It would be too simplistic to say the Miami Heat have a winning formula.
Not with just about every game going to the final buzzer and enough losses to have them mired at No. 7 in the Eastern Conference standings at 37-33.
But Monday night’s 119-115 victory over the Utah Jazz at Miami-Dade Arena might have been as close as they could come.
With Jimmy Butler scoring when needed.
Tyler Herro converting a key shot at a moment of truth.
And Bam Adebayo stepping up with the defensive play of the night at the finish.
So a much-needed win, a bit more distance created ahead of No. 8 Atlanta, and perhaps confidence of better moments ahead.
Butler led the Heat with 24 points, bullying his way to a 13-of-15 finish from the foul line.
Herro, although 2 of 10 on 3-pointers, made one when needed most with 55 seconds to play to put the Heat ahead for good.
And then when the Jazz had a chance to tie with 6.9 seconds left, Adebayo came up with a blocked shot and secured the decisive rebound, closing out the scoring with a pair of free throws.
In addition to Butler’s 24, the Heat got 18 points apiece from Herro and Gabe Vincent, as well 16 from Adebayo.
The Jazz got 38 points from Lauri Markkanen, with Simone Fontecchio adding 23 for Utah.
With the win, the Heat tied the single-season NBA record for most victories in games decided by five or fewer points, with this their 24th such win, a mark set by the 1999-2000 Philadelphia 76ers.
“As long as it’s a close game we wind up winning in the end, I’m happy and content with that,” Butler said.
It was the Heat’s 39th five-point game of the season, two off that league record. The game also was the Heat’s 50th “clutch” game of the season, one within five points at any point in the final five minutes, with a 28-22 record in those games.
“When it gets in those moments of truth, I’ve said it before, at least we understand,” said coach Erik Spoelstra, who passed Red Holzman for 20th place on the all-time regular-season coaching victory list, at 697.
“At this point, with 12 games left, it’s just however we need to do it, we just have to do it.”
Five Degrees of Heat from Monday’s game:
1. For starters: The Heat led 33-26 at the end of the opening period but then went down eight in the second period before closing the first half down 57-56. From there, it was tied 90-90 going into the fourth.
The Heat pushed to a five-point lead early in the fourth, but the Jazz came back to retake the lead before Butler tied it 111-111 with 4:33 to play, Butler later putting the Heat up 114-113 with a 3-pointer with 3:34 remaining.
Several empty possessions followed on both ends, including a pair of missed Butler free throws, before Utah moved to a 115-114 lead with 1:16 to play on a Talen Horton-Tucker jumper.
But Herro then stepped into his 3-pointer off a Butler assist for a 117-115 Heat lead.
“That’s part of Tyler’s greatness,” Spoelstra said. “He doesn’t let previous misses or miscues affect his confidence or assertiveness down the stretch.”
The Heat then won a coach’s challenge that resulted in a Jazz offensive foul with 46 seconds left.
And then the moment of truth, after a Herro turnover, when Adebayo came up with his defensive stop in the paint against Ochai Agbaji.
“That’s Bam at his finest right there,” Spoelstra said. “He just made a heck of a play.”
Said Adebayo, “I just made a great play, man. That’s been one of my things, somehow make something out of nothing.”
2. Hair raising: Butler came out at the start with a hairstyle that resembled Mickey Mouse ears and then moved on later to something a big more hair-raising.
Coif aside, he again found himself pressed to carry the Heat offense in coming off Saturday’s 38-point performance in Orlando, this time at 11 of 11 from the field through three quarters.
Then came the usual moment of truth, with Butler checking out for his second-half rest with 2:41 to play in the third period and the Heat down 85-82. He returned with 6:15 to play and the Heat up 109-104.
“We’ve been building a little bit more confidence with that,” Spoelstra said of the non-Butler minutes.
Butler took over from there.
“Jimmy’s energy and relentlessness in these kinds of minutes is really super unique,” Spoelstra said.
Said Butler, “I like a physical game.”
As for the midgame hair change, Butler said his head was itching, with an assistant supplying a comb for the change.
“I wanted to take it down before the game,” he said.
3. Still the one: Even with Kyle Lowry available for the second consecutive game, Vincent again started at point guard and got off to a hot start, converting three of four 3-pointers before heading to the bench for his initial rest.
It marked the second consecutive game in reserve for Lowry, who had started his previous 677 appearances prior to Saturday’s return in Orlando.
Lowry entered with 2:26 to play in the opening period, with Spoelstra vowing to keep the minutes below the 36 Lowry went in the overtime loss to the Magic.
Lowry then returned late in the third period and converted a pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers to briefly spark the Heat.
Lowry played 19:23, finishing with nine points and four assists.
“Kyle gave us a really good boost,” Spoelstra said, content with where he left Lowry’s minutes. “That was appropriate for tonight. But we’re going to build on this.”
The Heat closed with 20 assists to 13 turnovers.
“We moved the ball well,” Vincent said. “I think it was a must-win game for us.”
4. Yurt first: With Cody Zeller out with a broken nose, second-year Omer Yutseven played as the Heat’s backup center, including a 4:05 stint in the first quarter that featured three rebounds, but also two fouls.
As was the case in Saturday’s loss in Orlando, Yurtseven was limited to brief stints, this time three, playing 11:04, at 1 of 2 from the field, with four rebounds.
Zeller watched from the Heat bench in street clothes. He said getting a mask remains a possibility.
5. The randomness of it all: Undrafted Jazz rookie Fontecchio’s career-high was 18 points entering the night. He had 19 by the midpoint of the second period, more than twice as many as any Heat player at that stage.
Before arriving to the Jazz, the 27-year-old 6-foot-7 wing had played for Virtus Bologna, Olimpia Milano, Vanoli Cremona, Reggio Emilia, Alba Berlin and Baskonia.
Fontecchio was up to 20 at halftime, closing 5 of 11 on 3-pointers.
Source: Berkshire mont
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