With 3:42 left to go in the Miami Heat’s road game at the Orlando Magic, Nikola Vucevic made a layup to give the Magic a 94-93 lead. Erik Spoelstra called a timeout. The Magic had lost their last seven games and were without seven players due to injury, but Vucevic and Terrence Ross had lit up Miami from beyond the arc to put the game in doubt.
Out of the timeout, Jimmy Butler made a 10-foot turnaround jumper. About a minute later, Tyler Herro made a big 3-pointer to put Miami up 98-94. Kelly Olynyk made a couple free throws to make it 100-94.
But Orlando pulled it to within 100-97 and had the ball with 25 seconds left. After an Orlando timeout, Ross air-balled a 3-pointer. A scramble for the loose ball ensued, but Dwayne Bacon flung up a 3 that also missed. Michael Carter-Williams grabbed the rebound, but Butler stole his pass and streaked in for a layup.
The Heat held on to win 102-97 to win their fourth consecutive game — all without Bam Adebayo —and their 10th in their last 11 games.
Butler again continued his superb play, scoring 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting from inside the arc and 9-of-10 from the foul line. Butler also recorded nine assists, seven rebounds and five steals. He made great defensive plays, drove into the lane when Miami needed a bucket and set up players for open shots. Considering how well Butler has played since returning from COVID protocols, it’s not hyperbole to say he deserves to be in the MVP conversation. It’s facts.
Great defense from Jimmy Butler here. Ross comes off the stagger, watch Butler chase and then reach around to tip the ball on the catch. Defense into offense. pic.twitter.com/Wx0imw1DEO— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) March 15, 2021
Miami needed someone aside from Butler to deliver in the fourth, and Herro scored 10 of his 22 points in the period. It was encouraging to see Herro get loose — he shot just 1-for-7 from the field Friday night in Chicago and has generally been bad all month long. Aside from his four 3s, Herro also connected on an alley-oop dunk.
Kelly Olynyk scored 10 of his 18 points in the first quarter. Though Robinson struggled from 3 to start the game — he missed his first five attempts from downtown — he finished with four 3s on the night. He also made this nice cut to the basket in the third period.
Delightful cut from Duncan here. Not a read he makes in his first run through the league. pic.twitter.com/UwolBqABe0— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) March 15, 2021
Heat second-year player KZ Okpala again started in place of Adebayo. Though he missed all three of his 3-pointers — something he’ll need to do to get minutes consistently — Okpala made some nice drives to the rim. He caught Vucevic flat-footed in the first quarter and later made this acrobatic play to close the half. He made some miscues defensively, but Okpala also showcased his length with two blocks.
Another nice attack from KZ, who probably just had the best quarter of his career. pic.twitter.com/21Ybyylfow— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) March 15, 2021
While Okpala had an encouraging game, it was decidedly not so for Kendrick Nunn or Goran Dragic. Nunn was just 1-for-9 from the field and was consistently short on his jumpers. Dragic shot even worse, going 1-for-11 from the field. Although he dished out eight assists, Spoelstra benched Dragic for Duncan Robinson in the clutch Sunday night.
The Heat next host the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday night at 8.