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Defense has fueled Heat turnaround. But here’s what changed about the offense that matters

Defense has been the catalyst for this Heat turnaround that has rescued Miami from a seven-game losing skid and triggered a stretch of six wins in eight games.

And let’s be clear about that; Miami has allowed the league’s fewest points per 100 possessions over these last eight games, a pattern the Heat hopes will continue when it begins its post All Star break schedule on Friday in New Orleans (8 p.m., Sun Sports).

But this much also is true: While the overall offensive numbers are hardly scintillating during this eight game stretch –-- Miami ranks 22nd in the league in points per possession during that time and 24th for the season --- enough right is happening on that end of the court to make a difference.

Among those positive developments on that side of the floor:

Responsible ball-handling and deft passing.

Miami has averaged 28.5 assists per game during this stretch, which would rank seventh in the league for the entire season.

Just as significantly, Miami is averaging just 11.3 turnovers per game over this 6-2 stretch, which would rank No. 1 in the league for the entire season.

Beyond that, the connectivity among the players on passes -- the anticipation of cuts to the basket for layups and alley oops -- has been at an elite level at times during the past two weeks.

Tyler Herro has delivered more than a dozen passes to Adebayo for dunks or layups. Duncan Robinson began the 76ers game with two precise passes to Adebayo for dunks.

In one two-minute stretch against Philadelphia, Jaime Jaquez Jr. had three layups by cutting to the basket and catching two splendid passes from Herro and one from Adebayo.

There is a synchronization to the Heat’s passing that has taken an appreciable jump in recent weeks.

“It’s tough to guard the shooting, the movement, the spacing. And Duncan and I are definitely good together,” Herro said when asked about their pairing, while making a point about how Adebayo’s presence in those actions also makes a big difference.

Erik Spoelstra noted it’s no coincidence that the Heat is 11-1 when it has 30 or more assists.

“We’ve been enjoying playing with each other, finding a rhythm in that sense,” Robinson said. “Offense for us is just about building and finding that connection. We have the talent and schemes to do anything we want. It’s about playing together and playing the right way.”

Miami has shot only 34.2 percent on threes during these eight games, but there have been several timely threes. And overall, Miami is shooting 47.2 percent from the field in these eight games.

Robinson is simmering.

He’s shooting 14 for 23 on threes in his past three games, which producing 15, 23 and 20 points over those games.

He has 13 assists in the past five games, most on impressive passes, and Miami has outscored teams by 48 points when he’s on the floor over those games.

“Whenever Duncan Robinson is on the floor for us, our offense finds a way to look better, feel better,” Spoelstra said. “When you need him to make a big play, he’s got a knack to be able to do that.

“He’s been fantastic with his shooting, his movement, creating overreactions. He basically has been doing it all. Defensively, he’s been so disciplined and detailed whether in the man or zone. He’s been making great progress there.”

Adebayo was equally effusive.

“Duncan is playing through the roof,... playing out of his mind,” Adebayo said after last week. “He’s being himself like I’ve always wanted him to do. I’m happy for Duncan because it’s been a rough patch a couple times throughout the season, not only this one but a couple other seasons where everyone was throwing dirt on his name.”

The Heat is 10-0 this season when Robinson scores 20 points and 14-5 when he starts.

“It’s always nice when you feel like you’re playing in rhythm and can just be a basketball player and make reads and make plays,” he said. “With guys out, there’s some extended opportunity, which is nice. Obviously, we want everyone healthy. I’m trying to take advantage of those moments and do what I can to try to help us win.”

Offensive boosts from the Heat’s top three scorers.

Butler shot 56 percent from the field and scored 31, 24, 21, 23 and 17 – while hitting 36 free throws - during the first five games of this eight-game stretch, before going on bereavement leave.

Adebayo has 21 assists, to go along with 20.2 points per game over his past four games. He’s shooting 59 percent from the field over his last five.

And Herro, who reached 20 points only once during the losing streak, has done it three times in the past four games. He has 19 three-pointers in the last eight games.

“Sometimes, when you want to achieve great things in this league, you have to show up in big moments for your team,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve had a lot of those moments” recently.

Occasional big games from the supporting cast.

Nikola Jovic scored a career high 24 in Milwaukee, and Kevin Love had a 19 point-in-23-minute game that night.

Haywood Highsmith’s 16 points were big in a win at the 76ers.

Spoelstra spoke of “different guys stepping up and making plays offensively in the moments of truth.”

During this eight-game stretch, the Heat is averaging 17.9 points off turnovers, fourth in the league.

Though Miami’s pace has risen only from 27th overall to 23rd during this stretch, Miami is pushing the ball more effectively when it does, thanks in part to Terry Rozier, who missed the previous two games with a sprained right knee.

“We’re playing faster,” Herro said. “We’re playing more free as far as the movement of our bodies. We are harder to guard when we have guys moving fast as opposed to standing and watching.

“That’s part of how we’ve been coached throughout the past eight games, just moving our bodies and be hard to defend because we have so many guys that can hurt you.”

After failing to reach 100 points four times in the eight game stretch that ended with that seven-game losing streak, Miami has fallen short of 100 just once in these eight games since.