The Miami Heat are back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2014, setting up a date with the No.3 seed Boston Celtics.
While Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic have been the steadying forces throughout the postseason so far, they've been getting solid contributions all the way down the roster, with six players averaging in double figures in their nine playoff games.
The youngest of them and their fourth-leading scorer - 20-year-old rookie Tyler Herro, who has emerged as a key member of their closing lineup, alongside Butler, Dragic, Jae Crowder, and Bam Adebayo - continues to impress in clutch situations, with his dead-eye 3-point shooting, providing not only floor spacing but a willingness to take and make big shots.
Herro has played in 19 of the Heat's 23 clutch minutes in the post-season, shooting 4-of-8 from deep.
In their closeout win against the Bucks in Game 5, Herro showed he is more than just a shooter, recording 14 points, eight rebounds, and six assists, showing just as much confidence whipping passes to teammates as he is pulling up at the top of the key.
He's earned the respect from defenders, who know better than to give him space to get a shot off and he's using that to his advantage with his willingness to attract defenders to find the open man.
THIS PASS 👀#TYLERTUESDAY pic.twitter.com/FK0uUQLDEN- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 9, 2020
He saved his best play for the fourth quarter, getting the tough and-1 left-hand finish to go, stretching the lead to nine points midway through the period.
#TYLERTUESDAY UPDATE:- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 9, 2020
14 Pts | 7 Rebs | 5 Asts | 1 Stl pic.twitter.com/SW7e9p8YsY
"I live for the big moments," Herro said after the game. "I want the big moments. My teammates and coaches trust me, they feed life into me but that's what we work for as players, the big moments. I love being on the big stage."
In Game 4, Herro let his buckets do the talking, scoring nine of the Heat's last 11 points, with his 3-pointer with 29.7 seconds to go in overtime cutting the deficit to one point.
👶🐐 @raf_tyler was built for these moments. pic.twitter.com/BtxClnovZQ- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 6, 2020
He followed that up with another big 3-pointer with 3.0 seconds to, keeping the pressure on the Bucks.
pic.twitter.com/HxQ9As6SRS- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 6, 2020
Herro finished with 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the 3-point line, marking his 15th consecutive game scoring in double-figures for the Heat.
"It's important, you know its nothing new for us, we've seen all season what he can do and he's never afraid of big moments and tonight he proved that," Dragic said of Herro's big shotmaking after Game 4.
"We keep encouraging him to take his shots and to be aggressive."
Time and time again, Herro has delivered down the stretch for the Heat. In Game 1, he knocked down the dagger with 1:33 remaining to extend the Heat's lead to eight points and followed it up in Game 2 with 17 points off the bench.
Soooooo COLD- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 1, 2020
👶🐐 @raf_tyler pic.twitter.com/4GlqOlIdvt
Heat veteran Andre Iguodala had nothing but praise for the young guard's commitment to putting in the work to get him to this point as a valuable playoff contributor, on a recent episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast.
"I saw the work ethic of Tyler Herro and I was like, 'Woah! This kid is different,'" Iguodala said.
"You can see guys who are really talented and you see those kids who just have a knack for just wanting to be really good and you really have a joy in working hard, which is a very rare trait. Especially nowadays with the way that AAU has kind of disrupted the game - kids are not earning it as much as they used to. He is one of those guys who is earning it."
High praise from a 3-time champion and former Finals MVP.
Herro's game has shown considerable growth from the regular season to the playoffs, with his offensive production off the bench a valuable cog in the Heat machine.
After averaging 16.5 points per game in the first round against the Pacers - the most ever by a Heat rookie in a first-round series - he became just the second Heat rookie to average double-digit scoring in the second round, along with Dwyane Wade.
Against the Bucks, he finished with averages of 13.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists, shooting 42.4% from beyond the arc - as the only double-digit scorer off the bench.
The Celtics ranked 14th out of the 16 playoff teams in bench scoring at 18.2 points per game, while the Heat reserves have been putting up 29.7 a game, thanks largely to Herro's production. In a series that sees the starting groups relatively evenly matched, Herro's aggressiveness and scoring off the bench could well be the x-factor to put the Heat over the top.
He might still be a rookie, but he's definitely not playing like one.
As the two teams prepare for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday, don't be surprised if it's Herro once again coming up big down the stretch.
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