Leading 99-92 with 4:13 to go, the Miami Heat ran into an offensive drought at the worst possible time against the Toronto Raptors. At the 1:48 mark, Pascal Siakam jammed home the ball after Fred VanVleet stole the ball from Jimmy Butler. Toronto was within 99-96.
Bam Adebayo was back, but Kyle Lowry missed the game against his former team for personal reasons. And the Heat struggled to get a quality look, especially against the lengthy Toronto defenders. For example, Gabe Vincent and Siakam often guarded each other.
But with 38.2 seconds to go, the Heat had the ball with the score still 99-96. (Gabe Vincent forced a jump ball against OG Anunoby just before Miami gained possession.) And this time, Butler drove to the paint and kicked it out to a wide open P.J. Tucker in the corner.
Although VanVleet made a 3 on the other end, Adebayo sunk two free throws with 8.5 seconds left to ice the game. The Heat defeated the Raptors 104-99 to move within percentage points of the Chicago Bulls for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Miami by no means played well tonight. The Heat had committed several turnovers early, allowing the Raptors to score fast-break points. Both Butler and Adebayo missed shots at the rim. (Adebayo may have been hesitant playing in his first game with his surgically repaired thumb.) Miami only shot 9-of-24 from 3-point range.
And yet the Heat played with enough toughness and intensity to come away with a victory. Midway through the fourth quarter, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent both stripped the ball before Caleb Martin rose for a breakaway dunk. A little more than a minute later, Martin found an open Strus in the corner for a 3. Those plays helped Miami win a game that included 22 lead changes.
Herro led Miami with 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field. The third-year guard went on a personal 7-0 run to close the third and even had a dunk on Heat 2020 first-round pick Precious Achiuwa.
Butler notched a triple-double on the night, going for 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 from the foul line, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. As mentioned before, Butler missed some shots at the rim he should make. But he did enough for the Heat to win.
Adebayo shot just 4-of-12 in his return, but finished with 14 points and nine rebounds on the night. His athleticism was there, but Adebayo will need to get comfortable shooting the ball and finishing around the basket.
Erik Spoelstra put Duncan Robinson back in the starting lineup Monday night, and Adebayo soon found Robinson for two dribble-handoffs that resulted in two 3s. Spoelstra, though, went with either Vincent or Strus for the fourth-quarter minutes alongside Herro and Butler.
Big 3 from Duncan to give us the lead pic.twitter.com/LobB40LfLG— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 18, 2022
Spoelstra also opted to use Dewayne Dedmon as the backup center for Adebayo. Omer Yurtseven did not play. And Dedmon showed why he’s a valuable rotation player, scoring eight points and grabbing nine rebounds in just 16 minutes.
The Heat will host the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night.