Two years ago, New Hampshire native Duncan Robinson was a revelation for the Heat as they made their improbable NBA Finals run in the Orlando bubble. The undrafted free agent shot a blistering 44.6 percent from the 3-point line and had a 20-point game against the Celtics in the conference finals.
It was a stunning rise for a player who went from Division 3 Williams College, to Michigan, to the G League, to the Heat. Last summer, he was rewarded with a five-year, $90 million contract.
Robinson played in 79 games for Miami this season, starting 68, but during these playoffs he has mostly turned into an afterthought, with coach Erik Spoelstra relying on former Celtics two-way contract player Max Strus in that sharpshooter slot.
Strus was excellent during the first two rounds, but he was less effective in the first two games of the conference finals against the Celtics. He made 5 of 15 3-pointers, and Miami was outscored by 13.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, the worst net rating among Heat starters by nearly 7 points.
The Heat entered Saturday night’s Game 3 shooting just 29.9 percent from the 3-point line their last 10 playoff games, raising questions about whether it might be time for Spoelstra to give Robinson another look.
Spoelstra appeared to be veering in that direction in the second half of a blowout loss to the Celtics in Game 2. Robinson checked in late in the third quarter, when the game was already out of reach, but Spoelstra had not yet waved the white flag. Robinson quickly missed three 3-pointers in a row and finished the game 0 for 4 from beyond the arc. It was not the most encouraging test run, but it was a tough spot.
Robinson has shown that he can catch fire in a hurry, and although his shooting numbers dipped this season, he still shot a respectable 37.2 percent from beyond the arc. He is a defensive liability, and with bulldog point guard Kyle Lowry sidelined, those inadequacies could become more glaring. Over 98 playoff minutes, Robinson’s 115 defensive rating is the second worst on the team. But during the regular season, it was 107.9, slightly better than Strus and Jimmy Butler.
Maybe Robinson’s cold-shooting Game 2 will keep him sidelined moving forward. Or maybe that was a planned move by Spoelstra to help Robinson shake off some rust, knowing that he would be needed in Game 3.