During a 2017 interview with ESPN’s Mike Schmitz, Tyler Herro, just 17 years old at the time, offered what may as well have been the objective statement on his basketball resume.
“I like having the ball in my hands. Like I said, I can make plays for others, but I can fill it up pretty well,” Herro said. ”Having the ball is how you score, so I like having it in my hands.”
The short version: Tyler Herro will get buckets for your team, as he proved once again in Wednesday night’s Eastern Conference finals contest.
Herro hopped off the bench and poured in a career-high 37 points in the Heat’s 112-109 Game 4 win over the Celtics, helping give Miami a commanding 3-1 series lead. Amid a sea of sloppy sequences from both teams, the rookie guard swam out of the current and delivered what could be the first of many star-level playoff performances.
The 20-year-old shot 14-of-21 from the field and 5-of-10 from 3-point range, scoring his 37 points — 17 of which came in the fourth quarter — in a variety of ways.
He attacked off the dribble and finished at the rim.
He pulled up from deep against multiple Celtics, including All-Defensive First Team member Marcus Smart.
And while he likes having the ball in his hands, Herro looked pretty comfortable finding opportunities without it.
“I think once you see a couple shots go down, and when you’re getting shots in rhythm, the game flows,” Herro said. “I know where I’m gonna get my shots. I’m gonna get the same shots next game in the same spots, and it’s just about making them and trying to get a rhythm going early. Like I said, once you see a couple shots go down, the rest of the game is easier for you. Tonight was definitely a good night.”
In hitting his point total, Herro broke the previous Heat postseason rookie record set by Dwyane Wade (27) and nearly passed Magic Johnson (42) for most points scored in a playoff game by a player at age 20 or younger. That’s incredible company, but ask anyone around the Heat, and this isn’t a surprise.
- Erik Spoelstra: “At this point, we’re past that. He’s not a rookie anymore.”
- Jimmy Butler: “For him, it’s another day at the office. … He’s been doing it all year long.”
- Bam Adebayo: “I haven’t been surprised because I knew what the kid could do.”
- Goran Dragic: “We believe in him. Everybody believes. That’s why we’re not afraid to put the ball in his hands.”
What makes Herro so special already is that he can still shred nets like he did as a teenager in high school and at Kentucky, but he can also impact the game in other ways. Through four games against the Celtics, he is averaging 20.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. As he noted after Game 4, he may not be the top offensive option every night, but he knows how to make winning plays.
“Are you watching him defend? Are you watching him rebound? He’s doing other things besides shooting,” Kentucky coach John Calipari recently told Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy. “He’s playing the most fourth-quarter minutes on the Miami Heat. Tell me why a coach would play him that many minutes? Doesn’t hurt him defensively, he’ll go get a rebound, he’ll make a play. He’s not afraid to be out there.”
The Heat are understandably focused on what’s right in front of them. Herro told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that “there’s a lot of work to be done.” The Celtics won’t go down without a fight.
Still, it’s hard not to be excited about Herro’s future because he has shown what he can do under the bright lights in Year 1.
Herro made his name as a guy who could “fill it up.” He’s doing just that at the highest level. What happens when he figures out everything else?