Heat Notes: Jaquez, Smith, Two-Way Players, Tournament

The Heat look like one of the East’s best teams despite a string of early-season injuries, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Miami has won nine of its last 10 games, including a 33-point victory Wednesday in Cleveland without three rotation players. Tyler Herro continues to recover from his sprained right ankle, while Bam Adebayo sat out the contest with a left hip contusion and Kevin Love didn’t make the trip for personal reasons.

The Heat responded with eight players reaching double figures in points, led by veteran guard Kyle Lowry with 28 and rookie forward Jaime Jaquez with 22. It’s the latest in a series of impressive performances by Jaquez, who has quickly embraced the “Heat Culture” philosophy.

“It’s like a next-man-up mentality,” Jaquez said. “We have a soldier go down, we got one to fill their place and do what we can to win. I thought we shared the ball really well tonight, had a lot of great shots and it showed. Our defense was incredible. Really pressured the ball, got a lot of steals and got out in transition.”

There’s more on the Heat:

  • Coach Erik Spoelstra believes an unusual feature of Cleveland’s court caused backup point guard Dru Smith to suffer a right knee injury that forced him out of Wednesday’s game, per Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Smith had an awkward fall along the sidelines in an area that has a dropoff for fans at courtside. “It is a dangerous floor,” Spoelstra said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen. You close out and all of a sudden you’re going off a cliff. If the court was normal, there wouldn’t have been any kind of incident.” Smith will have a scan conducted on the knee while the team is in New York.
  • A prolonged absence for Smith could lead to a roster move, Jackson adds. The Heat are low on guards, and Jackson believes they may consider either temporarily filling the open 15th roster spot or adding someone on a two-way deal. He sees two-way players Jamal Cain and Cole Swider as safe, but suggests the team might consider replacing R.J. Hampton.
  • Point differential could come into play as Miami tries to advance in the in-season tournament, and Spoelstra said the Heat will “treat that appropriately” if it becomes necessary, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Miami is off to a 2-0 start in Group B, and a win Friday over the Knicks could set up a showdown with Milwaukee next week with both teams undefeated. Spoelstra is a fan of the tournament and says the financial incentive, with each player getting $50K for reaching the quarterfinals, has been a strong motivator. “I think it’s good for the league,” he said. “I think it’s good for the teams, the players. It keeps things interesting. Anything that sparks competition, I think is a great thing. And it sure would be a lot of fun to be able to get two more wins and get to the quarterfinals. Ultimately, every competitor in this league, whatever they think or say, you would want to be in Vegas to play for this.”
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