Heat’s Spoelstra explains reasoning behind Butler, Tucker absences; both questionable vs. 76ers – The Denver Post

Rarely does Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra acknowledge rest as a reason for absence. But sometimes common sense dictates such a reality.

Especially when a team has shown an inability to seemingly win without anyone and, sometimes, almost everyone.

So, yes, Jimmy Butler was listed as out for Thursday’s 113-107 victory over the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center with an irritated left big toe. And, yes, P.J. Tucker was listed as out due to pain in his left knee. But an exhale was closer to the reasoning.

“This an organizational decision, really, with the two of them,” Spoelstra said. “They’ve been grinding and working and they’re not long-term issues, but they can be if you don’t handle ‘em immediately.

“And I think they’ll really responded, and we’ll see where they are on Saturday.”

That’s when the Heat host the Philadelphia 76ers at FTX Arena, the start of a run of 11 of 12 at home.

“This was the decision that made the most sense for our organization, without a doubt,” Spoelstra said. “And everybody else has been in this situation, where their number has been called, and you have to be productive and reliable to your minutes. They’re used to it. It’s not like it’s a shock.”

Hardly, even if it came with Kyle Lowry still away from the team due to a family matter, leaving the Heat without 60 percent of their starting lineup.

“We’ve been doing that the whole season,” center Bam Adebayo said. “This isn’t like it’s been like one or two games. Like I missed six weeks, and they were still winning. And then I come back and we’re in the number-one seed. Jimmy goes out, they’re still winning. P.J. goes out, they’re still winning. Kyle’s not here, we’re still winning.

“So it just shows the level of commitment all of us have to this team and how we want this season to go.”

So far this season, the Heat are 17-8 without Adebayo, 13-7 without Butler, 10-6 without Lowry, 6-2 without Tucker.

“Guys have been stepping up big all season long,” Spoelstra said. “The beauty of it is everybody infuses confidence in everyone. The veterans infuse confidence in the young players, and vice versa. And they’re enjoying each other’s success. That’s a big thing in this league.”

So without Butler, Caleb Martin stepped up with 22 points in Brooklyn. Without Tucker, Max Strus scored 21.

Like Butler and Tucker, Martin and Strus also were on the injury report going into the Nets game, Martin earlier Thursday listed with ongoing Achilles soreness, Strus with knee soreness.

“You’re either going to play or you’re not,” Martin said. “And if you’re going to play, then play like you’re not hurt.”

For Strus, it was a breakout night five days after being held out of Saturday’s victory over the San Antonio Spurs, the first time he had been held out while healthy since Nov. 24. He responded by shooting 6 of 12 on 3-pointers.

“You just got to stay with the same mindset as much as you possibly can,” Strus said. “Through all the ups and downs, you’ve just got to stay positive through it all and keep the same mindset, that when your number is called, you’ve got to be ready to contribute.”

Butler, Tucker, Martin and Strus all are listed as questionable for Saturday. Remaining out are Lowry, Victor OIadipo (knee) and Markieff Morris (neck).

With Butler, Tucker and Lowry out Thursday, the Heat started four undrafted players in Brooklyn. Adebayo, the No. 14 pick in 2017, was flanked by Strus, Omer Yurtseven, Gabe Vincent and Duncan Robinson. When Martin entered, it made it five undrafted players among the Heat’s first seven. And when Dewayne Dedmon and Haywood Highsmith entered, it made it seven undrafted players of the nine the Heat utilized, with Tyler Herro (No. 13 in 2019) the other exception.

“We’ve got a great team, a very deep team, that a lot of guys can help win,” Martin said. “So you never know what night it’s going to be for you, when you’re the odd man out.”


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