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Heat hold off Rockets 101-94, win fourth straight

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Max Strus scored a career-high 21-points, and Jimmy Butler notched a triple-double.

Miami Heat v Houston Rockets Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Miami Heat controlled most of the second half to build a lead that crested at 15 points against the Houston Rockets. But Miami committed turnovers and missed shots at the worst possible time — in the final three minutes. And to top it off, Bam Adebayo committed his sixth foul with just 1:02 left to go and the Rockets within six.

Erik Spoelstra called a timeout and challenged the call, but the challenge was unsuccessful. On Houston’s subsequent possession, John Wall hit a 3-pointer to bring the Rockets within three points.

Jimmy Butler missed a midrange jumper, but Kelly Olynyk tapped the ball out and gave Miami a fresh 14 seconds. Kendrick Nunn missed a 3-pointer, but Andre Iguodala grabbed the offensive board. With just 10 seconds left and the Heat still in possession, Houston had to foul. Butler and Max Strus made four free throws. Miami held on to win 101-94 — their fourth straight victory and an important one to get to kick off a seven-game West Coast road trip.

Both teams missed key rotation players. Aside from Avery Bradley, Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro missed this game. Christian Wood was out for Houston, and Victor Oladipo and P.J. Tucker both left in the third quarter with injuries. It wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing basketball game; the Heat were abysmal from 3 in the first half.

The absences of Dragic and Herro — who was a late scratch due to COVID-19 protocols — forced Butler to be the sole shot creator for Miami. He finished with a triple-double — 27 points on 8-of-18 from the field and 10-of-11 from the line, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. On two straight possessions midway through the fourth, Butler made back-to-back jumpers.

Since he’s returned from his COVID-related absence, Butler has done everything for Miami. Considering how Miami looks when he rests, it may cause as much frustration as amazement — Butler logged 39 minutes Thursday night. But it’s great to see the five-time All-Star play at a high level night after night.

Strus was second for Miami in scoring, finishing with a career-high 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field. Strus made three huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to keep the Rockets at bay and a made a strong drive to the rim and dunked on Wall in the third quarter.

Strus came into the game after Duncan Robinson made Miami’s first three shots — all from beyond the arc — and committed two early fouls. Robinson finished 5-of-11 from 3 and helped the Heat take the lead in a third quarter Miami won 28-10.

On the flip side, Thursday was not a good night for Adebayo, who shot just 3-of-8 from the field and at times passed up favorable match-ups to let Nunn take contested 3s. (Nunn, by the way, took as many shots as Butler did.) Adebayo used his quickness to beat DeMarcus Cousins to the rim a couple times, but he should’ve done it more often.

The Heat next visit the Utah Jazz at 9 p.m.