Max Strus took the direct flight with the Miami Heat to Milwaukee for Sunday’s playoff opener against the Bucks at Fiserv Forum.
But you hardly could blame the fourth-year wing if he had planned a stop in Secaucus, N.J., home of the NBA’s Replay Center.
Or at least stopped at a shoe store to perhaps look at a small sneaker size.
For the second time in as many postseasons, Strus in Friday night’s play-in victory over the Chicago Bulls saw a successful 3-pointer retroactively rescinded by the NBA Replay Center for apparently having part of his foot on the sideline.
Last season, the stakes were considerably higher when a Strus 3-pointer was rescinded well after the fact for the same reason during the Heat’s Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference finals to the Boston Celtics.
Unlike the 2022 playoffs, when there was a considerable lag before the ruling on Strus’ 3-pointer was recalculated on the scoreboard, Friday’s action was relatively swift, because of what has been termed the Strus Rule, an offseason NBA adjustment requiring quicker such resolution and announcement.
“I don’t know what the deal is,” Strus said of the smile after his latest minus-3. “If I did anything wrong to the NBA offices, I’m sorry. But, yeah, I don’t understand. Whatever. Thank God we won.”
For coach Erik Spoelstra, it was deja ew.
“Everybody said it was the exact same thing,” he said, adding with a smile of Friday’s review, “That replay is wrong.”
Spoelstra paused, then added, “They should have given us that one just for the one last year.”
As it was, Strus had concern of other ire, considering his 31 points on Friday night eliminated his hometown Bulls.
“It’s probably not going to go well,” he said, as he prepared for this series just north of where he was raised. “I just hope when I go back this summer, I don’t get any trouble out there. But I think I should be OK. I think I’ve got some fans out there that have my back.”
Amid an uneven season for Strus, Spoelstra said Friday’s breakout was deserved reward.
“Like a lot of our guys,” Spoelstra said, “he has that grit and that perseverance. His routine never changes, in terms of starting his shooting workouts. Whether we’re on the road, he always meets us there, gets in his routine before we arrive. After practice, before practice, before games, he just stays consistent all the way through.
“And that’s what you can commit to, not having a guarantee of any kind of results. But if you just continue to plug away, you stay with your process, eventually the floodgates can open, particularly if you just stay the course and have that kind of perseverance and grit.”
Strus, 27, will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.
“You’re really happy for guys like Max, when they have to go through a lot of different stuff during an NBA season,” Spoelstra said, with Strus having started and played off the bench this season, having played both major and minimal minutes. “It’s not all roses. But I think it develops some competitive character and I think he’s really grown just overall this season.”
A random draw will be held Monday afternoon by the NBA to break ties for draft position. The Heat will be a part of a three-way draw with the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers (with all three finishing at 44-38) for the Nos. 18, 19 and 20 picks in the June 22 NBA draft.
The Heat own their own first-round selection in this year’s draft. The draft order for the first-round picks between the Heat, Clippers and Warriors, once determined, will be reversed for the order in the second round, but the Heat already have dealt their 2023 second-rounder.
Had the Heat lost Friday’s play-in game to the Bulls, they would have been seeded No. 14 in the May 16 NBA draft Lottery.
Back at it
Although ineligible for the playoffs because he is on a two-way contract, undrafted rookie forward Jamal Cain made the most of the opportunity to travel with the Heat for the postseason by getting a Saturday workout at Marquette University, where he played from 2017 to 2021, before his final collegiate season at Oakland University.
Undrafted rookie center Orlando Robinson, the Heat’s other two-way player, also made the trip, as did rookie forward Nikola Jovic, who remains sidelined by back spasms.