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Heat win third straight, beat Knicks 98-96

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Despite struggling offensively for most of the game, Jimmy Butler and the Heat stepped up in the clutch.

NBA: New York Knicks at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

There are few things you can count on in this world, but Jimmy Butler getting to the line is definitely one of them. In fact, Jimmy’s many trips to the line defined the first half of the game. Well, that and Kelly Olynyk’s amazing Steph Curry impression. Their uncanny scoring early propelled the Heat to a solid lead which it would maintain until early in the 2nd quarter.

I know we joke on Twitter about Heat killers. You know the ones, Danny Green, Ersan Ilyasova, and others. But early tonight it was Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton who claimed the tag. Those two silenced the Heat reserves in the second quarter, going on a 25-5 run. With Bam, Duncan, and Herro struggling to score Miami would fall behind until Jimmy and Kelly got back in the game. When I say the Heat were struggling to score I mean: 25% shooting inside the paint and 28% from the overall midrange.

The Heat got back into the game but those percentages stayed awful. The Heat just went crazy from beyond the arc thanks to Kelly Olynyk. How good was Kelly? He had 17 points and 5 threes headed into the third quarter. So…pretty good.

Jimmy Butler’s ability to transform into a primary scoring option feels like an event because it doesn’t happen often. He’s just able to flip a switch and he did it tonight (26 points!). With the Knicks taking the lead and Miami’s offense looking more lost than John Travolta at Uma Thurman’s place in Pulp Fiction, Jimmy took over the scoring and kept the Heat within striking distance. But that’s a problem too because Jimmy can’t play all game and tonight he needed to.

Bam was frustrated and just unable to score consistently against Mitchell Robinson or Nerlens Noel and the Heat didn’t get any offense out of anybody else. It’s like the game plan was to wait for Jimmy to get back in, and while that’s fine against the Lakers in the NBA Finals, using it as a strategy in the regular season is a red flag.

The scoring drought ended as Bam finally got some buckets to fall and even took a page out of Jimmy’s book to get to the line. His aggressiveness led to a 10-2 run and bought enough time for Jimmy to get back in the game.

It also helped that Tyler started to score at the right time (Herro ball as they call it? I’m sorry.) as the Heat was able to capitalize and rip back the lead. This one went down to the wire but a huge Tyler three, Jimmy free throw (1/2), and missed RJ Barrett layup would give the Heat its third straight win.

A welcome win that was much harder than it needed to be. The Heat take on Houston on Thursday.