Without Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry, the Miami Heat came into Wednesday night’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans with a lackadaisical attitude. New Orleans quickly raced out to a 15-point lead early in the second.
The Heat were fine.
Miami dominated the third quarter 34-18 to wrestle the lead back from the Pelicans and come away with a 113-98 victory to win their third straight game. The Heat took their first lead midway through the quarter off a P.J. Tucker floating bank shot. About three minutes later, Tyler Herro threw a lob pass to Jimmy Butler from mid-court that somehow went in the basket without Butler touching it.
During this stretch, Udonis Haslem subbed in for Dewayne Dedmon and offered good minutes. With 2:51 left in the game, Butler found Haslem for a layup to put Miami up 76-69. On New Orleans’ subsequent possession, Haslem denied Troy Murphy at the rim. In semi-transition, Caleb Martin found Gabe Vincent for a 3. It went in, and the Heat suddenly had a 10-point lead.
Haslem only played because KZ Okpala missed several open 3s and looked lost on the floor. After an encouraging night in Oklahoma City, Wednesday was a stark reminder that Okpala simply hasn’t shown enough in the opportunities he’s had the last two years.
Omer Yurtseven also played for a bit, but Spoelstra turned to Haslem with a minute left in the second quarter. And Haslem played better than both Okpala and Yurtseven, the type of developmental prospects fans lament Haslem for taking a roster spot from.
Haslem was a nice story, but Butler was the main reason Miami won this game. For the first half, he was the only one playing well for the Heat. While Herro missed his first six shots and turned the ball over three times, Butler scored 21 points before intermission to keep the Heat in the game.
The No. 30 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft had his mid-range jumper on, drove to the basket and hunted Devonte’ Graham for switches. Butler finished the night with a triple-double — 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in 37 minutes. He also shot 10-of-12 from the foul line, a sign of aggression.
Despite Herro’s early struggles, the third-year guard turned it around in the third. During one early third-quarter sequence, Herro found Duncan Robinson for an open 3 and hit back-to-back pull-up jumpers to bring Miami within one. He finished with 19 points.
Tucker went 6-of-7 from the field for 13 points, and only one of his made field goals came from beyond the arc. He’s shown more diversity to his offensive game than what he did with the Houston Rockets as a corner 3-point shooter. Tucker has been effective as a roller to the basket for floaters all season long.
Max Strus went 4-of-6 from downtown, while Vincent was 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. That bench production was huge on a night Miami’s sixth man, Herro, was in the starting lineup.
The Heat will host the Washington Wizards for the second night of a back-to-back tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.