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Heat beat Nets 115-111, hold off late rally for fifth straight win

Defense won it late in the game after squandering a 21-point lead.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat grabbed their fifth straight victory to hold on to the top seed in the East, but it was a tough battle to the end against the Brooklyn Nets in a close 115-111 decision at the FTX Arena on Saturday night.

Despite holding a 21-point late in the third quarter sparked by a 16-3 run coming out of halftime, the Heat simply couldn’t contain Kyrie Irving in the fourth quarter and he led a furious late rally that cut the lead first to four points and then to a single digit twice before faltering in the closing seconds.

Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry led Miami with a balanced team attack compared to Irving who simply had no choice but to go it alone in impressive fashion down the stretch in a desperate attempt to end their lengthy losing streak. Despite the Heat’s best efforts, the Nets star point guard was unstoppable with 20 points on 6-9 FG shooting and 2-3 3-point shooting in the final quarter despite facing multiple waves of defenders and double teams.

After Cam Thomas, who himself scored 15 points in the second quarter, cut it to 110-109 with 37.7 seconds left in the game it was Butler who responded with a huge layup to increase the lead back to three.

Irving converted a pair of free throws but Butler then split a pair of subsequent free throws to give the Nets an opening with just a two-point deficit and 13.8 seconds left.

Ultimately, and fittingly, it was Miami’s defense that saved the day at the end with an excellent defensive sequence that resulted in a Lowry steal off a bad pass from Thomas. Precious seconds were drained off the clock by the time Lowry dribbled down the court and found PJ Tucker — who was then fouled, with his two free throws sealing the well-deserved victory.

Brooklyn lost their eleventh straight game while the Heat maintain the No. 1 seed in the East with a one game lead over the Chicago Bulls, who beat the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight, and a two game lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost to the Philadelphia 76ers — who themselves are 2.5 games behind Miami.

All five Heat starters scored in double-figures, and the team as a whole shot 50% from the field and out-rebounded the Nets 52-41. Though Miami only knocked down 10 3-pointers, Duncan Robinson had a strong shooting night going 5-8 from beyond the arc and he finished with 17 points.

Bam Adebayo led the team with 19 points and 14 rebounds along with four assists. Coming off an injury absence, Tyler Herro had a solid outing off the bench with 15 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes.

Miami improves their home record to 19-6 and their overall record to 37-20, with a season-best 17 games over .500 as they next get set to host the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.