Midway through the third quarter of the Miami Heat’s road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami looked stuck in the mud. At the end of a 12-day, seven-game West Coast trip, the Heat made lazy passes that turned into turnovers. Miami’s shooters struggled from 3-point range, and Jimmy Butler wasn’t scoring much, either. The Thunder had a nine-point lead.
And then, the entire complexion of the game changed on a dime.
After trailing by nine points with 5:33 left in the third, the Heat built a five-point lead with 1:49 left in the period. Butler made a nice, decisive run to the rim for a dunk and a foul.
Later in the period, some great hustle from Precious Achiuwa created a second-chance opportunity — a Max Strus four-point play.
Precious hustle leads to Strusssssss pic.twitter.com/5Gxf4Oggul— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) February 23, 2021
Even then, a Miami win was far from assured. Butler had played the entire third quarter, and Miami had just a two-point lead entering the final stanza of play. The Heat had struggled mightily during Butler’s first-half rest earlier Monday night.
And then Miami ripped off the first 15 points of the fourth to blow the game out of the water. Duncan Robinson, who had struggled from 3 in the first half, made three 3s in the fourth. Kendrick Nunn came up with this great steal and then threw up a lob to Bam Adebayo for a dunk.
The Heat didn’t need Butler to come off the bench and came away with a 108-94 win over Oklahoma City. That win gave Miami a 4-3 record on their season-long West Coast trip and improved them to 7-3 in their last 10 games.
Robinson led Miami with 22 points on 6-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc. During the Heat’s fourth-quarter blitz, he even made two shots inside the arc. Nunn was right behind him with 20 points and nine assists in 41 minutes. Tyler Herro was ruled out for the game with the hip injury he sustained against the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday. Also without Goran Dragic and Avery Bradley, Nunn’s resurgence these last few weeks has been welcome.
Adebayo added 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and 5-of-6 shooting from the foul line. The Heat’s All-Star center also grabbed 13 boards and dished out five assists. He also offered his trademark versatile defense.
Going to go out on a limb and say SGA probably doesn't enjoy seeing Bam very much. pic.twitter.com/keagl6JP36— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) February 23, 2021
Before resting the entire fourth quarter, Butler went 9-for-9 from the free-throw line on his way to score 15 points and dish out nine assists, six of which came in the first quarter. He shot just 3-for-11 from the field and even missed some make-able shots at the rim and from mid-range. But his aggression in the third helped turn the game around.
The Heat won their third straight game Monday. But Miami still struggled for large portions of the game Monday, including a horrendous drought for much of the second quarter. Even in their wins, the Heat look like a team that needs an upgrade.
Miami will face the Toronto Raptors Wednesday at 8 in their return home.