Heat’s Herro, on a roll, poised for another playoff run: ‘I didn’t forget how to play’

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No, Tyler Herro hasn’t yet blossomed into another Devin Booker or Bradley Beal, as some might have hoped after his tantalizing rookie season.

But say this for the young man: He has pushed through a foot injury and a somewhat turbulent second season to help lift the Heat at the most critical time.

Herro scored 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds in 35 minutes of Tuesday’s playoff-clinching win in Boston, continuing his most impactful stretch of the season.

Since missing six games with a foot injury, Herro has averaged 21 points on 67.6 percent shooting from the field and 12-of-18 (66.7 percent) from three-point range in the past three games, and the Heat has outscored teams by 38 points with the 21-year-old guard in the game.

“It’s very rewarding,” Herro said of this ongoing stretch. “But I feel like behind the scenes, I put the hours in no matter what. I didn’t forget how to play basketball. [There have been] a lot of ups and downs, but I’m sticking with it. I’m going to continue to get better every day. The results don’t always show how hard someone is working every single day.”

Teammates couldn’t be happier for him.

“He deserves it; he works his butt off, handles everything the right way,” Duncan Robinson said. “He’s a consummate professional. Everyone in that locker room wants to see him be successful because of the kind of person he is. I love seeing him playing with that grit and confidence. I tell him all the time, ‘Go be a killer out there.’ You saw it [Tuesday] for sure.”

Herro, who spoke last year of hoping to become a long-term NBA starter, lasted only 21 games in that role before being removed from the starting lineup Feb. 5, after the Heat opened 7-14.

While Herro’s overall shooting percentage jumped from his rookie season, his three-point shooting dipped, hovering in the 32 to 34 percent range early in the season before climbing to 36.4 in recent weeks.

Along the way, he has missed 18 games due to the foot, COVID protocols and other issues.

Did he ever lose confidence in his shot?

“I wouldn’t say my confidence wavered,” he said. “It was a change. I don’t know what it was. Shots weren’t falling. Just continuing to stick with it. What goes around comes around.”

At his best, Herro stands among the league’s most dangerous offensive weapons off the bench. Among players who have come off the bench for at least 30 games, Herro is fifth in scoring average at 14.5, behind only Jordan Clarkson, Terence Ross, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Derrick Rose.

Herro’s rebounding is also an underappreciated asset for a team that has only one 7-footer on its roster. He ranks eighth among all shooting guards in rebounds at 4.9 per game, and his 11 on Tuesday were the most for any Heat or Celtics player.

“I’ve been trying to get back to that myself,” he said. “I feel I’m a good rebounder for my size [6-5] so I can get 5 to 10 rebounds a night.”

Erik Spoelstra believes Herro will only grow from the adversity of his second season.

“I think the whole season has been really good for Tyler to experience,” Spoelstra said. “His rookie season was not typical for most young players. Look at all the rookies this year; there have been a lot of up and down moments for the majority of them and that’s a typical season for a young player.

“Then you have to learn the league, face adversity, respond to up and down opportunities and competition. All of that. And for the most part, everything was smooth sailing last year. This year he has had to deal with a bunch of different things, including minor nagging injuries,... a role that’s a little bit different. I think he just always approaches it the right way. He comes in trying to get better... and to impact winning.”

For the season, Herro’s averages stand at 15.3 points per game (up from 13.5 as a rookie), 4.9 rebounds (up from 4.1), 3.3 assists (up from 2.2), minutes (30.5, up from 27.4 per game), with 44.1 percent shooting from the field (up from 42.8).

The only drop from his rookie season has been in three-point shooting, from 38.9 to 36.4 percent.

For the season, players defended by Herro are shooting 44.4 percent, compared with the 44.7 percent those players shoot overall. That’s a slight improvement over the 44.9 percent shooting he permitted as a rookie.

“It hasn’t been just about whether he’s scoring or not,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody wants just to see what that final line is in the scoreboard, but we’re developing him as a complete player... and he has come a long way. It has been a large part because of his mindset and approach to everything.”

Herro often has spoken of relishing the big game and the big moment, and he demonstrated his ability to thrive under high-pressure circumstances with his 37-point game against Boston in last year’s Eastern Conference finals and his sterling work during these past two games in Boston.

“This is what every player works for,” he said. “I’m ready for another run again. We’re definitely in the right spot at the right time.”

TNT has exclusivity for Thursday’s 76ers-at-Heat game, meaning no Bally Sports Sun telecast. Miami entered Wednesday standing fifth in the East, with the ability to finish anywhere from fourth to sixth.

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