The Philadelphia 76ers tied their semifinals series 2-2 with the Miami Heat on Sunday night, defeating them 116-108. The momentum in this series has completely swung in Philly’s favor, and it’s no mystery why. Joel Embiid’s return, coupled with Miami missing 51 threes in the last two games, has made this a series. One aspect of the matchup, however that is a mystery, is the disappearance of Duncan Robinson from the Heat’s rotation.
Robinson hasn’t been great lately. Sure, it sounds simple enough. But Robinson was never a “great player.” However, he’s been a good role player who can hit timely shots. In Game 1 of the Heat’s first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, Robinson scored 27 points, hitting eight of nine threes. Since then, his minutes have diminished to the point where against the Sixers, Robinson’s barely taken off his warm up gear. Talk about a swift fall.
In that big Game 1 against the Hawks, Robinson played 23 minutes. He never eclipsed 15 minutes again in that series. Through four games of this series against Philly, Duncan’s played a whopping 55 seconds, which came during Game 2 in garbage time. That isn’t even enough time to get a good sweat on the court. It’s one thing to be in the doghouse, but this is ridiculous. And let’s not forget, Robinson signed a five-year, $90 million deal last summer. Less than a year later, he’s getting no playing time in the postseason.
The way the Heat have struggled shooting the ball in consecutive games would lead one to think we might be seeing Robinson soon. But in a tight Game 4 where only Jimmy Butler could seemingly get a bucket, Robinson never came close to entering the game. Toward the end of the fourth quarter, Robinson was shown on the sideline still wearing his white long-sleeved Heat shirt over his uniform. I kept thinking, “These guys can’t hit a three, so Erik Spoelstra might as well throw him out there.” But it never happened.
Miami has a roster capable of going nine deep in a game. But in the postseason, many coaches shorten their rotations. Yet for the Heat, most of the players who are taking those minutes that had previously gone to Robinson aren’t exactly showing out. Victor Oladipo returned to the team in March, but he’s been inconsistent, at best, during these playoffs. Max Strus played 30 minutes in Game 4 and scored six points. Kyle Lowry can’t seem to stay healthy and looks out of shape altogether.
Gabe Vincent has played 25 minutes over the last two games and scored two-points total.
It’s mind-boggling to watch Robinson not even get an opportunity. The Heat couldn’t hit the ocean from South Beach in games three and four. I know Duncan isn’t a star, but coach Spo and the Heat need a spark right now, and I wouldn’t care where it came from. Miami led this series 2-0, and now it’s tied, and it looks like Butler is the only player putting up a fight.
I know coaches don’t like forming their rotations based on how much money players make. But when you’ve got a $90 million guy riding the bench, and your team is in a shooting slump, it might be time to go against your own philosophy. Robinson shot 37.2% from behind the arc in the regular season. Miami could’ve used that in the last two games, where they shot a combined 21.5%.
Robinson isn’t going to win this series alone for the Heat, but for him to be entirely out of their rotation is absurd. Game 5 is Wednesday, and it’s a must-win for Miami. Robinson’s reps even chimed in on Twitter today, posting about a game during the 2020 NBA Finals where their client made seven 3-pointers. Hopefully, for Robinson, Spoelstra sees this and takes the hint. Put Duncan in and see if he can get loose. After all this, I have a feeling we’ll see Robinson in Game 5 back in Miami. The Heat don’t have much else to lose after missing 51 threes in two games.