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Heat handle Rockets 120-110, win fifth straight

Even with a brand new bench, the Heat looked cohesive — especially in the first half.

NBA: Miami Heat at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Butler returned to the court with a splendid 37-point performance to help lead the new-look Miami Heat to a 120-110 victory over the host Houston Rockets on New Year’s Eve.

Butler and Kyle Lowry made a more-than-welcome return to the team, not only for their considerable talent but also simply because they needed more healthy bodies in order to play the game. The entire bench consisted of 10-day emergency contract players with the standout being Kyle Guy, who looked the part of Mike Miller with his “glue guy” skills. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra started the remaining five players on the regular roster: Butler, Lowry, Tyler Herro, Omer Yurtseven and Caleb Martin — all of which scored in double-figures.

Despite the possible lack of chemistry, Miami raced out to a big early lead with 41 first quarter points and 74 points — a season-high for the team for any half. At one point the lead ballooned to 25 points. Guy had a lot to do with it, scoring with ease against the Rockets as the first player off the bench but also showing a flair for playmaking. He scored nine points in the first quarter alone and 15 of his 17 total points in the first half.

Houston appeared overmatched but gradually started chipping away at the double-digit deficit in the second quarter. The third quarter featured several runs by both teams, with the lead boosted back to 18 on two separate Heat runs, but the lead eventually was whittled down to just 101-95 four minutes into the final quarter. Butler then took over with timely baskets to get to his season-high 37 points and was a force to be reckoned with as he made powerful moves to the rim and was able to score or attract fouls — finishing 11-11 from the free throw line.

Yurtseven had another impressive performance with another double-double game, and this amazing fourth-quarter block was a pivotal moment in the game. The Rockets had some more chances to make it a game but Butler would put it away, mostly from the charity stripe, with a little help from Lowry and Herro as well.

Miami now moves to 10 game over .500 as they head into the second game of their current road trip against the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 2 at 6:00pm.