Heat’s Jaquez ‘felt and heard the love’ in homecoming; Butler out against Lakers

LOS ANGELES — No, not the homecoming Jaime Jaquez Jr. would have preferred, but one he embraced.

While the return of the former Camarillo High School and UCLA standout ended with a Monday night loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Arena, the Miami Heat first-round pick said he clearly felt an embrace.

Cheered robustly when introduced with the starters, Jaquez was made even more at home during the 121-104 loss with the Clippers celebrating Mexican Heritage Night, with the paternal side of Jaquez’s family from Mexico.

“The home crowd, I definitely felt and heard the love from the people in the crowd,” Jaquez said. “It wasn’t a home game for us, but it felt like a home game for me. And I was just really happy to see all the support.”

Jaquez started at power forward and played 38:29, closing with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting, four rebounds, two assists and a career-high four steals.

The homecoming continues with a Wednesday night nationally televised game against the Los Angeles Lakers back at Arena.

Jaquez, 22, said he plans to again embrace the warmth.

“Yeah,” he said. “I hope the difference is we get the win.”

Defensive deficit

The Clippers’ .588 shooting percentage Monday was the second highest against the Heat this season, surpassed only by the Indiana Pacers’ .659 in a Heat home loss on Dec. 2. The Clippers’ .483 on 3-pointers against the Heat on Monday was eclipsed only when the Pacers shot .500 from beyond the arc in that Dec. 2 game.

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“I think we let them get too comfortable on the offensive end,” guard Tyler Herro said. “We tried to switch some defenses, make some adjustments. So credit to them, they made shots. But I feel like we could have put a little bit more pressure on them, make them feel us a little bit more on that end of the court.”

Opposing concern

The Heat on Wednesday night get a 17-17 Lakers team that is just 3-8 since winning the NBA’s inaugural In Season Tournament, with that championship-game victory over the Pacers not counting in the standings.

The game against the Heat opens a run of 11 of 12 at home for the Lakers, which has former Heat forward LeBron James cautious.

“It can hurt in a sense of where you start to feel comfortable because you’re at home,” James said.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis said, as with the Heat, the concern starts on the defensive end.

“As far as the defensive end, our communication has to be better,” he said. “We’ll talk about something and then go out and don’t do it. It’s a lot of, ‘We’re supposed to do this,’ but guys did this. Guys are trying to do the right thing, but it’s not the right thing, as far as the coverage or a scheme.”

Smith surgery

The Heat announced that guard Dru Smith underwent what the team termed successful right ACL reconstruction surgery on Dec. 29. The two-hour procedure, the team said, was performed by Dr. Harlan Selesnick at Doctors Hospital Ambulatory Surgical Center.

The team said that Smith, injured on a misstep while playing defense on the uneven Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse court during the Heat’s Nov. 22 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, will miss the remainder of the season but can begin rehabilitation immediately. No timetable was released for his return.

Smith, 26, appeared in nine games with the Heat this season averaging 4.3 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and one steal in 14.5 minutes per game. shooting .455 from the field and .412 on 3-pointers.

Although Smith was on a partially guaranteed contract, his $1.8 million for 2023-24 became fully guaranteed with the season-ending injury.

Injury report

Jimmy Butler (foot) and Haywood Highsmith (concussion) both are listed as out again for Wednesday night, with Caleb Martin (ankle) doubtful and Josh Richardson (back) questionable.