In the end perhaps it makes perfect sense for the Miami Heat. Late-arriving crowds; games decided in the closing ticks.
And so it was again on Friday night at Miami-Dade Arena, in a tougher-than-expected 110-105 victory over the Orlando Magic.
Unable to regain their 3-point shooting until the second half and unable to solidify their footing until the fourth quarter, the Heat nonetheless moved a season-best six games over .500 at 28-22, closing out a 3-0 homestand.
“We were grinding,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, as if the Heat know any other way.
Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 29 points, six assists and six rebounds, with Bam Adebayo adding 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
“I think anytime we win it’s a good thing, whether it’s a close game or not,” Butler said. “Being six games over .500 is a very, very good feeling.”
Butler and Adebayo were supported by needed complementary efforts from Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent.
Strus closed 5 of 7 on 3-pointers for 17 points, with Martin scoring 13 and Vincent 11.
“I thought Caleb and his energy in the fourth quarter really ignited us,” Spoelstra said.
While the Heat offense was uneven, they greatly benefited by converting 20 Magic turnovers into 32 points.
“You got to take care of the basketball, and we didn’t do that,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said.
Five Degrees of Heat from Friday’s game:
1. Closing time: The Heat trailed 31-26 at the end of the opening period, 59-50 at halftime and 79-73 going into the fourth, after briefly retaking the lead in the third only to see Orlando close the period on a 10-0 run.
A Vincent 3-pointer then capped an 11-2 run to give the Heat an 84-83 lead with 9:21 to play, with the Heat extending that run to 13-2.
But after going up six with 4:19 to play, the Heat saw that lead trimmed to 97-93 with 2:41 left after Adebayo was called for his fifth foul, with the lead further trimmed to 99-98 with 1:46 left on a Wendell Carter Jr. 3-pointer.
But Butler responded with a three-point play with 1:29 to go for a 102-98 lead.
A Gary Harris 3-pointer later drew the Magic within 104-101, before Butler attacked the paint for a driving floater and a 106-101 Heat lead with 34.8 seconds left, the Heat holding on from there.
“Our guys, our competitors, they love how that feels in the last six minutes,” Spoelstra said of the constant down-to-the-wire finishes. “That drives me crazy.”
2. Butler back: After missing Tuesday’s victory over the Boston Celtics with what the Heat listed as a back issue, Butler was up to 18 points at the intermission, offering a needed dose of bully ball on a night the outside shots weren’t falling.
He closed 10 of 17 from the field, 9 of 12 from the line.
Spoelstra said Butler knew when it was go-time.
“To be frank, Jimmy just walked to the scorers’ table,” Spoelstra said of Butler reinserting himself in the fourth. “He just walked up, ‘Who am I going in for?’ “
He then provided all the answers needed.
“At that point,” Spoelstra said, “he understood. He was assertive all night.”
3. And Bam can: Adebayo was on a triple-double pace midway through the second quarter until his third foul got in the way.
Adebayo’s fifth basket moved him past Eddie Jones for 10th on the Heat all-time list.
He finished 7 of 14 from the field, 6 of 7 from the line.
“When we’re getting to the line,” Adebayo said of himself and Butler, “obviously it makes it easier for everyone else to catch a breath,”
Which seemingly is needed.
“I don’t know if we just like dogfights,” Adebayo said of the Heat’s run of close games. “I don’t know if we just want to make it interesting. Every game is more like a lesson for us.”
4. Rough start: The Heat struggled early from the arc, missing their first five attempts and later falling to 1 of 10.
At halftime, Strus was 2 of 2 on 3-pointers, with the rest of the Heat 1 of 16. That had Orlando’s Cole Anthony with one more 3-pointer over the opening two periods than the Heat’s three.
The Heat then fell to 3 of 19 before a Kyle Lowry conversion early in the third period.
Strus later moved to 3 of 3 on 3s to start righting the Heat’s wayward shooting.
The Heat entered last in the NBA in 3-point percentage.
5. Highsmith time: With Martin in early foul trouble, Spoelstra went 10 deep, with Haywood Highsmith joining Victor Oladipo, Vincent, Orlando Robinson and Strus off the Heat bench.
“Again, these are the types of challenges that you want, where more guys are playing well and forcing myself and the coaching staff to make challenging decisions, and Haywood has started to put together more impactful, consistent minutes,” Spoelstra said. “And that stays in your mind. And you keep on doing that with the opportunities that you’re given, eventually you force me to start to find some minutes for him. That’s where I am with it right now.
“I’m just getting more confidence in him. If there’s a moment, we’ll go to that 10-man rotation and we’ll see what happens from there.”
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