Butler, Warren get anticipated rematch as Heat face Pacers
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The Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers, tied for fourth place in the Eastern Conference at 43-27, will meet on Monday night near Orlando.
Since the NBA's restart began, the Pacers have matched the Toronto Raptors as the best team in the Eastern Conference with identical 4-1 records. Indiana wing player T.J. Warren is the league's top scorer in the restart, averaging an impressive 34.8 points on 60.5 percent shooting from the floor and 55.6 percent shot-making on three-pointers.
"He's on a different planet right now," Pacers teammate Victor Oladipo said. "I don't need to encourage him. He's going to put the ball in the rim regardless of who is out there."
The last time the Pacers and Heat played was Jan. 8, a 122-108 Miami victory. Warren and Heat star Jimmy Butler got into a verbal skirmish during that game. Warren, held to three points in 23 minutes, was ejected, and Butler blew him kisses as the Pacers now breakout star exited the court.
Ironically, Butler has missed the past three games due to a sore right foot, although he is expected to return against Indiana. Butler, a five-time All-Star, leads Miami in scoring, assists and steals.
The Heat have dropped two straight games and fell Saturday to the Phoenix Suns, who at 5-0 in the restart are even hotter than the Pacers.
The Heat were without three of their top four scorers against Phoenix: Butler, Goran Dragic (sprained left ankle) and Kendrick Nunn (Covid-19 quarantine).
Dragic, like Butler, is expected to return for Indiana. Nunn, who left the bubble for personal reasons, will miss the Pacers game because he needs to quarantine for at least four days.
"We want to get healthy," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Our No. 1 priority is getting ready for the playoffs."
One trend to watch for the Heat is the rise of 20-year-old guard Tyler Herro, the former Kentucky Wildcats star and Miami's No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft. With Nunn out against the Suns, Herro -- known primarily as a shooter -- earned just his seventh start of the season and showed a surprising amount of all-around skills.
Herro had 25 points, a career-high 10 assists and eight rebounds.
"I've been working really hard with the ball in my hands," said Herro, the 13th overall selection in the 2019. "I'm still young. I'm learning a lot, and my teammates are trusting me more."
Despite the loss to the Suns, Saturday brought some good news to the Heat as Nunn was named one of three finalists for NBA Rookie of the Year. In addition, Heat center Bam Adebayo was named one of three finalists for the NBA's Most Improved Player award.
Meanwhile, the Pacers beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 116-111, on Saturday night, holding superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis to a combined 39 points in 70 minutes.
In that same game, Warren scored 39 points in 37 minutes, making 15-of-22 shots from the floor, including 5-of-8 on three-pointers. He also went 4-for-4 on free throws and had one assist.
Hey, who needs multiple assists when you are shooting like Warren?
"I'm in a groove," Warren said. "During the time off, I stayed locked in and in love with the game."
Warren said he is meditating more, so maybe that's the reason for his offensive explosions. In his first game in the Orlando bubble Warren scored 53 points against the Philadelphia 76ers, and he's been rolling since.
But it's not like he wasn't a competent scorer before the relocation to the bubble. He is averaging 19.9 points this season, and averaged 19.6 points per game in 2017-2018.
"He's taking shots he can make," said Pacers coach Nate McMillan, keeping it simple. 'He's not forcing anything."
--Field Level Media
Updated August 10, 2020