Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 108-94 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder (12-19) on Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Heat stands at 14-17 this season:
-- The Heat’s long seven-game West Coast trip was a success despite enduring a few of its most painful losses of the season along the way.
A winning record on a West Coast trip is always going to be considered a success. Miami posted a 4-3 record during the seven-game stretch away from home, which is tied for the longest road trip in franchise history.
The Heat began the trip with a 1-3 record, but closed it with three straight wins to return home feel positive about what it accomplished on the road.
The narrative changed fast for Miami on the trip after two especially painful losses.
The Los Angeles Clippers found a way to earn a 125-118 win over the Heat last Monday at Staples Center despite missing four starters, including the All-Star duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.
And the Golden State Warriors rallied from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 120-112 overtime win over the Heat on Wednesday. The Warriors were missing All-NBA defender Draymond Green and rookie James Wiseman, and were forced to start 6-6 Juan Toscano-Anderson at center.
But three consecutive wins later (Thursday over the Sacramento Kings, Saturday over the Los Angeles Lakers and Monday over the Thunder), the Heat finds itself just 1.5 games out of the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. Miami has five games remaining to play before reaching the All-Star break, with the next four games coming at home.
-- The first half was an offensive struggle for the Heat. But the second half was not.
The Heat entered Monday’s game with the NBA’s fifth-worst offensive rating, scoring 106.6 points per 100 possessions. And Miami was coming off a Saturday win over the Lakers in which it scored just 37 points on 32.4 percent shooting in.
Those struggles carried over into the first half of Monday’s game.
The Heat scored just 45 points on 35 percent shooting from the field and 6-of-21 shooting on threes in the first two quarters. As a result, Oklahoma City entered halftime with a 54-45 lead.
But the Heat’s offense came alive in the third quarter with 34 points on 55 percent shooting, 4-of-6 shooting on threes and 8-of-8 shooting from the foul line. Miami’s efficient third quarter came despite eight turnovers in the period.
The Heat won the period 34-23 to enter the fourth quarter with a 79-77 lead.
Miami’s offensive explosion continued in the fourth quarter, with 29 points on 52.4 percent shooting.
The Heat outscored the Thunder 63-40 in the second half to run away with the win.
Forward Duncan Robinson led the Heat’s second-half push with 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting on threes in the final two quarters. He finished with 22 points on 6-of-13 shooting from deep.
Heat star Jimmy Butler shot just 3 of 11 from the field, but still managed to record 15 points with the help of 9-of-9 shooting at the foul line, four rebounds and nine assists.
Heat guard Kendrick Nunn contributed 20 points and tied a career-high with nine assists. He also finished with three steals and two blocks.
-- One of the Heat’s biggest weaknesses this season turned into a strength on Monday.
Miami entered with the NBA’s third-worst offensive rebounding percentage (the percentage of available offensive rebounds a team grabs) at 23.1 percent and 10th-worst rebounding percentage at 49 percent this season. But Oklahoma City is one of the few teams in the league that has been worse in this area, entering with the worst offensive rebounding percentage and fifth-worst rebounding percentage.
The Heat took advantage and outrebounded the Thunder 45-38 to finish with seven more shot attempts than Oklahoma City.
Miami also turned 10 offensive rebounds into 16 second-chance points, compared to four second-chance points on five offensive rebounds for Oklahoma City. That 12-point margin proved critical.
Heat center Bam Adebayo finished with 19 points and five assists, and grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds.
-- With Tyler Herro forced to miss Monday’s game because of a hip injury he sustained in Saturday’s win over the Lakers, the Heat was without three key guards against the Thunder.
Along with Herro (right hip contusion), the Heat remained without guards Avery Bradley (right calf strain) and Goran Dragic (left ankle sprain) in Oklahoma City. Centers Meyers Leonard (season-ending left shoulder surgery) and Chris Silva (left hip flexor strain) were also unavailable.
Herro, who recently moved into a bench role and has played as the Heat’s sixth man on the trip, did not play in the second half of Saturday’s win over the Lakers because of the hip injury he sustained in the first half. He was listed as questionable to play in Monday’s game before he was ruled out.
“I would have been surprised if he was able to go [against the Thunder] based on not being able to play in the second half the other night,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Herro. “We’ll continue to evaluate him day to day. It is feeling a little better than it did yesterday, so that’s a good sign.”
Now, the attention turns to whether Bradley, Dragic or Herro will be able to return for the start of Miami’s four-game homestand Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors. Bradley and Dragic were not on the trip with the team.
There’s some hope that Dragic will be able to return early in the Heat’s upcoming four-game homestand, which begins Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors. There’s also the possibility that Bradley could also return in the coming days, as Bradley said earlier this month that he was hopeful he would be able to play again before the All-Star break begins on March 5.
The Thunder was also short-handed Monday, without starters George Hill (right thumb procedure) and Al Horford (rest). Oklahoma City was on the second night of a back-to-back set after defeating the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Sunday.
-- Without three guards out, two-way contract wing Max Strus was the first player used off the Heat’s bench on Monday.
After missing all eight threes he attempted while playing in Herro’s place in the second half of Saturday’s win over the Lakers, Strus didn’t hesitate when entering Monday’s game.
Strus made his first-three-point attempt of the game and shot 1 of 4 from deep in the first quarter. He finished with 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting on threes in 30 minutes off the bench, and even took a charge during the Heat’s third-quarter run.
Miami’s bench rotation on Monday included Strus, Gabe Vincent, Precious Achiuwa, Andre Iguodala and KZ Okpala.
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