Sports

Heat’s Lowry struggles with shot, health in postseason

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Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry (7) drives against Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) during the first quarter of Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals series at FTX Arena in Miami, Florida, on Sunday, May 29, 2022.

dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Kyle Lowry and the Heat attributed his regular-season scoring decline (from 17.2 ppg in his final season with Toronto to 13.4 in his first with the Heat) to his determination to create shots for teammates and make all of them feel engaged and involved.

All the while, Lowry assured that he would become more aggressive as a scorer when needed.

It was needed during the playoffs, but the results never came, with two issues at the root of it: 1) poor shooting and 2) a hamstring injury that sidelined him eight games.

How much the former contributed to the latter remains a mystery; after Sunday night’s Game 7 loss to Boston, Lowry declined to say how much the injury hindered him in postseason.

But the cold, hard fact are sobering:

▪ Lowry averaged fewer points than any other NBA starting point guard this postseason, at 7.8 per game in 10 games.

▪ Among 86 players who took at least 50 shots this postseason, Lowry’s 29.1 percent shooting (25 for 86) was worst among those 86.

▪ Among 40 players who attempted at least 50 three-pointers in postseason, Lowry was 39th in accuracy, at 24.1 (13 for 54).

Victor Oladipo (27.4/17 for 62) was 38th and Tyler Herro (22.9/16 or 70) was worst.

▪ The Heat outscored teams by 16 with Lowry on the court during these playoffs (that’s a plus 16), compared with a plus 76 when Gabe Vincent was on the court.

“I wish I would have been able to play a little bit better, at a higher level, but I didn’t,” Lowry said. “It just adds fuel. You don’t know how many more opportunities you will have to get back to this, so for me, honestly it was a waste of a year.

“I only play to win championships. It was fun, and I appreciate my teammates, and I appreciate the opportunity. But for me, it’s a waste of a year. You’re… not winning a championship, it’s a wasted year.”

Now that the Boston series is over, can Lowry say how much the injury affected him since returning in Game 3?

“I was out there playing. That’s all that really mattered. I will never make an excuse about injuries.”

Until the hamstring injury, Lowry, 36, had been healthy virtually all season. He missed the opener with an injury, sat out the meaningless regular-season finale and was away from the team for 17 other games because of a serious family medical issue.

With Lowry due $28.3 million and $29.7 million in the next two seasons, the Heat can only hope that he can once again resemble the player who was an All-Star as recently as 2020.

Though his scoring dropped from his final season in Toronto, he actually shot a higher percentage during his first regular season with the Heat than he did the previous season in Toronto (44.0 to 43.6), and averaged slightly more assists (7.5 to 7.3), while also averaging 2.7 turnovers both seasons.

His 7.5 assists per game ranked 10th in the league this season.

In the playoffs, his assist to turnover ratio wasn’t bad (47 to 19), but wasn’t exceptional, either.

One key will be determining what weight Lowry should return at, something not publicly addressed by the team.

Lowry said that having spent a full season here will help.

“I think everything helps, having some continuity with the team and understanding who you’re going to be there with and tendencies and understand the offense, terminologies, defensive schemes, offensive schemes, emotions, personalities,” he said.

“We look forward to the opportunity of getting better over the summer and getting back to this opportunity next year.”

HERRO STATUS

▪ Tyler Herro’s absence was felt in this series. After averaging 21 points in the regular season, Herro missed Games 4, 5 and 6 with a groin injury, then shot 0 for 2 in seven minutes of Game 7; Erik Spoelstra opted not to play him in the second half.

“Tyler just absolutely made himself available when he really didn’t have any practices,” Spoelstra said. “If it was the regular season, there was no chance he would have played.”

How difficult a call was it not to play Herro in the second half?

“I felt like in this series I was making decisions that I’ve never made in my career,” Spoelstra said. “I’ve had that before, also, you know, during those championship runs. We had guys that the day after the season were getting surgeries. So it was very similar.

“These last two series, it was a daily meeting with the training staff to get an inventory of where guys were. But these guys were so committed to the challenge that they are willing to do whatever it took to get themselves out there and compete and really compete at a high level physically. It just shows you the mental toughness of the guys in the locker room.”

Herro shot 1 for 15 on threes in the Boston series and his three-point shooting (39.9 percent in the regular season) was worst in the postseason among the 40 NBA players who attempted 50 threes.

“He’s our spark off the bench, so I feel like he would have made a big difference [if healthy],” Bam Adebayo said. “He can get it going in a hurry. We missed that aspect.”

Herro will be paid $5.7 million next season but is eligible to sign an extension this summer — five years if it’s a max deal or four years otherwise.

▪ Jimmy Butler became the first Heat player to play all 48 minutes of regulation since Jamal Mashburn did it in Game 2 of a second-round series in 2000.

Butler also moved past Alonzo Mourning for fourth place on the Heat’s all-time postseason scoring list with 991, trailing Dwyane Wade (3864), LeBron James (2338) and Chris Bosh (1163).

Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.





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