Saturday, December 2

With Heat’s Kyle Lowry down, Gabe Vincent again asked to step up

MIAMI — It is not the preference, but it has proven more than palatable.

So it again was Gabe Vincent stepping in on Tuesday night for the Miami Heat with veteran point guard Kyle Lowry forced to step out amid ongoing discomfort with his strained hamstring.

Coach Erik Spoelstra said the shift to Plan B has been eased by the starts Vincent has made both during the regular season and playoffs.

“That definitely has helped, the fact that we’ve had so many games and experiences, including the playoffs without Kyle,” Spoelsta said ahead of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers. “The playoffs are totally unpredictable. But you gain trust through experience and seeing success during stress and close games and all that stuff.

“And Gabe’s been able to fill in and do it in a way where we’re still able to function on both sides of the ball.”

So Vincent in and Lowry out, and still familiarity all around at FTX Arena.

“It may be different, it might look different,” Spoelstra said, “but everybody still is confident we can play our game.”

Even with the added tension of a series that went from a 2-0 lead to the 2-2 tie entering Tuesday, Spoelstra said it still is a moment worth soaking in.

With this the Heat’s deepest playoff run since advancing to the 2020 NBA Finals, it also makes it the deepest run since that entire postseason was contested in the quarantine isolation bubble at Disney World.

“It’s about embracing all of this that we had taken away from us two years ago,” Spoelstra said, “playing in the bubble. This is what it’s about, for competitors, being locked up in a series. It’s great competition. And you have to have incredible urgency and edge. But you also have to play well.”

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The last time the Heat hosted more than two playoff games on their homecourt in a single postseason was when they were eliminated in the 2016 second round.

“This is high-level competition,” Spoelstra said. “This is what you want the playoffs to be all about.”

Asked about his team’s uneven shooting against the 76ers, Spoelstra said the confidence has not waned.

“Our guys are so ignitable and some of ‘em are so irrational,” he said, “they make one and they think they made seven in a row.”

Guard Tyler Herro said a short memory also helps.

“You kind of just got to reset right after the game,” he said. “In the playoffs, each game’s a different game. It’s a new game every game. So whether you win or lose, you’ve got to be able to cancel that out and move on to the next one.”

With word of 2022 NBA Most Valuable Player going to Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday he begged to disagree, stating his case for 76ers center Joel Embiid.

“I don’t know if a guy could’ve done more than he did this year, play without the second-best player all year,” Rivers told media at the morning shootaround, alluding to the absence and then trade of Ben Simmons. “Listen, his résumé was great. I’m not taking anything away from Jokic either because he’s a hell of a player.”

Rivers also addressed the perception of Jokic’s overwhelming metrics.

“I do think this whole analytic-driven society, world is out of control at times with some of the measures that they use,” he said. “Like, watch the dang game and decide, is what I’ve always said.”

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If there is a next round for the Heat, the NBA has clarified some of the timing, including whether the Eastern Conference finals would begin either Sunday or May 17.

If all three of the Heat-76ers, Milwaukee Bucks-Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns-Dallas Mavericks series finish in six games, the schedule for the East finals will be: Game 1 on Sunday, Game 2 on May 17, Game 3 on May 21, Game 4 on May 23, Game 5 on May 25, Game 6 on May 27 and Game 7 on May 29.

If any of those series requires a Game 7, the schedule for the East finals will be: Game 1 on on May 17, Game 2 on May 19, Game 3 on May 21, Game 4 on May 23, Game 5 on May 25, Game 6 on May 27 and Game 7 on May 29.

As the conference’s No. 1 seed the Heat would host Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 should they advance to the East finals.

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