Erik Spoelstra praises Nikola Jovic for ‘terrific’ performance in 1st start for Miami Heat

3 Min Read

Miami Heat youngster Nikola Jovic got the starting nod for his squad on Wednesday, marking the rookie’s first start at the NBA level.

He put together a very solid performance, and after the game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had good things to say.

“I was encouraged by his play,” Spoelstra said of Jovic getting thrown into the mix. “That’s not easy to do that. We felt putting him with the starters would give him the best chance to be able to complement that group, and he was terrific, particularly in that first half.

“He played with a lot of energy, gave us some relief baskets. His skill level, his passing, all those things are good.”

The Heat were dealt a loss on Wednesday at the hands of the Toronto Raptors, but Jovic was certainly a bright spot. In 24 minutes, he went for 13 points and three rebounds while shooting 4-for-8 from the field and 1-for-3 from deep.

It was only Jovic’s fifth appearance of the season, as minutes have been hard to come by for the 19-year-old. Wednesday’s game gave Heat fans their best chance so far to evaluate him, and he didn’t disappoint.

It’ll be interesting to see what the first-round pick’s role is like going forward. As he’s likely learning, it can be tough for a developing player to get consistent playing time on a contending team.

Despite that, Spoelstra certainly believes Jovic has a bright future.

“He’s just going to continue to get a lot better with minutes, more time, more development, all of that,” Spoelstra said. “I was encouraged by him stepping in there and playing as well as he did on the road.”

The loss to Toronto dipped Miami’s record below .500 again, as the team now sits at 7-8. On the bright side, the Heat have still won three of their last four games, and if they get a win on Friday against the Washington Wizards, perhaps the positive momentum will continue.

Although the Heat are currently in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, they’re really just a hot streak away from gaining some serious ground. Miami is only two games behind the third-place team in the East, the Atlanta Hawks.

The Wizards are ahead of the Heat in the East, which is notable because three of Miami’s next five games will come against Washington. The Heat’s other two games during that span will come against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves.

The season is still young, but Miami is definitely looking to escape its mediocre start to the campaign. Time will tell if that’s in the cards.

Share This Article
Jason has covered the NBA for multiple years and has plenty of memories involving the Miami Heat. He expects there will be winning basketball in South Florida for years to come.