Examining Butler’s threes, Adebayo/Herro connection, Rozier. And Heat to waive Hampton

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Seven-game losing streaks tend to spawn sobering subplots.

For the Heat, victories in four of the past five games served to essentially replace those depressing, ominous narratives with more sanguine storylines.

Instead of debating whether this Heat core has run its course, or whether the days of contention are over, the focus has shifted to what has gone right during the Heat’s best stretch of basketball since the calendar turned to 2024.

Among the encouraging developments, as Miami looks ahead to Sunday’s game against Boston at Kaseya Center (2 p.m., ABC):

An assertive Jimmy Butler who can torment teams not only in the post and mid-range, but better than ever before from distance.

Butler has relentlessly attacked the basket at times - and repeatedly gone to the line - during this strong recent stretch. The twist is that he also has sprinkled in a decent share of three-pointers.

His 10 games in a row with a three-pointer is a career high. And he’s shooting them efficiently: 18 for his last 31.

For the season, he’s now shooting 44 percent on threes (37 for 84). That’s not only well above his 32.8 career average but would rank 10th best in the league if he had enough attempts to qualify.

Butler said the goal now is to shoot 50 percent on threes: “I got to take them with confidence as I have been doing. But at the same time, I’ve still got to attack the paint. I have to be who I am, who this squad needs me to be. When I’m open, take them. I think everybody wants me to shoot more, honestly. I’m not going for that, though. I’m still going to run in there and hit people.”

His 37 threes are the most that he has made as a member of the Heat and his most since hitting 50 threes for Minnesota and Philadelphia in 2018-19.

Another level of Tyler Herro-to-Bam Adebayo connectivity.

Over the past six games that they have played together, 17 of Herro’s 31 assists have been on baskets by Adebayo, many of them dunks. Terry Rozier has the second most assists to Adebayo during that stretch (10).

So what has led to that? “Watching film, diving into that and repetition in practice, shootarounds and communication,” Adebayo said.

Herro also cites running more of the actions that lead to easy baskets between the two. They’ve been dynamic in pick-and-roll.

“We got away from it for a little bit and that’s not smart, I don’t think,” Herro said. “Getting back to it the last week or so has been good for us. We need to keep getting to that more and more.”

Erik Spoelstra said he “commends” Adebayo and Herro for “working at it. Every time we get together for shootarounds and practices, they’re talking about how they can manipulate the defense.

“You have to have a lot of versatility, a lot of different actions you can get to. You need firepower to score against the best defenses. They worked intentionally on building that collaboration between the two of them the past two or three years. Now they know they have to lean on each other and generate the best shots for the team.”

Promising signs from a Herro/Terry Rozier backcourt, even as Rozier remains mostly off with his jump shot.

Though Rozier is shooting 35.7 percent overall and 25.6 percent on three-pointers in his nine games with the Heat, he has 50 assists, compared with just 11 turnovers, and eight steals.

“He’s been able to play fast,” Herro said. “Getting the ball out in transition, getting it up the court.”

Spoelstra remains intrigued by the possibilities.

“You see the speed, quickness and skill they each have, the two man actions, the drive and kicks, the split screens, the screens,” he said. “I want [Rozier] to play with a great motor and everyone to match that.”

Though Miami is a minus eight with Herro and Rozier on the court together, the lineups with those two have shot well, including 41.8 percent on threes. They’ve played more in tandem the past two games after Spoelstra tinkered with his rotation.

Rozier had his first non-game day practice with the team on Friday. The value was “actually going over the plays,” he said. “Not like when we call the play in the game and somebody got to tell me where to go. With time, it will get better. Happy we got to get up and down today.”

Rozier -- who’s averaging 12.6 points and taking 12.4 shots per game in Miami compared with 23.2 points and 18.3 field goal attempts earlier this season in Charlotte -- said he’s “trying to see how I can assert myself. I always want to be aggressive.. but obviously I’m playing with two All Stars. These guys have done a great job making me feel more comfortable.”

A sense of comfortability with Caleb Martin’s return to the starting lineup this week.

Keep in mind that Martin started the 19-point vanquishing of the Celtics in Game 7 of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals in Boston, Miami’s most significant win since the start of 2021. Martin had 26 points and 12 rebounds in that game.

“He gives you the motor, quickness, speed on both ends of the court [and] competitive toughness,” Spoelstra said.

Most of Martin’s career numbers are better as a starter than as a reserve. He’s a 38 percent career three-point shooter as a starter, 34.5 percent as a reserve.

This season, Miami is 9-5 when Martin starts, and the Heat has outscored the opponent by 23 points when Martin was on the court in the games that he started.

“Everyone knows Caleb’s energy that he brings on both sides,” Herro said. “He’s a Swiss Army knife on defense. And him being that fifth guy in the starting five, [he] can really attack off catches.”

NEWS NOTES

The Heat is releasing guard R.J. Hampton from his two-way contract, according to a source. Guards Jamaree Bouyea and Alondes Williams have been among the possibilities discussed to fill that third two-way slot. [UPDATE: The Heat signed WIlliams to a two-way contract on Friday evening.]

The other two players on Heat two-way contracts are Jamal Cain and Cole Swider. Miami also can add another player on a standard contract if it chooses.

After returning from a preseason knee injury, Hampton appeared in eight games for the Heat and started twice, while spending the remainder of his time with the Heat’s G-League team in Sioux Falls, South Dakoka.

In his NBA appearances this season, he averaged 1.3 points, shooting 4 for 14 from the field and 1 for 8 on three-pointers in 76 minutes, with eight assists and three turnovers.

▪Butler missed Friday’s practice for personal reasons.

▪ Rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr., on being named a participant in next weekend’s Slam Dunk contest as part of All Star weekend: “Excited... I heard adrenaline for the dunk contest is unlike anything people have ever felt. At least that’s what they’re telling me. I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve.”

He said he’s no longer bothered by a groin injury that sidelined him recently. “It’s something we’re still monitoring, but I’m 100 percent. Not worried about that.”