Miami Heat

Heat’s McRoberts finding other ways to contribute besides scoring

Miami Heat forward Josh McRoberts goes to the basket against Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo during the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Fri., May 13, 2016.
Miami Heat forward Josh McRoberts goes to the basket against Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo during the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Fri., May 13, 2016. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

Heat fans who have been imploring Josh McRoberts to shoot more the past two seasons might be surprised to know that McRoberts said no Heat teammates or coaches have ever told him that.

They also might be surprised by this: McRoberts was sixth among all power forwards in three-point attempts for Charlotte two years ago (105) and seventh in attempts (291).

Conversely, in his two seasons with the Heat, McRoberts had only 201 field-goal attempts combined (twos and threes).

Most of that is a function of reduced playing time, largely the byproduct of knee injuries in each of his first two seasons with the Heat. After appearing in only 59 games combined in his first two years here, McRoberts has become a bigger factor in postseason, with nine appearances in the Heat’s 13 games, including all three games that Hassan Whiteside missed.

The Heat's injured center discussed his sprained right MCL and when he might return following the game on Fri., May 13, 2016.

He entered Game 6 having attempted only 19 shots overall in postseason (making seven) and 0 for 5 on threes. But he has contributed in other ways, including defensively (five steals and five blocks entering Friday).

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said last month that the Heat “always becomes a smarter team” when he’s on the floor. Why so?

“For the center position, he can pass extremely well,” Spoelstra said. “And guys like playing with him. That’s a big compliment. I trust his decision making. He’s not going to be a guy who’s aggressive like Dwyane [Wade]. That’s not his skill set. But he makes the right plays. And he puts pressure on the defense in a different way.”

The Heat outscored Toronto by eight in McRoberts’ seven first-half minutes Friday.

McRoberts has taken 10.8 shots per 48 minutes in his two seasons with the Heat, not substantially different than the 11.5 per 48 in his final season with Charlotte. That figure has dropped to 9.1 in postseason, entering Friday.

“There are certain times I can be more aggressive but for the most part I’m doing what I need to do … to put the ball where it needs to go,” he said.

After making 36.1 percent of his three-point attempts in his final year with the Hornets, he hit only 12 for 49 this season (24.5 percent).

But his playoff defensive metrics have been outstanding. When McRoberts is in the game, opponents have shot only 44.2 percent from less than five feet this postseason, compared with 53.5 percent when Whiteside is in the game. He had a particularly impressive block of Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas in Game 3.

“Physically, I’m not able to do some of the things Whiteside is able to do,” he said. “I’m not intimidating anybody down there, I don’t think. It’s just being in the right spot.”

It would not be surprising if the Heat explores trading McRoberts and the three remaining years of his contract to free up an additional $5.8 million in cap space this summer.

LINEUP MOVES

▪ The Heat played only 12 minutes during the entire regular season without someone on the court who had played considerable minutes at center in his career. But the Heat has played more than twice that amount of minutes in this series without a natural center on the court, including the Game 6 opening lineup that featured Justise Winslow at center.

▪ Spoelstra said there has been no change in Whiteside’s status, six days after he sustained a sprained MCL in his right knee. He continues to be limited to rest and treatment.

▪ Best visual of the Heat’s morning shootaround? Dwyane Wade wearing a “Father Prime” hat, having embraced his newest nickname.

▪ Entering Game 6, Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan was shooting 31.4 percent when guarded by Luol Deng, and 42.6 percent against everyone else.

Deng had two points, eight rebounds and two assists, but fought through pain in his left wrist and played 41 minutes in Game 6 on Fri., May 13, 2016.

▪ Even though local rights-holders aren’t permitted to broadcast games after the first round, Heat TV voice Eric Reid is doing them anyway. At the Heat’s request, he calls every postseason game from the arena, so that his call can be available for Heat postseason video and archival material.

“It’s enjoyable; I’m getting to call these great games,” he said. “We started with the 2005 Heat-Pistons conference finals.”

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