Amid this imperfect run by the Miami Heat to their 12-14 record, coach Erik Spoelstra acknowledged Thursday night that he is no exception.
During the Heat’s scramble to their 115-110 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Clippers, when an eight-point lead dwindled to three in 48 seconds with 1:17 to play, Spoelstra nearly saw further disaster – of his own doing.
With 25.3 seconds to play and the Heat up three, center Bam Adebayo found himself trapped near the midcourt line, committing a backcourt violation.
That sequence unfurled directly in front of the Heat bench, at a stage when Spoelstra held two remaining timeouts.
“I blew it. I blew it. I was . . . I don’t know,” Spoelstra admitted, with the Heat turning their attention to Saturday’s visit by the San Antonio Spurs at the close of this three-game homestand.
The Heat were bailed out when guard Reggie Jackson missed a layup on the Clippers’ ensuing possession off a timeout.
A pair of Jimmy Butler free throws then extended the Heat lead to five with 15.7 seconds remaining.
“I cannot believe I didn’t call it once he pivoted, turned, and the trap was on,” Spoelstra said of Adebayo and the nearly costly backcourt turnover. “I was there, and I couldn’t get it out. I can’t believe I didn’t.”
Spoelstra regained the second of the two timeouts allowed per team in the final three minutes when he won a coach’s challenge on an out-of-bounds call with 42.1 seconds to play that initially went against the Heat.
That left both timeouts in his pocket, using neither the balance of the game.
And, yes, his staff was imploring for the timeout before the Adebayo backcourt violation, including lead assistant Chris Quinn.
“I’m telling you,” Spoelstra said, “Coach Quinn was doing it with a megaphone.”
Thursday’s 11 steals tied for the Heat’s high since they had 16 in an Oct. 27 road loss to the Golden State Warriors. It was only the second time the Heat were in double figures since Nov. 7.
The Heat rank eighth in the league in steals per game.
“It’s a barometer for our success,” Spoelstra said. “Not necessarily the steals, but the activity, deflections, speeding teams up, getting them out of their normal comfort zones. We’re at our best defensively when we’re active, disruptive and it takes a commitment to that energy and activity.
“That’s the blueprint for our success defensively; we’re not confused about it. And it takes great discipline to be able to do that consistently, over and over, particularly if you know that that’s your roadmap to success on that side of the floor.”
Martin on a roll
Caleb Martin’s 4 of 8 on 3-pointers marked the second time in three games the Heat starting power forward had converted at least four.
Martin ranks 33rd in 3-point percentage, at .412 from beyond the arc this month.
“I just think not hesitating,” Martin said of his recent success, “just know that the more opportunities I get to shoot it, the more often than not I’m going to make it. So that’s just how I feel mentally. So just try to stay with that same approach, no matter if I’m making or missing.”
Spoelstra said that, in turn, has opened other elements of Martin’s and the Heat’s offensive games.
“He’s also really learned how to space the floor for us, get us to secondary triggers, and also be a ball mover,” Spoelstra said. “He’s really grown in all these different areas.”
Spoelstra said the timing of the announcement of Brittney Griner’s release from Russian incarceration coincided with the team being together for Thursday morning’s shootaround, leading to a team moment of reflection.
“It was something we talked about as a team,” he said. “First of all, just from a perspective standpoint, that we were all aware of it and it was a moment of celebration. And it’s a great point of perspective for all of us, when she comes back and Brittney puts her feet in this country again, that’s an amazing perspective. Then everything is great.”
Griner’s return to the United States came as the Heat were completing Thursday night’s victory.
“And I think we’ve all had these moments in the last few months,” Spoelstra said, “where you’re trying to process it and then put yourself in her shoes and understand how horrifying that experience was for her.
“That’s incredible that this is happening and she’ll be able to go back home and resume her life. That should be celebrated.”