Heat continues to showcase depth: ‘Everybody can hoop.’ And official explains Butler ejection

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The Miami Heat was already down its starting point guard in Kyle Lowry and its top bench player in Tyler Herro before Wednesday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers tipped off.

And then the Heat lost another one of its stars before halftime when Jimmy Butler got ejected.

Any cause for concern? Any increase in worry?

Not really. Because, in reality, this was just another day for the Heat this season, another day to see who on Miami’s roster will step up and keep the team near the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

On Wednesday, it was Caleb Martin filling Butler’s role in the lineup. It was star center Bam Adebayo scoring eight points in two-and-a-half minutes late in the fourth quarter. And it was Max Strus hitting a dagger of a three-pointer on the next possession to help seal the Heat’s 104-92 win over Portland, Miami’s 15th win in its last 20 games.

“Like I tell Jimmy all the time, we don’t need him,” Dewayne Dedmon quipped after the win, the end of a four-game homestand in which Miami went 3-1 before heading off for a one-game road trip against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday (7:30 p.m., Bally Sports Sun). “We play great basketball without Jimmy.”

Dedmon, of course, was joking. The center knows the value Butler brings on both ends of the floor.

But the second sentence has some truth to it. The Heat has found ways to win even when its superstars are missing.

Twenty-five games without Adebayo? The Heat is 17-8.

Eighteen games without Butler? The Heat is 12-6.

Fifteen games without both Butler and Adebayo? The Heat is 11-4.

Three games without Butler, Adebayo and Herro? The Heat is 2-1.

“This is the deepest team I’ve been a part of,” Martin said. “Down the line, everybody is nice. ... Like, everybody can hoop. It’s just dope to see. On any given night, somebody else is hooping. It’s fun.”

It means everyone stepping up and maximizing their strengths.

Martin was the headliner on Wednesday, scoring 26 points — 15 of which came in the third quarter. He has an uncanny ability as a lockdown defender and has shown the capability to mold himself into the role of the player he’s filling in for on any given night.

“I just try to emulate the best I can what guys bring to the team who are out,” Martin said. “Obviously, I’m not Kyle. I’m not a floor general, but Kyle brings a certain type of toughness and energy. He just radiates that on our team. When Jimmy goes out, same thing. Jimmy does a little bit of everything, so I try to do a little bit of everything whenever he’s out. I do my best impression on guys, but I also mix in just being myself. So I think that’s what I do is a little bit of everything.”

But it could be anyone else on any other night, too.

Like Strus complementing Robinson as a three-point threat. Strus is hitting on 41.7 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and has scored at least 15 points 11 times this season.

Adebayo’s return helps, of course, but Dedmon and Omer Yurtseven have also proven capable of playing key minutes at center when needed too.

Gabe Vincent has stepped up at point guard in times when neither Lowry nor Herro are available.

And with that comes difficult decisions when everyone is healthy.

Good difficult decisions for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

“To play for something special, you need depth, you need talent, and I think everybody in our locker room feels extremely capable if we have to go deep into our roster and that’s the way it should be,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Now that’s going to require some sacrifice and our guys are emotionally stable to understand that. It doesn’t mean there won’t be tough days. There will be some tough decisions, but you get nights like this. You get nights where guys are able to contribute and help you win. That’s the main thing.”

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) talks with game official Mousa Dagher #28 before getting ejected in the second quarter during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at FTX Arena in Miami on Wednesday, January 19, 2022.
Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) talks with game official Mousa Dagher #28 before getting ejected in the second quarter during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at FTX Arena in Miami on Wednesday, January 19, 2022.

What led to Jimmy Butler’s ejection?

Butler was ejected for the second time in his NBA career in the second quarter of Wednesday’s win over the Trail Blazers.

After driving to the basket and getting the foul call on a layup for a potential three-point play with 2:28 left in the first half, a frustrated Butler immediately got in the face of official Mousa Dagher and had some words for him. Dagher called the first technical on Butler.

As Butler walked away from Dagher, Crew Chief Courtney Kirkland called the second technical and ejected him just seconds later.

In a pool report following the game, Kirkland explained the first technical called on Butler: “The aggressive manner in which he approached Mousa Dagher and the profanity that he yelled at him resulted in the first technical foul.”

Of the second technical that followed very shortly after, Kirkland said: “The second one was the fact that he yelled egregious profanity at Mousa, and that’s why he was given the second technical foul.”

The root of Butler’s anger looked to be what he thought were fouls that weren’t called by the officials earlier in the game. Butler did not speak to the media following the game.

“I thought that was a pretty quick trigger coming from somebody on the other side of the court,” Spoelstra said of the ejection. “I thought it was diffused. I thought he had an explosion of real emotion and then Jimmy walked away. He walked away and I really commend him for that, and he had great emotional control after the outburst and he handled it. You’re allowed to have one of those. But obviously [Kirkland] saw it a different way and there’s no point in debating it.”

ALL-STAR UPDATE

With All-Star Game starters set to be announced next week, the third returns of fan balloting for the All-Star Game released Thursday has Butler (1,384,267 votes) still at fifth among Eastern Conference frontcourt players behind Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant (5,496,513), Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (5,124,925), Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid (3,305,229) and Boston’s Jayson Tatum (1,580,022). Adebayo dropped from seventh to eighth among East frontcourt players with 417,661 votes.

Herro and Lowry are not in the top 10 in fan votes among East guards. Herro dropped out of the top 10 after making the list when the initial returns were released two weeks ago.

Fans account for 50 percent of the vote to determine the 10 starters for the Feb. 20 NBA All-Star Game, which will take place at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. All current NBA players and a media panel account for 25 percent apiece of the vote, with every voter completing a ballot featuring two guards and three frontcourt players.

All-Star Game starters will be revealed on Jan. 27 on TNT and the network will also announce the reserves on Feb. 3.

Lowry will miss his third straight game because of personal reasons on Friday. The Heat will also be without Herro (health and safety protocols), Markieff Morris (return to competition reconditioning), KZ Okpala (wrist sprain) and Victor Oladipo (knee injury recovery) against the Hawks.

Chris Silva’s 10-day contract with the Heat expired following Wednesday’s win over the Trail Blazers. But the expectation is the Heat will re-sign Silva to a third 10-day deal on Friday to bring him back as a COVID-19 replacement with Herro in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

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