A chill emerges as Tyler Herro is sent outside by Heat mandate: ‘Trying to sacrifice how I play’

MIAMI — It came off as somewhat of a throwaway line, when the Miami Heat’s losing streak stood at three and any notion of it growing to the current seven seemed like an abstract.

As he stood in the locker room at Kia Center after the 105-87 Jan. 21 loss to the Orlando Magic, Tyler Herro was asked about adjustments.

At that moment, two days before Terry Rozier was acquired from the Charlotte Hornets, and two games into the shift of Kyle Lowry to the second unit, Herro specifically was asked about role playing, specifically about being recast at point guard.

On a night 11 of his 14 attempts came from beyond the 3-point arc, Herro turned the question in another direction.

“I don’t think that’s really the problem, though,” he said of being temporarily cast at point guard. “I’m not a point guard. I’m a catch-and-shoot-threes guy, that’s what I do, catch and shoot threes.”

The answer was offered somewhat as an aside, not flippantly, but pointedly.

Soon enough, it became clear that the shooting shift was not one necessarily of choice.

In ensuing games, 10 of Herro’s 14 attempts in the blowout loss to the Boston Celtics were 3-point shots, with 11 of his 18 shots the following game, a blowout loss to the New York Knicks, also 3-point attempts.

Then came Monday night’s 118-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns at Kaseya Center, and it was more of the same, with 12 of Herro’s 18 attempts from beyond the arc.

To put the 3-for-all into perspective, Herro has attempted 10 or more 3-pointers in four of the past five games, after doing so four times in his previous 16 games.

So, yes, it appears the lengthy launches very much are by design.

But based on Herro’s comments, not necessarily by desire.

“Yeah, trying to sacrifice how I play to fit the team,” he said after Monday night’s loss, when he closed 5 of 18 from the field, including 5 of 12 on 3-pointers. “I’m going to try to be more of a catch-and-shoot guy to fit the offense.”

Amid question of whether the Heat would be better served by a return to the reserve role that led to Herro’s 2022 NBA Sixth Man of the Year award, the fifth-year guard clearly is being moved to a direction not necessarily of choice.

At least of his choice.

Last season, as the Heat careened to a 44-38 finish salvaged by the postseason run to the NBA Finals, coach Erik Spoelstra bristled at times of the high volume of 2-point shots being taken by his offense in what continues to grow into a 3-point league.

With the Heat again whole after an extended run of injuries, it again means Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo loading up on mid-range shots, the staples of their offense. The addition of Rozier injected another scorer whose offense comes from that area, as well.

Such two-for-three trade offs are a recognized pathway to NBA failure, with the Heat turning around last season when the efficiency on 3-pointers skyrocketed in the playoffs.

This season, while the Heat stand eighth in the NBA in 3-point percentage, at .377, they also stand 18th in the league in 3-point attempts, at 33.3 per game.

Lately, with the team’s offense having come around from a miserable scoring stretch in the 90s and 80s, Spoelstra has turned his focus to the struggling defense.

But he also recognizes that seeing 3-pointers falling can have an impact on the overall psyche.

“We can win games without making shots,” he said. “You know, obviously, you got to put the ball in the basket at some point, but you don’t have to, you know, shoot 55 percent from three even on the open threes. There’s just a feeling of discouragement when we miss an open look or a shot in our wheelhouse.”

In that regard, he has turned to Herro for 3-point salvation.

And in that regard, Herro has stepped up, making at least one 3-pointer in the past 20 games, with multiple 3-pointers in 17 of those 20, including the past nine. In seven of the past nine games, there have been four.

But on the flip six, he has scored fewer than 20 points in each of the past five games, after previously not having gone consecutive games this season without scoring at least 20.

For now, no matter the coaching mandate, he appreciates more is needed, with the Heat next turning their attention to Wednesday night’s visit by surging the Sacramento Kings, who have won four in a row.

“We’re not playing hard enough,” Herro said. “We need more out of everybody, including myself. I feel like it starts with me, Bam and Jimmy. It’s on us to bring more, and the rest of the guys will follow.”