The most interesting stretch of basketball of the Heats first month of the season happened in the closing minutes of the last quarter of the final game.
After watching his team blow a 20-point lead Friday to the Raptors, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra inserted Michael Beasley into a close game in crunch time for his defense.
Beasley scored 11 points in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, but on Friday didnt take a single shot in the final five minutes against the Raptors. Instead, Beasley subbed in and secured two defensive rebounds while in support of fellow closer LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers.
With Beasley playing the role of defensive stopper, the Raptors scored four points in the final minutes of the game, and the Heat got out of Toronto with a victory despite scoring just 33 points in the second half and 12 points in the fourth quarter.
He can have a significant role for us, Spoelstra said on Friday, offering publicly his strongest show of support for Beasley since he was signed this summer. That role may be limited minutes, but it can be a significant role. It could be bigger minutes. We have a whole season to figure that out.
Based on Beasleys inconsistent minutes, its clear Spoelstra still hasnt figured out exactly how to fit the versatile forward into the rotation, but the most important thing for the Heat is that the Beasley experiment is working. James had one of the most efficient months of his career to begin the season and the Heat can improve its winning streak to 10 games Sunday, but the biggest development of November for the back-to-back champs was the emergence of Beasley.
He probably would have more minutes, more opportunities, more shots on another team, Spoelstra said. Thats not the case here. Sometimes hes our 10th man, so when he comes in, its too provide energy, to defend, to rebound.
He has been rebounding very well much like he did when he came into this league. What people expected out of him. The skill of scoring now is coming more within the context of what we do. As long as he keeps in embracing the work, I think hell see bigger and more consistent strides.
So, this is the new Beasley, apparently. He has done a little bit of everything for the Heat since breaking into the lineup full-time seven games into the season and on Sunday he might play still a different role. James aggravated his lower back against the Raptors, and if he sits out against the Bobcats its conceivable Beasley could be plugged into he starting lineup.
Beasley is the Heats latest glue guy. Who knew?
Its a small sample size, but Beasley is playing just as good if not better in his second stint with the Heat than perhaps he ever did in his first few seasons with the team. And the most dumbfounding thing of all, of course, is that the Phoenix Suns are essentially sponsoring Beasleys resurrection.
The Heat dumped Beasley for next to nothing to make room for James and Bosh, and now Beasley is back and playing for a nonguaranteed contract at the veterans minimum. Meanwhile, the Suns are paying Beasley $7 million.
Ever season since 2011, the Heat has improved its depth beyond its starters and Beasley has added yet another valuable set of skills to the mix. He is averaging 19.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per 36 minutes, according to basketball-reference.com.
Michael has an unlimited skill set. He really does, Spoelstra said. He can score and find the basket virtually from anywhere on the court. Our system now is different. Obviously our personnel is different than when we had him the first two years, but in terms of the routine and the structure and the work ethic, its identical. So, he has embraced that work every single day. He is more experienced now and he is embracing the opportunities that he gets.