Winderman’s take: Roster misses come home at the worst possible time for the Heat

Observations and other notes of interest from Tuesday night’s 116-105 NBA play-in loss to the Atlanta Hawks:

– All those clutch games within five points in the last five minutes?

– All those games decided in the final possessions?

‘All those nights when Jimmy Butler came to the rescue?’

– Despite everything, it became clear that the margin of error for this team was very small.

– Then came the problem of immediate fouls at the beginning of Tuesday.

– And then the shots that didn’t fall.

– And then the too-small lineups that weren’t up to scratch.

– So now this: now one last chance to get this season right on Friday night.

– Beat the winner of Wednesday night’s game between the Bulls and Raptors and advance to the best-of-seven first round as the No. 8 seed.

– Or go into a dark, dark, dark offseason.

– If nothing else, this was sobering.

– A sobering reality of what this list is not.

– Not big enough.

– Not athletic enough.

– Not consistent enough from beyond the arc.

– No, Kevin Love and Cody Zeller are not the next big things.

– As the rebound on Tuesday showed.

‘So can Butler muster one more night of magnificence?’

– Is the revival of Kyle Lowry real?

– Or will the conversation about management misconduct begin in earnest?

– No, it was not what was expected after the regular season series against the Hawks and the playoffs last season.

– But this is certainly not the same team as during the playoffs last season.

– The Heat opened their postseason where the regular season ended, opening Tuesday with their core lineup of Bam Adebayo, Max Strus, Butler, Tyler Herro and Gabe Vincent.

– That lineup went 3-0 during the regular season.

– Herro was called for his second foul with 7:19 remaining in the opening period, and coach Erik Spoelstra left him in the game.

– Strus was then called for his second foul with 6:15 left in the opening period, putting the Hawks into bonus.

– It was then that Lowry entered as the first reserve of the Heat, for Herro.

– Caleb Martin followed from the Heat bench, for Vincent.

– Love then made eight deep.

– With Victor Oladipo getting a chance early in the second period, having played few times in recent weeks when Lowry was available.

– It got to the point of even a cameo from Zeller in the first half.

– When asked before the game if it felt like a Game 7, Spoelstra said: “It doesn’t matter. It is a good competition and it is a first experience for us”.

– Friday might feel that way.

– Hawks coach Quin Snyder stressed before the game that there is no shame in being in the gatehouse.

– “I do not consider being in the play-in a failure,” he said. “I think expectations at any given time, whether it’s early in the season, in the season, even in the postseason, you see teams that don’t get picked to win that win. So I think that being focused on the present, which in our case is the play-in, is the best way to make the most of it.”

– He added “You can call it play-in or you can call it postseason. No one is really mad about making the NCAA Tournament.”

— Snyder said he didn’t feel the need to elaborate on the Heat’s 4-1 win over the Hawks in the first round of last season’s playoffs, when Atlanta was led by Nate McMillan.

– “There are certainly things that Miami does consistently every year,” Snyder said. “It’s what makes them an elite program. They have that commitment on the defensive end, their ability to help each other, how hard they play. So those things are pretty consistent. You don’t have to look back at last year to see that.”

He added that by Tuesday the Hawks knew everything there was to know about the Heat.

– “Jimmy Butler is still pretty good,” he said. “Herro, you still have to guard him on pick-and-rolls and pin-downs and handoffs and play on the shot clock. I can continue with Bam too. And I’ve said this before, Spo is one of the elite coaches in the league. They are always prepared and they are always good in these situations.”

– Among those in attendance was Hornets forward Cody Martin, identical twin to Caleb Martin of the Heat.

– Members of the FAU Final Four team attended and were introduced during the third quarter.


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