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Five takeaways from the Indiana Pacers’ 144-129 win against the Heat on Saturday night at Kaseya Center, a Heat loss that left Miami’s heads spinning defensively and with an 11-9 record:
▪ After winning Thursday’s 142-132 point-pourri against the Pacers, the Heat repeatedly malfunctioned defensively. Even a repeat of Miami’s 142-point eruption Thursday wouldn’t have saved the Heat.
Playing without Bam Adebayo, the Heat couldn’t remotely slow the NBA’s highest scoring team, even though Indiana was without 27-point-per-game scorer Tyrese Haliburton.
The Pacers scored 40 points in the second quarter, most by a Heat opponent this season, then poured in 41 in the third quarter.
The Pacers’ 144 points tied for the second most allowed by the Heat in franchise history, trailing only the 148 that Cleveland scored against Miami in a 148-80 drubbing of Miami in December 1991.
When it was over, the Pacers had shot 65.9 percent (56 for 85), highest ever by a Heat opponent.
“We didn’t come out ready to play and that’s what happens,” said Jimmy Butler, who scored 33. “They attacked everybody.”
By the start of the fourth quarter, Indiana was ahead 106-98 and shooting 62 percent. Then Indiana made 10 of its first 11 shots to start the fourth quarter.
And there’s this: After opening 1 for 10 on threes, Indiana made 15 of its final 22 attempts from beyond the arc.
Indiana entered averaging a league best 127.9 points per game - a pace that would set an NBA record - but didn’t have Haliburton, who sat out Saturday with an upper respiratory infection after scoring 44 points against Miami on Thursday.
Miami entered eighth in points allowed per game (110.3) and 10th in points permitted per 100 possessions (11.8).
The Heat’s defensive breakdowns were two-fold.
In the first half, Indiana attacked the paint relentlessly; the Pacers hit 17 of 23 shots in the second quarter, many of those in the paint.
Then the Pacers started hitting threes and beating the Heat in transition in the second half.
Indiana shot just 4 of 27 (14.8 percent) on threes in the second half of its loss to Miami on Thursday and opened 1 for 10 on threes on Saturday, including 5 for 18 in the first half.
But the Pacers shot 5 for 6 on threes in the third. And Indiana continued beating the Heat off the dribble and found holes in the Heat’s zone defense.
“Whatever the situation was, we couldn’t contain the ball on the dribble; we could never stay in front of the ball,” Erik Spoelstra said. “It was one of our worst ball containment games of the season. And they made shots. You score close to 130 points, you are not expecting for the Heat to lose a game.”
Bruce Brown (30 points), Aaron Nesmith (20), TJ McConnell (20 points, 11 assists), Benedict Mathurin (16), Myles Turner (17) and Obi Tobbin (22) led the Pacers’ offensive onslaught.
McConnell shot an absurd 10 for 11 and split Heat double teams on multiple occasions. Nesmith shot 7 for 9.
Brown, a former Miami Hurricanes standout, produced his highest point total since signing with Indiana in July; his former coach, UM’s Jim Larranaga, was in the Kaseya Center crowd on Saturday.
Miami (11-9) got 33 from Butler, 18 from Caleb Martin, 16 from Josh Richardson and 17 from Duncan Robinson.
In addition to Adebayo’s absence, Miami also played again without Tyler Herro.
▪ Butler overcame a poor start and played well, but it wasn’t enough against an Indiana offensive avalanche.
Two nights after matching a season high with 36 points (including 24 in the second half), Butler had problems early against the Pacers’ Toppin, missing several contested shots in an eight-point first half.
By midway through the third quarter, Butler was 3 for 11 from the field.
But then he figured it out, driving baseline on Toppin for a layup and hitting jumper over Toppin on a personal 9-0 run.
Butler re-entered with nine minutes left and the Pacers up 112-103. He converted a three-point play shortly after checking in, then added another to pull the Heat within 125-119 with 5:33 left.
Butler finished 12 for 23 from the field, with five rebounds and five assists.
After hitting 18 of 20 free throws in his 36-point game on Thursday, Butler went to the line a lot less, finishing 9 for 9.
▪ With Adebayo out, Erik Spoelstra opted for Orlando Robinson instead of Thomas Bryant at starting center, and Robinson was very good offensively but struggled defensively.
In his second career start and 37th career game, Robinson closed with 16 points (on 7 for 11 shooting), five rebounds and three assists.
“He did some good things,” Spoelstra said. “He did some other things we have to continue to get better.”
After missing a running hook shot early in the game, Robinson began to flash the polished post moves and footwork that were on display during his breakout in the Las Vegas Summer League.
He carved out space in the paint in one sequence and hit a jump hook. Then he leaned in for a nifty left-handed hook over Myles Turner. Another time, he pump faked Turner for a basket.
Later on, he stopped a Pacers 10-0 run in the third quarter by hitting a three-pointer. Then he ignited the Kaseya Center crowd with a drop step dunk and hit another three.
But the defense generally was lacking. When Jaime Jaquez Jr. was beaten by McConnell off the dribble, Robinson - despite being in the neighborhood - didn’t help quickly enough, and McConnell hit an uncontested layup. Spoelstra, irate at that sequence, called a timeout.
Turner shook free on another defensive mixup later.
Entering the game, players defended by Robinson were shooting 50 percent, compared with 52.1 against Bryant and 43.9 against Adebayo, who of course is one of the league’s best defenders.
Robinson’s start gave Miami its 13th different starting lineup in 20 games.
Starting Robinson allowed Spoelstra to continue bringing Kevin Love off the bench. Love had 10 points and five assists in the first half and finished with 14 points. Bryant did not play.
▪ The Heat is going to sit Adebayo for at least one more game and possibly more, with the hope that his left hip contusion fully heals. Meanwhile, Haywood Highsmith was lost early with an injury.
After sustaining the painful injury during the opening week of the season, Adebayo has missed four games because of the hip, which was re-aggravated Thursday. And the Heat announced he won’t travel with the team for its next game, on Wednesday at Toronto.
The Heat has only three games in nine days – Saturday’s game, Wednesday in Toronto and Friday at home against Cleveland. Sitting out all three would give Adebayo 10 days of rest before Miami plays Dec. 11 at Charlotte.
Spoelstra said the injury hasn’t worsened.
“He will continue to be day to day,” Spoelstra said. “We just want to take care of it before it does turn into something else. He continues to get hit in the exact same spot, which seems impossible to do.”
Adebayo is averaging 22.9 points and 9.9 rebounds.
The Heat lost Highsmith just three minutes into the game with a lower back spasm. Caleb Martin started the second half in Highsmith’s place.
It has been a painful week for Highsmith, who took a hard fall on his tailbone against Brooklyn two days after Thanksgiving, forcing him to miss a game. The Heat entered 10-3 with Highsmith starting.
Meanwhile, Herro continues to work his way back from an ankle injury that has sidelined him for a month.
▪ Robinson put on an offensive clinic early but took only three shots in the second half.
Robinson entered 18th in the league in three-point percentage at 44.2.
But among players who are averaging at least three three-point conversions per game, Robinson ranks third in the NBA in three-point percentage, behind only Jalen Brunson and Haliburton.
On Saturday, he did much of his damage inside the arc, dazzling off the dribble in a 15-point first half.
On a couple of sequences, he drove left and swished a jumper with his right hand.
“I haven’t seen anyone in the league more improved than he is,” former Heat coach Ron Rothstein said on Bally Sports Sun.
But Robinson scored just two in the second half, making one of three shots.
Robinson entered averaging a career-high 14.5 points per game. That’s even better than the 13.5 he averaged when he shot 44.6 percent on threes in 2019-2020.