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Dave Hyde: A win, a shoulder-rub from DJ Khaled — the Heat have themselves a night

Sun Sentinel logoSun Sentinel 5/11/2022 Dave Hyde, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

And then DJ Khaled gave Erik Spoelstra a shoulder rub.

“Wasn’t that fun?” Khaled said.

This whole Game 5 felt like fun Tuesday night for the Miami Heat.

“It was just something that happened,’’ the disc jockey and record executive said of that shoulder rub of the Heat coach on the sideline during the Heat’s 120-85 win. “I said to him, ‘Let’s go!’ ‘’

Khaled was walking from his seat beside the Heat bench and through the tunnel to the VIP lounge with his wife and young son. People called to him. Security stopped trespassers. It’s a celebrity time in a celebrity town, but Khaled wasn’t sounding like glitz in this moment.

“We need one more [win],’’ Khaled was saying to close out the series. “One more! These are my brothers — that’s how I think of them. My brothers! Let’s get one more!”

This night will get exaggerated in the manner it spoke of two teams. The Heat came out like the Heat typically do in a big game, all coiled energy and intense discipline. Heat president Pat Riley told Max Strus he wanted 10 rebounds out of him. Strus got a career-high 11. Enough said?

And Philadelphia? Its problems began earlier Tuesday when the league’s Most Valuable Player voting came out and Philadelphia’s talented center, Joel Embiid, didn’t win. He sulked his way to 17 non-descript points and five rebounds. That’s a strange sentiment to take. Why not get mad? Get motivated?

To be fair, Embiid also took a hit: a basketball to his broken orbital bone. But something more than that pain was at work in his lack of work.

“He’s not there tonight,’’ TNT’s Charles Barkley said at halftime.

They all weren’t there. All the 76ers. It was odd to lack something as fundamental as effort this deep in a playoff series. That’s what you never second-guess with the Heat. You never doubt effort, will, desire, hard work — whatever you want to call it.

Coach Doc Rivers delivered the eulogy to Game 5 in a first-quarter time-out huddle.

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“Hey, we’ve what are they doing?” he said to his players. “They’re playing harder than us. We’ve got to make physical, hard players ourselves. All right? We’ve got to get some stops. We’ve got to get some space. We’ve got to get the ball moving. The ball rarely touches the paint. Right? Right?”

He looked at his players.

“That’s what we’ve got to do,’’ he said.

They didn’t do it. Strus missed a shot on the Heat’s first possession, got the rebound and drove for an uncontested layup. That was the start of 10 straight Heat points. It was in that run with the Heat up 69-51 that a ball went out of bounds by the Heat bench.

Khaled jumped up to get it. The security usher, Dick Bogash, handed the ball to Khaled, who gave it to Strus.

You appreciate these moments if you’re Strus. His career began at Division II Lewis College near Chicago. Now he wasn’t just starting on a playoff stage. He had 11 first-quarter points to set the tone of this night. He heard the crowd cheer as Khaled handed him the ball, then grow louder as Khaled pumped his arms to the crowd.

“There’s a lot of things that keep happening to me — it was pretty special,’’ Strus said.

Khaled, who had walked to the scorer’s table while pumping up the crowd, then walked by Spoelstra to get to his seat. That’s when the famous shoulder rub came. It was a second, maybe two. But come on. Did anyone give Gregg Popovich a shoulder rub during a game? Pat Riley?

Spoelstra, with his laser focus, didn’t notice Khaled at first. But he heard the crowd. He noticed someone pumping his arms around him. And then — ahhh! — that shoulder rub.

“He’s such a great fan,’’ Spoelstra said. “Over the years, I’ve said, ‘Hello,’ a few times, but that was a first.”

Oh, it means nothing. But sometimes the little moments, the fun scenes, are part of big sports night. The Heat have had their share of celebrities. Jimmy Buffett once was kicked out of a Heat game for saying something to the referee.

“Do you know who you just ejected?” Riley, who was the coach, said to the referee.

Everyone knew Khaled. Jimmy Butler, who keeps turning in big nights, was laughing. Strus was smiling. Spoelstra loved the moment. But there was Khaled afterward, turning one final time in that VIP lounge.

“We need one more!” he said. “One more!”

The home team has won by an average 18.5 points in this series. With Game 6 in Philadelphia on Thursday, that suggests a Game 7 is coming in Miami on Sunday. Khaled, to be sure, says he’s ready for another shoulder rub.

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