Kings came closest to pulling away early in the fourth period when they erected an 88-81 lead with 8:34 to go.
That’s when Miami needed a hero. And they found one in Tyler.
Filling in for the role that (still rightfully) belongs to Jimmy Butler (who was out with hip soreness), Herro took the reins of Miami’s offense in the final period and, with some help from Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, Max Strus, and Gabe Vincent, pushed this team past the finish line to earn their fourth win in nine tries.
Herro played the final period with a usage rate of 31.8% and a true shooting value of 92.9%, both highest in the team, according to NBA Stats.
“In my last three years I watched around the league, I watched Jimmy, how he closes games,” Herro shared afterward.
The night before, Butler closed out the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the final minute on both ends of the floor. He wasn’t around this time, but Herro did a great job paralleling his recent performance.
This is how it went down:
How Tyler Herro won the Heat the game in the 4th quarter vs Sacramento— Naveen Ganglani (@naveenganglani) November 3, 2022
88-81, Kings are threatening to pull away. Miami badly needs a bucket
- DHO w/ Bam, but he slips
- Gathers himself w/ the dribble, attacks empty space
- DS goes for swipe, TH keeps up
- Bucket. pic.twitter.com/DP181aaQIp
Under 6 mins to go. Davion Mitchell takes a look at Herro then goes to help the smaller Barnes vs Bam on the box-out.— Naveen Ganglani (@naveenganglani) November 3, 2022
Herro comes flying in, using height advantage to grab the ball over Mitchell and score on the put-back, another critical bucket. pic.twitter.com/iDOaM79adu
Sac lead down to 4. 2 straight Herro pull-ups to tie the contest— Naveen Ganglani (@naveenganglani) November 3, 2022
1. Staggered screens but he rejects the 2nd (Bam), stops on a dime, pull up over Mitchell. Swish. Crafty.
2. Staggered screens again. This time he turns the corner. Sabonis in drop. Too easy. Swish. Pure. pic.twitter.com/yabVgI8Fgw
Huge defensive play. Barnes thinks he has him on a mismatch in the post after switching. HB spins then uses size/strength to get to the rim, but Herro swipes the ball clean and then recovers the leather.— Naveen Ganglani (@naveenganglani) November 3, 2022
Vincent scores after this. Heat took the lead at 100-99. pic.twitter.com/6E6v8TvnIL
Tied game. Herro and Bam pull a DHO. Sabonis is attempting to level the screen. All 5 Kings defenders are within arm's length when he gets to the paint. Bam is free for the lob, but Herro rises, uses his left arm to keep Sabonis away, and scores on the scoop pic.twitter.com/tUP1s5ojUt— Naveen Ganglani (@naveenganglani) November 3, 2022
Game on the line. It's a clear-out followed by a PG screen (A Spoelstra staple for LeBron/Jimmy). Davis gets Herro on the switch. Tyler asks for space. Pump fakes (purposely) to get Davis up (all 25-&-under guys do, apparently). Bucket. Game. pic.twitter.com/tZviTnxnWV— Naveen Ganglani (@naveenganglani) November 3, 2022
“We just wanted to get the matchup we wanted,” Hero revealed about the planning of the final shot attempt.
“He (Davis) wasn’t in the game, so we just picked someone, picked on someone, and Spo just really drew up a play to give me the ball in space.”
Herro decided to step back when he saw Davis gearing up for help on defense. Before attempting the fake he knew his defender would either jump into him for the foul or fly past his side, allowing the natural shooter to reload and uncork.
After the contest Kings head coach Mike Brown rued Herro’s final attempt, insinuating that it should have been a traveling violation. While Herro does shuffle his pivot feet a little, it looks more like one of those 50-50 calls that could go either way, and definitely not easy to catch in the moment.
The Kings had neither a time-out nor a challenge.
In late-game situations, whether you believe this or not, the referees typically are more lenient.
“I don’t think it was a travel, but early in the game they called a travel on me that I also didn’t think was a travel,” Herro shared.
“Just like last night with Jordan Poole, you can call a carry on every play. You can call a travel I’m pretty sure on any play, so gotta take that one on the chin.”
He likely means the Kings.
Herro finished with 26 points on 12-of-21 shooting, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, and a +15 on the stat sheet. Given the context of how the ball game was determined, his registering of 0 assists can be forgiven. Miami needed him to be his best version – the unconscious shot-creator whose jumpshot can be as lethal as a dart gun – and he delivered.
“I work on a lot of shots so I think I can make a lot of different shots,” he said, but also later adding:
“The shot was cool but I still could have been better.”
Updated production per playtype for Herro this season after the Kings game, both in terms of how many points he's scoring on offense and how many he's giving up on the other end. Data via @InStatHoops pic.twitter.com/FglSloXfkJ— Naveen Ganglani (@naveenganglani) November 3, 2022
It’s been clear this season that Herro has taken a leap in terms of being a scorer, particularly with his finishing at the rim.
His playmaking has somewhat been affected but he mentioned post-game that he believes this team is at their best when the ball is moving, given how tough they already are to defend individually. And had Adebayo or a weakside shooter been open on the final attempt, his eyes would have noticed.
There will be nights that Miami, a team which can sometimes struggle with half-court offense, will need him to score in spurts for a chance to steal a triumph, which is what took place on Wednesday evening.
This time around he was ready, and he likely will be willing to take on that responsibility again each time it presents itself.
That should come as a surprise to nobody.