ASK IRA: What was Heat’s Max Strus thinking with on late foul on Rudy Gobert?

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Q: Ira, you tell us Max Strus is a better defender than Duncan Robinson and can do more to create his own shot. Then he steps out of bounds and makes that foul on Rudy Gobert. Not good. – David.

A: Of all the self-inflicted wounds the Heat endured on their 0-4 trip, except for somehow leaving Kyle Kuzma open for the game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation Friday in Washington, I’m not sure any was as both costly and confounding as Max Strus’ foul on Rudy Gobert with four seconds left on the shot shot, 9.2 seconds left to play in Monday night’s game, and the Heat down two. Two Gobert free throws later and it effectively was over. No, Erik Spoelstra did not signal for a foul to stop the clock and send Gobert to the line; he said as much as in his postgame media session. “One, I don’t know if it was a foul. It didn’t look like it was intentional,” Spoelstra said. “It looked like they were going to be jammed up, five seconds on the clock. We likely would have had five seconds at the end. I don’t know.” And, yes, Strus said he acted on his own, in light of Gobert’s .652 foul shooting. A tough one to swallow. “Historically he’s not a great free-throw shooter,” Strus said. “I thought it was a good chance to put him on the line and hopefully miss one. But I guess it was a stupid play.” As for Strus’ misses, that’s what shooters do, shoot. As for stepping out of bounds, it’s not as if teammates also did commit turnovers. But the margin of error was too small for a mental error. Had the Heat defended those final four seconds on the shot clock, they could have had possession, with a timeout, down two, with five seconds to play. If nothing else, Strus perhaps would have had a shot at redemption for his shot in Washington that was off at the buzzer.

Q: The silver lining is that we get to see several prospects play. Orlando Robinson, Haywood Highsmith and especially the fans’ shiny new toy, Nikola Jovic. It’s very encouraging that Heat vets like Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry are saying Nikola Jovic can really play. Kyle said he obviously has a high ceiling, just what one wants to hear. – Morgan, New Orleans.

A: I agree about Nikola Jovic. But with all due respect to Haywood Highsmith and Orlando Robinson, if we are at the point of taking consolation in their play, then we’re hardly at much of a point at all.

Q: My impression is that since there were no changes in the offseason (releasing, signing or trading anyone) that everyone has gotten comfortable and taking it easy. A move needs to be made to show no one is safe if you don’t produce. – Ricardo.

A: Or were they comfortable that Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro would do the heavy lifting and then, suddenly, Bam, Jimmy and Tyler weren’t around? Again, the Heat have not played a game with those three all in the lineup since Nov. 1. And because of guaranteed salary and the luxury tax, you simply can’t walk away from a player. That’s not how it works in the NBA.

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