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ASK IRA: Are Heat at risk of burning out Playoff Jimmy in March?

Q: Ira, it’s not just that the Heat struggled against the mediocre to worst teams in the league. The Heat are just 14-20 this season in games against teams currently with a winning record. Even more telling is that the Heat are winless at 0-10 this season against the teams with the NBA’s top five records. At this rate, the Heat are poised to fight through the play-in round unless they can finally play consistently winning basketball at least against teams with winning records for the remainder of the regular season. After this most recent three-game losing streak, there is no doubt that Tyler Herro and Kevin Love are needed now to have a chance at restoring consistent play down the stretch. – Michael, North Miami Beach.

A: But Tyler Herro and Kevin Love remain out, with no clear sign of a return date for either. The question now is do you risk burning out Jimmy Butler in March while you assuredly will need Playoff Jimmy for the postseason? This is when the Heat need the best of Bam Adebayo and Terry Rozier. Jimmy played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter against the Wizards. Jimmy Butler to the rescue largely has been reserved for the playoffs the past few seasons. Jimmy Butler to the rescue in March is not ideal for a 34-year-old. Tuesday, an illness kept him out of practice. Is this all catching up already?

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Q: Bam Adebayo has shown some real growth to his offensive game this season, but he gets worn out anchoring the defense all game, hence the late-game turnovers. We need a real power forward, who can help with defense, hit a 3, and still has decent mobility. Orlando Robinson might be up to it someday, but we need someone sooner. – John, Ocala.

A: I am glad there at least is a recognition of what Bam Adebayo is being asked to do on the defensive end. Particularly with Tyler Herro out, and with Terry Rozier still adjusting, Bam essentially is being asked to also be the number-two scorer for the Heat behind Jimmy Butler. Outside of Anthony Davis, I’m not sure there are many other number-two scorers being asked to also put in as much effort on the defensive end. That’s not to say that more can’t be expected than Bam’s recent numbers. As for your suggestion, I do not see Orlando Robinson reaching such a level.

Q: Next time the Heat are down two in a game they need to call a timeout and run a play for Jaime Jacquez Jr.. They need to stop having Jimmy Butler shoot clunkers from 3, or stepbacks that have literally .01% of going in. – John.

A: As I’ve already said, I have no issue with Duncan Robinson taking the 3-pointer he took with 5.1 seconds to play and the Heat down two to the Wizards. For Duncan, that is as good as any shot he takes, regardless of the spot on the floor, But once the Heat got the offensive rebound with 3.6 seconds remaining, that is an eternity in the NBA with a timeout. And then you can set up something to the basket, or – who knows? – one of those alley-oops like Gabe Vincent used to throw to Jimmy Butler at the rim. Yes, such an approach would require a split-second reaction by a coach. But thinking on your feet is an imperative for any NBA coach.