At that time, gravity was difficult to discern. For one thing, in this case the right hand, Tyler Herro was pretty distraught. On the other hand, he was still ambulatory and capable enough to hit a successful 3-pointer in the waning seconds of the first half..
It was only after the fact, after the Heat retreated to the locker room at halftime, that they realized what was at stake, tweeks, if not months, out of play.
“I was in a lot of pain, but I didn’t really know what it was.” said coach Erik Spoelstra, his team leading 1-0 in the best-of-seven first-round Eastern Conference playoff series which continues at 9 pm Wednesday at the Fiserv Forum. “A lot of times you squeeze your finger or this or that and you get a stinger in your elbow, and then it goes away after 30 seconds. So I didn’t burn time out there because things were moving a little fast and I couldn’t even understand what he was saying.
“I’ve had enough of those where it’s not something, and you can run and the guys say they’re fine. But it clearly wasn’t.”
For the Heat, he eliminates their third scoring leader and arguably the most creative shooter in their mix.
“You can’t completely make up for what Tyler has been to our team all year,” said forward Jimmy Butler, who dominated Game 1 with 35 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and three steals. “But the guys need to step up, including me, including Bam [Adebayo] and whoever Spo calls to do offensive duty, defensive duty, to bring some energy, to dive on the floor, to catch a loose ball or a rebound. It’s like all hands on deck at all times and now more than ever.”
Just as Herro gave up his body to dive for the fumble that led to his injury, Adebayo said the Milwaukee-area native Herro was so selfless after the injury in the locker room.
“I mean,” Adebayo said, “the most important thing is that he had a smile on his face and he was not discouraged by what happened to him. You can tell that he is still involved in the team ”.
And now the team has to be at its best when it comes to replacing, if not exactly replicating Herro’s minutes.
“We’ll just figure it out,” Spoelstra said.
There are several options.
Duncan Robinson: The 3-point specialist who has been out of the rotation for most of the season started the second half in place of Herro. But after playing the first 6:09 of the third quarter, as the Heat’s lead dwindled, he played just 17 more seconds, none in the fourth quarter. So a Wednesday start is not a given.
Victor Oladipo: While Oladipo thrived as a defensive option in the postseason during last year’s run to the Eastern Conference finals, the Heat’s most creative scoring option off the bench started just two games this season and didn’t play on Sunday, even after that Herro was injured. Whether Spoelstra’s confidence is there again remains to be seen.
Caleb Martin: Martin has played as a reserve since the All-Star break in late February, but he was solid in his 14:39 time in the second half Sunday, scoring 10 points in the final two quarters on 3-of-3 shooting from the field and 3 of -4 shots from the line. While more Martin wouldn’t necessarily make up for Herro’s loss in scoring, he would add a defensive upgrade to the mix.
Kyle Lowry: The 37-year-old veteran point guard has only played off the bench since returning on March 11 after a month off due to knee pain, pain that again became a factor during the opening round. On Sunday the impact was deaf, with just two points in 18:30. But could there be more, something closer to the 33 points in the 32:36 he offered in the play-in against the Atlanta Hawks? Lowry has played well the past two years along with replacement starting point guard Gabe Vince.
Kevin love: No, not as a positional replacement for Herro, but the 34-year-old veteran power forward showed Sunday he’s capable of helping make up some of the outside shooting game lost in Herro’s absence, with Love going 4-of-7 on 3-pointers in Game 1 against the Bucks.
Jimmy Butler: Or is it as simple as asking Butler to do even more, after he played 42:53 on Sunday, including all but 1:14 in the second half? With two days off before Game 2 and then another two before Saturday’s Game 3 in Miami, it might be a short-term answer, but probably not sustainable.
Simple solutions? No.
But alternatives that leave no choice but to explore.
“Tyler going down, obviously, that firepower that he brings to the table for us is tough for us,” Love said. “A lot of guys stepped up in his absence, but we’re going to have to find that score with him out for at least the series.”