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There Goes Miami’s Herro

Tyler Herro #14 of the Miami Heat celebrates a 95-94 overtime win against the Brooklyn Nets during their game at Barclays Center on January 15, 2024 in New York City.
Al Bello/Getty Images

To be a fan of the basketball team employing Tyler Herro is to put up with some boneheaded moments. On Monday night, with a little help from Jimmy Butler, Herro authored an especially boney one. After Bam Adebayo made one of two free throws to make it 88-86 Miami with six seconds left, Butler went for a steal on the inbounds pass, missing wildly. That left Herro as the closest defender to Mikal Bridges, and despite the tough angle for the Nets wing, Herro still played him too close and bumped Bridges on the way up. The whistle blew, and following a failed coach's challenge from Miami, Bridges stepped up and knocked in both free throws to send the game to overtime.

It was a basic defensive error, and Herro still makes plenty of those. The rest of Monday's game served as a case study for why the Heat gladly put up with those brain farts, though. Against a Nets team that would not go away, Herro did what he does best: Shoot like no one is watching, salvage broken plays, and make some high degree of difficulty jumpers in rhythm:

Since coming back from an ankle injury on December 18, Herro has been the engine driving Miami wins. Butler is still Butler, Adebayo has been a rock on defense as per usual, and Jaime Jaquez Jr. has been the best rookie-who-doesn't-look-like-Gumby in the league, but as Herro has gone, so have the Heat. Over the past month, Miami is 8-2 when Herro scores 20 points or more, and 0-3 when he doesn't. Arbitrary stat thresholds like that often mask a bigger trend, but in this case, the 20-point barrier serves as a tidy separator between Good Herro and Bad Herro. In the games where Miami loses, he tends to shoot worse from the field: 34-of-91, a pedestrian 37.3 percent. In the eight wins, he's nailed 74 of 157 shots, for a much-improved 47.1 percent.

Herro is doing so much for Miami right now. On Monday, he took a whopping 11 three-pointers, making four for a tidy if underwhelming 36 percent. He really shone with his floater game, though, and his most difficult shots made the most difference. Brooklyn had few answers for Herro driving into the paint and lofting shots softly into the net: For the night, he unleashed an array of five one-legged floaters, flummoxing a Nets defense that only shut that play down once, via a Royce O'Neale block in the fourth.

Herro also atoned for his foul at the end of regulation with six of Miami's eight points in overtime, courtesy of back-to-back three-pointers, including a leaning bomb with 49 seconds that cut a 95-91 Nets lead to just a point.

Butler would go on to seal the win for Miami with two clutch free throws before a Bridges airball on the potential game-winner, but it was Herro that kept the Heat in the game while Brooklyn scored five quick points to start the free basketball session. Jaquez continues to be a revelation, and Erik Spoelstra's decision to dust the cobwebs off Nikola Jovic has helped add some new dimensions to Miami's game, but the return of Herro, after he missed most of the playoffs, has been the difference. During this last stretch, Herro hasn't just looked like himself, but has looked good enough to make the Heat potential title contenders once again.

Not only is he a ball-handler and shot-maker on a team that desperately needs those around a plethora of one-dimensional role players, but Herro is one of the few Heat players who can singlehandedly turn a game in his team's favor. Call it clutch, call it her(r)o ball, call it whatever you want, but it has been very difficult to deny during his latest stretch of excellence.

A random January game against Brooklyn isn't the same as the NBA Finals, of course. But Herro has been consistently stellar this season when he's been healthy enough to play, and Miami is all the better for it. Would the team be stronger if it had traded him for Damian Lillard or whoever else in the offseason? Maybe, but as far as consolation prizes go, Herro becoming his 2020 playoff self all over again, if not somehow better, is pretty good. Now, if Miami's most annoying player can clean up the rest of his game, and more specifically his mental performance, the Heat might have something special brewing.

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