There was no easy alternative Tuesday night for the Miami Heat: either win or admit this was the best.
Coming off a Monday night loss to a Memphis Grizzlies team that rested four of their five starters, the Heat find themselves this time against a Detroit Pistons team that entered the second-worst 6-19 NBA record, already without a marginalized future star. Cade Cunningham falls.
With Tyler Herro at the top of his game, Jimmy Butler skipping the game and Victor Oladipo in his first game of the season, it should have been more than enough for Erik Spoelstra’s team.
It was not.
Not even close.
Instead, a 116-96 loss at FTX Arena that snapped a five-game winning streak at home.
“We’re all going to work to find some solutions,” Spoelstra said. “None of us feel great about it.”
Herro led the Heat with 34 points, with center Bam Adebayo adding a double-double of 21 points and 15 rebounds.
The humbling moments against the Grizzlies and Pistons came after what appeared to be a breakthrough road win against the Boston Celtics on Friday night.
“I feel like we’re starting to get a little ahead of ourselves,” Herro said of the Heat’s optimism crashing and burning the past two nights.
Bojan Bogdanovic led the Pistons with 31 points.
“I don’t know,” point guard Kyle Lowry said. “It’s hard to put into words what happened.”
Five degrees of heat from Tuesday’s game:
1. Closing time: The Heat built an 11-point lead, led 25-20 after the first quarter and 50-47 at halftime.
The Pistons then used a 21-9 run in the third quarter to take a 78-73 lead into the fourth, moving to a 93-84 lead with 6:46 remaining.
From there, Detroit extended its lead to 103-88, forcing a Heat timeout with 4:24 to play, finding surprisingly little resistance as Spoelstra emptied the bench to make it 109-90 with 2:01 to play.
“The defense in the fourth quarter was definitely not up to our standard,” said Spoeltstra, with the Heat outscored 38-23 in the period.
“We’re going to be better than we showed tonight. No one feels well in the last 48 hours.”
2. Ball of heroes: Herro continues to set the pace offensively for the Heat, this time with 11 points in the first quarter en route to 21 points in the first half.
Herro finished the first half 7 of 7 from the field, 5 of 5 from the line and 2 of 2 on 3-point range.
Herro’s first missed shot came on a 12-foot jumper with 7:40 left in the third period. He had made the first eight attempts from the field. He finished 12 of 17 from the field, 8 of 8 from the line, with six assists.
“I’m not focused on my score or my stats,” Herro said. “I want to win.
“We have to put 48 minutes together.”
3. Adebayo also: With Butler out, it was basically a one-two punch for the Heat between Herro and Adebayo.
With his double-double, Adebayo tied Sherman Douglas for 15th on the Heat’s all-time scoring list. He shot 9-of-16 from the field.
The problem for the Heat was that there was almost nothing outside of Herro and Adebayo, Max Strus with 11 points, the only Heat player to score in double figures.
“We’re just in a short time right now,” Adebayo said. “The basketball gods must be mad at us or something.”
4. Reduced heating: In addition to giving Butler the night off, the Heat were without backup center Dewayne Dedmon and backup guard Gabe Vincent.
Spoelstra, however, said he continues to see hope for health.
“Things are looking better health-wise,” he said. “The boys are starting to feel better.”
Also inactive were backup center Omer Yurtseven, who is recovering from ankle surgery, and shortstop Jamal Cain, who played Tuesday night for the G League Sioux Falls Skyforce.
Nikola Jovic played as the Heat’s backup center, controlling with 5:38 left in the first quarter after Adebayo was called for his second foul as the Heat then switched to a zone defense.
5. Oladipo returns: Oladipo made his season debut when he checked in on Caleb Martin with 3:47 to play in the opening period, receiving a warm ovation.
Oladipo took a hard fall when he was fouled on his first touch, quickly rising and converting both free throws for his only points of the first half.
Oladipo’s first surgery lasted eight minutes, playing almost exclusively in the Heat’s zone defense.
In all, Oladipo played 19 minutes, finishing with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting, two rebounds and two assists.
“Obviously it wasn’t the outcome that we wanted or that we wanted,” Oladipo said. “I’m happy to play again. It’s just good to be there.
“I’m optimistic, I’ll keep improving and everything will take care of itself.”