While much of the focus on yesterday’s matchup between the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets focused on Victor Oladipo’s return to the court after an 11-month layoff, the Heat also received a boost from Kyle Lowry.
The veteran point guard rejoined the rotation after a four-game absence. On the surface, Lowry probably seemed somewhat invisible for most of the contest. Yet, his impact is evident in how his presence rubs off on his teammates.
Lowry does all the little things. He sets off-ball screens and draws charges. He creates deflections in the passing lanes and cuts off straight-line drives. Although the six-time All-Star can score the ball, he does not need to get his shots to make an impact.
Indeed, the subtleties of Lowry’s game shined through against the Rockets, and they’re what make him an invaluable piece to Miami’s championship puzzle.
Kyle Lowry did not score but had the second-highest plus-minus in the Heat’s win over the Rockets
Lowry started and played an even 32 minutes in Miami’s 123-106 win over the Rockets. He did not score a single point.
The 35-year-old hardly felt obliged to shoot the rock. Lowry attempted just three field goals, all of which were three-pointers. He barely spent any time on the ball. Still, while Lowry did not get on the score sheet, he was a net positive player for the Heat.
Lowry finished the contest with the second-highest plus-minus (+16) of any player to enter the game. He was just behind Tyler Herro, who scored 31 points off the bench.
The Philly native had five assists, routinely making the extra pass and claiming responsibility for the dime leading to Victor Oladipo’s first bucket in nearly a calendar year. Lowry’s presence as another floor-spacer and ball-handler seemed to make things easier on Jimmy Butler, who responded to a recent shooting slump by scoring 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 7-of-9 from the free-throw line.
Lowry infuses the Heat with added moxie. He’s having an incredibly underrated season in South Beach.
Lowry quietly doing it all for Miami
Kyle Lowry has been a very workmanlike player for the Heat this season. His numbers are far from staggering, yet he’s very clearly a winning player.
Through 49 appearances, Lowry is averaging 13.1 points, 7.8 assists, and 4.6 rebounds. He is tied for third on the team in win shares (4.5) and ranks solo third in value over replacement player behind Butler and Bam Adebayo.
The on-court splits are more telling. Miami outscores opponents by 6.3 points per 100 possessions with Lowry on the floor. The Heat have a higher effective field goal percentage and assist rate with him running the point, reflecting how calmly he orchestrates the offense. His presence also yields a higher opponent turnover percentage.
Lowry can run a two-man game with Adebayo in pick-and-roll. He can cede ball-handling responsibilities to Herro and Butler. That versatility, playmaking, unselfishness, and toughness on both ends of the floor are all invaluable to the Heat and validate Miami investing so much in him this summer, despite his age.
Now, can Lowry and the Heat stay healthy down the stretch?
The Heat are building momentum but must stay healthy
Miami has won 12 of its last 14 games to widen the gap at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. The Heat now find themselves three games ahead of the No. 2-seeded Philadelphia 76ers.
Lowry and Co. figure to stay atop the East, pending they remain healthy.
The Heat are as balanced as any team in basketball, ranking seventh in offensive rating and sixth in defensive rating. They share the ball, shoot it well from the perimeter (first in three-point percentage), and take care of the rock. Miami also harasses opponents with blitz doubles on the defensive end and forces tons of turnovers.
Still, health is a factor.
Lowry, Butler, and Adebayo have missed a combined 62 games this season. Miami’s depth helped the team navigate the storm, but the Heat can ill afford physical setbacks at this time of year.
Erik Spoelstra’s team will stay the course. Meanwhile, Lowry figures to keep plugging holes and providing the Heat with whatever they need from him in pursuit of a championship.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.