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NBA playoffs: Tyler Herro is the hero as Heat top Celtics

Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro takes a shot as Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart defends.
Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro takes a shot as Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart, right, defends during the first half Wednesday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The moment the ball leaves his hands and arcs through the basket, the video boards inside the NBA bubble show Tyler Herro ripping away a dress shirt and tie to reveal his superhero costume — the No. 14 jersey the Miami Heat gave him when they took him No. 13 overall in the NBA draft 15 months ago.

“I think I’m going to surprise a lot of people,” Herro said on draft night.

The Heat loved what they had in Herro from the beginning — Miami coach Erik Spoelstra started him in his very first game — but even in their wildest dreams, this moment, these shots, this kind of play from someone so young would’ve seemed impossible.

But the work, the sweat equity, the grind that happens when the stage isn’t lit, when the attention isn’t being paid, it has everyone in organization believing.

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“I’m just going to bet on myself. I’ve been doing it my whole life,” Herro said. “That’s what I do.”

Kawhi Leonard said he’d see reporters in March, Adam Silver said the new season will likely start no earlier than January. Nobody knows, and here’s why.

Herro scored 37 points — the most by a rookie in a conference finals game — making 14 of 21 from the field including five of 10 from deep to get the Heat one game away from a spot in the NBA Finals with a 112-109 win.

“Once you see a couple shots go down and you’re getting shots in rhythm, the game flows,” he said.

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Herro was hardly alone Wednesday — that’s the beauty in this Heat team, their balance and selflessness.

Goran Dragic, the former All-Star who plays with a bulky brace hidden under a compression sleeve on his right leg, scored 22 including a very socially distanced three-pointer in the fourth to help kick Boston right in the gut. Bam Adebayo, the ascending All-Star, had his third straight game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

And Jimmy Butler iced the game at the free-throw line late, putting the Celtics on the brink of elimination.

The Heat also excel at the little things — assuming they close out Boston in the next three games, you’ll hear the word “culture” a lot during the Finals.

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Wednesday, it was an Andre Iguodala pass that ripped through the defense to start a fastbreak, a Duncan Robinson offensive rebound to keep a possession alive and a Jae Crowder deflection. Spoelstra has repeatedly talked about his players valuing winning above else.

And those contributions embody that.

“You just have to figure it out and find a way to grind a win,” Spoelstra said.

But Wednesday, with the rims tighter than your first suit, the Heat needed a scorer, a walking bucket with outsized confidence and kerosene flowing through his veins.

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“He’s not a rookie anymore,” Spoelstra said. “We need his skill set.”

They needed his shot-making, fending off Boston’s desperate pushes to even the series with a deep three-pointer or a deftly crafted drive and scoop, the kind of finish a young player like him shouldn’t have in his tool chest.

“I think the biggest thing for me is to try and impact winning,” Herro said.

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Spoelstra half-joked that the Heat would spend the time between Game 4 and Game 5 crushing Herro to bring him back to earth after breaking out Wednesday. The truth is they don’t need to: Even as Herro sat and answered questions about the best game in his young career, he made sure to push credit to Adebayo, Dragic and Butler.

“For him it’s another day at the office,” Butler said. “He just plays with so much confidence. He’s been doing it all year long.”

As he walked off the court, Heat owners and executives, including Pat Riley, stood and pointed down at the rookie, the one who heard his name after 12 others.

“I grew up with the ball in my hands,” Herro said.

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And now the Heat have their future in theirs.


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