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Typically, an NBA team has a sense of identity and direction by the time it hits its 20th game. For the Miami Heat, that 20th game comes Friday night.

But this has been such an atypical season that coach Erik Spoelstra not only is reserving judgment, he practically is tabling any such deliberation in favor of simply trying to make it through this extended rough patch of injuries and absences.

“I don’t think we’re going to get that indication for a while,” he said, with his team to host the Washington Wizards on Friday night in a rematch of Wednesday night’s 113-105 home victory, a win that lifted the Heat to 8-11.

So far this season, the Heat have opened with their projected starting lineup of Bam Adebayo, Caleb Martin, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry seven times and not once since Nov. 1.

The blueprint for that lineup effectively has been put in mothballs for a month.

“I felt like I spent all of July and August and September with that,” Spoelstra said, “a full coaching retreat, all that. And we’re not even in that.

“I’m at a point right now, we’ll get to that when we get to that. We’ve already spent three months of prep on that. That’ll be a good, high-class problem when we get to that. And when we get fully healthy, our depth, what we said, would be a major strength.”

Instead, there already have been eight lineups, including five in the past six games, with eight players starting at least one game.

“Right now,” Spoelstra said, “it’s just about who’s available, what do we have to do to function and play close to our identity, which we’re seeing more.”

While the Heat’s primary starting lineup stands with a 3-4 record, Lowry said he believes it can now hit the ground running, with the team’s ancillary pieces having grown in the interim.

“I think we understand what we are as a group when we get everyone together,” he said. “I think guys missing time and guys being able to fill in and step up, it gives everyone a sense of confidence to know what they can get to, and then you mesh it back together.

“I think with this time, and everyone’s getting healthy at the right time, we’re hitting our bad Juju right now. But when it gets right, I think we’ll all come together and be very cohesive.”

Unless Wednesday proves to be the start of a four-game winning streak, the Heat will exit November with a losing record. But Spoelstra said there is a sense of better days ahead.

“Every team’s going to go through it,” Spoelstra said, “and you have to collectively go through some tough times and hopefully come out better from it. I think we are coming out better from it. I see more consistent basketball for longer stretches to our identity.”

Vincent ailing

Although Gabe Vincent made it back Wednesday after missing the previous three games with a swollen left knee, Spoelstra said issues remain with the backup point guard.

“Gabe didn’t have great mobility. I had to take him out,” Spoelstra said, with Vincent limited to 18:56 Wednesday, even with Lowry in foul trouble. “I played a bunch of guys, makeshift ballhandlers getting us into offense.”

Herro’s return

Also back Wednesday was guard Tyler Herro, who missed the previous eight games with a sprained right ankle. Herro closed with 17 points, 5 of 10 on 3-pointers.

Herro said the 3-pointers were a priority, with Max Strus (shoulder) and Duncan Robinson (ankle) out.

“I had a goal of getting up 10 threes, so I got my 10,” he said. “That was the goal, without Max and Duncan, someone’s got to be able to shoot the threes. So I just wanted to stretch the floor a little bit, get some three and try to catch a rhythm.”

Herro was 4 of 7 on 3-pointers in the decisive fourth quarter, matching his career high for fourth-quarter 3-pointers.

“Tyler came alive,” Spoelstra said.

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Michael Badgley Deservingly Earns Praise for Steadying Lions at Kicker

Getty Michael Badgley celebrates a made field goal for the Lions in 2022.

The Detroit Lions have enjoyed a solid rebound season from plenty of players, but quite possibly the best has quietly come from kicker Michael Badgley.

After the Lions had kicking problems which were looking destined to doom them midseason, all Badgley did was come into the fray and stabilize things from the moment he hit the team. Outside of one rare miss on Thanksgiving Day, Badgley has been fantastic.

During the game in Week 13, Badgley had arguably his best game as a member of the Lions if not his best in the NFL the last handful of seasons. The kicker was 4-4 in the game, and also a perfect 4-4 on extra points. He collected 16 total points on the day.

Michael Badgley was straight ???? yesterday pic.twitter.com/sI1YgNrRwx

— Detroit Lions (@Lions) December 5, 2022

With this in mind, Badgley did outscore the Jacksonville Jaguars, who only put up 14 points. It’s no small feat for a kicker to outscore any NFL team, so for him to pull this off was about as rare as the Lions not punting in the game.

Kicking has quietly been a huge problem in Detroit since the team let Matt Prater go a few years back, but Badgley has put all of that behind the team since he has joined. Ever since signing with Detroit, Badgley has gone 11-12 with a long kick of 53 yards. He has also been perfect on extra points.

Going back to the days of Eddie Murray and Jason Hanson up to Prater, kickers have always held a special place in Detroit’s heart. It’s more than possible that Badgley has become the newest member of that club by being very good very quickly.

On a team that is rolling, it would be easy to lose sight of how good Badgley has been, but it’s important to give the kicker credit for his role in the team’s resurgence. No longer has kicking been the problem it was when Detroit was losing.

Dan Campbell Has Faith in Badgley

It’s clear that Badgley has been doing a great job for the Lions, and as a result, he has earned the faith of his head coach.

After Detroit’s big win on Sunday, December 4, Dan Campbell had a lot to say about all members of the team who excelled. When he was asked about the kicking game, Campbell was very open in his praise of Badgley, whom he says has earned the faith of the team with some good work thus far.

"I've got a lot of faith in him."

-Dan Campbell on Michael Badgley pic.twitter.com/nWRE6NFxMV

— Detroit Lions (@Lions) December 4, 2022

“He’s kicking it well. Once again came through big for us. I do, I got a lot of faith in him. He’s earned that,” Campbell told the media after the win.

A coaching staff needs to have faith in their kicker in order for that player to have success, and Badgley has the full confidence of everyone in the locker room. Don’t be surprised if he continues to get it done for the team as a result of this.

Hanson: Badgley ‘Really Good Kicker’ for Lions

In terms of Hanson, being a former kicker allows him to have a good opinion of what’s going on with the team at the position. As he explained, what he sees in Badgley is a really good player at his former spot on the field.

Speaking to DetroitLions.com reporter Dannie Rogers and analyst Lomas Brown on the postgame show, Hanson explained what he watched when he was at the game against Jacksonville. He said he saw a player that was the quiet MVP of the day given the timelines of Badgley’s boots.

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“It was huge, right? Every field goal that he made kept momentum. It didn’t switch. It didn’t give them (the) opportunity. I mean with the score line being what it was, it may seem like it wasn’t important, but it was huge what he did. He made everything, so the Lions have a really good kicker,” Hanson said.

As he said, it was also impressive to see Badgley respond well after the short miss both this week and last week. That points to a player in a good frame of mind.

“He’s really good. He’s been money. Last week he missed the short one, but then bombed the 51. That really says something. Then to do what he did (Sunday), yeah. It’s key to them (and) their success,” Hanson explained.

No matter whether it’s Campbell, Hanson or simply those on the outside, it’s becoming clear the Lions may have found a keeper in the man dubbed Money Badger.

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