Typically, an NBA team has a sense of identity and direction by the time it reaches its 20th game. For the Miami Heat, this 20th game will take place on Friday evening.
But it’s been such an atypical season that coach Erik Spoelstra not only reserves judgment, but practically files such deliberation in favor of simply trying to get through this long, difficult period of injuries and absences.
“I don’t think we’ll get that indication for a while,” he said, with his team to host the Washington Wizards on Friday night in a rematch of Wednesday night’s 113-105 home win. , a win that lifted the Heater to 8-11.
So far this season, the Heat have opened seven times with their scheduled starting lineup of Bam Adebayo, Caleb Martin, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry and not once since Nov. 1.
The blueprint for this range has actually been mothballed for a month.
“I felt like I spent all of July, August and September with this,” Spoelstra said, “a full training retreat, all that. And we’re not even in that.
“I’m at a point right now, we’ll get there when we get there. We have already spent three months of preparation on this. It will be a good high class problem when we get to it. And when we are fully healthy, our depth, what we said, would be a major force.
Instead, there have already been eight line-ups, including five in the last six games, with eight players starting at least one game.
“Right now,” Spoelstra said, “it’s just about who’s available, what do we need to do to function and play close to who we are, which we’re seeing more and more.”
With the Heat’s main starting lineup going 3-4, Lowry said he thinks he can start now as the team’s backup pieces have increased in the meantime.
“I think we understand who we are as a group when we bring everyone together,” he said. “I think guys are running out of time and guys are able to fill in and step up, it gives everyone a sense of confidence to know what they can do and then you build it back up.
“I think with this weather, and everyone being healthy at the right time, we’re hitting our bad juju right now. But when things are going well, I think we’ll all come together and be very consistent. .
Unless Wednesday turns out to be the start of a four-game winning streak, the Heat will leave November with a losing record. But Spoelstra said there was a sense of better days ahead.
“Every team is going to go through this,” Spoelstra said, “and you collectively have to go through tough times and hopefully come out better. I think we come out better. I see more basketball. consistent for longer periods for our identity.
Butler is eliminated again Friday against the Wizards, the fourth straight game he will miss with right knee pain.
The Heat released the following injury report on Friday:
Out: Butler (knee), Victor Oladipo (knee), Omer Yurtseven (ankle).
Doubtful: Duncan Robinson (ankle), Max Strus (shoulder).
Questionable: Herro (ankle), Dewayne Dedmon (foot), Gabe Vincent (knee).
Likely: Adebayo (knee), Haywood Highsmith (hip).
The only six Heat players not listed on the injury report are Martin, Lowry, Nikola Jovic, Jamal Cain, Orlando Robinson and Udonis Haslem.
Although Vincent returned on Wednesday after missing the previous three games with a swollen left knee, Spoelstra said problems remained with the reserve playmaker.
“Gabe didn’t have great mobility. I had to get him out,” Spoelstra said, with Vincent limited to 6:56 p.m. Wednesday, even with Lowry at fault. “I played against a bunch of guys, makeshift ball players who got us on the attack.”
Also returning Wednesday is guard Herro, who has missed the previous eight games with a sprained right ankle. Herro finished with 17 points, 5 of 10 from 3 points.
Herro said 3-pointers were a priority, with Strus and Duncan Robinson out.
“I was aiming to get 10 threes, so I got my 10,” he said. “That was the goal, without Max and Duncan someone has to be able to shoot the threes. So I just wanted to stretch the floor a bit, do some threes and try to find some rhythm.
Herro was 4 of 7 on 3-pointers in the deciding fourth quarter, tying his career high for 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
“Tyler came to life,” Spoelstra said.