Analysis of Friday night’s Miami Heat-Portland Trail Blazers

MIAMI — Observations and other notes of interest from Friday night’s 152-82 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers:

– This wing thing is getting interesting.

– For reasons beyond the question of what happens when Tyler Herro returns.

– Because Haywood Highsmith is on the rise.

– As Jamie Jaquez Jr. levels off.

– And as Caleb Martin remains somewhat uneven amid a variety of ailments.

– The suggestion of Highsmith over Jaquez in the playoff rotation would have seemed folly earlier this season.

– But Highsmith continues to change that calculus.

– Yes, he’s more limited than Jaquez.

– More of a 3-and-D.

– But if the 3s are falling like this?

– It could leave Erik Spoelstra with some interesting choices.

– Beyond how a Herro return will impact the rotation.

– Potentially even beyond whether Martin starts in the postseason at power forward over Nikola Jovic.

– Highsmith has put his name into the mix.

– No longer to be discounted.

– With Jimmy Butler back from his one-game absence due to illness, the Heat opened with Butler, Bam Adebayo, Jovic, Terry Rozier and Patty Mills.

– It was Mills’ fifth start with the Heat.

– As he continues as a placeholder for sidelined Herro and Duncan Robinson.

– Martin, whose status had been in question prior to the game due to ankle soreness, was first off the Heat bench.

– Jaquez followed.

– From there, it was Thomas Bryant as the Heat’s first big man off the bench.

– And not Kevin Love, who had been cleared earlier in the day to return from his heel bruise.

– Spoelstra said that with Love missing time the previous two days for a personal reason, the veteran big man might not be rushed back into a rotation role.

– As for Love being available, Spoelstra said, “I think it also has been important for our team to develop other connectors. We like to say that we need leadership at all levels. And it may look different for other guys. It might be smaller pockets of opportunity to lead, depending on who the player is.”

– Spoelstra added, “While Kevin was out, Thomas really stepped up and provided really quality minutes, and that’s been really encouraging to see. Niko also has developed into more opportunities, not only starting in the frontcourt with Bam, but playing some of these games as out reserve five for pockets of the game. And that’s been good for us, as well.”

– On Love, Spoelstra said, “He makes our best players better, because of experience and spacing. As we know he’s a fantastic rebounder. But that experience is something that has really helped our group.”

– Highsmith then entered to make it nine deep for the Heat.

– With Delon Wright making it 10 deep.

– Of what matters most at the moment, Spoelstra said pregame, “This far into the season, we know what our identity is. That has nothing to do with who’s available, who’s not available. It’s about getting to that identity more consistently. When we do that, we put ourselves in a much better position to win basketball games.”

– Butler’s third defensive rebound was the 3,000th of his career.

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