A good team takes care of this efficiently.
The Miami Heat at the moment are still something short of a good team.
So even against the shorthanded Charlotte Hornets it becomes a struggle.
And on Thursday night almost another blown lead before hanging on for a 117-112 overtime victory at FTX Arena that prevented a three-game losing streak, after blowing similar leads against the Indiana Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers.
This time the lead was 15 in the first half and again in the third period.
And this time there again was a meltdown.
Ultimately, it took some of the best of Jimmy Butler, who closed with 35 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
“We turned it on,” Butler said of finally putting it away in overtime. “But that’s what we got to have every quarter.”
Yes, the Heat were without guard Tyler Herro for a second consecutive game with an ankle sprain, but this was against a last-place team that entered on a six-game losing streak and had flown overnight after a Wednesday night home game.
It came down to the type of late 3-pointer that Portland’s Jason Hart made on Monday night and Charlotte’s Terry Rozier missed at the end of overtime on this night.
“You don’t always have an absolute solve and solution in this league,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “but I think this was important for us.”
Beyond Butler, the Heat got 18 points and 14 rebounds from Bam Adebayo, 14 points from Duncan Robinson and 12 from Max Strus.
“I just thought it was an important win,” Spoelstra said, “an important game for us emotionally.”
Kelly Oubre Jr. led the Hornets with 29 points, supported by 22 from Rozier.
The victory lifted the Heat to 5-7.
“We’re not as far as people think we are,” Adebayo said.
Five Degrees of Heat from Thursday’s game:
1. Overtime: The extra period opened tied 104-104, with it then again tied at 106-106 and 109-109, after a Butler three-point play with 3:08 remaining.
A Kyle Lowry jumper then put the Heat up 111-109, before P.J. Washington drove the lane for a 111-111 tie with 1:51 left.
Rozier then made one of two free throws after Adebayo made a pair, to leave the Heat with a 112-111 lead.
Misses followed on each end, as did a Butler 20-foot jumper with 15.7 seconds remaining.
That put Charlotte in possession down one with 14.8 seconds left, only to have Oubre called for traveling after receiving the inbounds pass.
The result was Heat guard Gabe Vincent sent to the line with 9 seconds to play, draining both for a 115-112 Heat advantage, with Rozier’s miss following.
“I think this was an important breakthrough early on in the season,” Spoelstra said.
Of this being the Heat’s fifth consecutive game decided at or near the final buzzer, Adebayo said, “We’re not trying to have the habit, but it makes the game interesting.”
2. Before overtime: The Heat led 32-27 at the end of the first period, pushed their lead to 15,went into halftime up 58-50, Then after their lead was trimmed to three in the third, they went into the fourth quarter up 85-73.
But as has been the case recently, it got shaky from there, with the Hornetsand taking a 90-89 lead with 6:50 remaining in regulation.
From there, a 3-pointer by Oubre put the Hornets up 98-93 with 3:57 to play in the fourth, before an 18-foot Butler jumper tied it 100-100 with 2:24 remaining in the fourth.
The game was again tied at 102-102, before Butler scored the second of his consecutive baskets for a 104-102 Heat lead with 36.4 seconds to play in regulation, only to see Dennis Smith Jr. tied it on a driving layup with 26.5 seconds left.
Butler then ran down most of the clock before he was called for an offensive foul with 5.2 seconds to play in the fourth, with Charlotte’s Rozier off on a 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer.
“I thought it was really important,” Spoelstra said, “for us to go to OT and deal with the frustration and emotionally reset.”
3. Timed takeover: After a somewhat passive three-point first half, Butler took a far more aggressive approach.
After converting his lone free-throw attempt in the first half, Butler shot 9 of 11 from the line in the third period, ending the quarter with 22 points.
But no sooner did Butler go to the bench, then the Hornets made their move at the start of the fourth.
“Sometimes I think we think we’re too good,” Butler said, “and that’s when leads slip away.”
Butler, in the end, was called upon to play 42:19.
“When I come in,” Butler said, “I’ve got to do a better job of finishing games, make sure we win.”
Butler then resettled the Heat.
“Jimmy was obviously sensational,” Spoelstra said. “Particularly when we went down in the fourth quarter, he put his imprint on that fourth quarter.”
It was a noteworthy night from the line for Butler, who closed 13 of 15 on free throws.
Butler’s fourth free-throw attempt was the 4,500th of his career. His seventh free throw moved him past Dennis Johnson for 88th on the NBA all-time list and his eighth pushed him past Dan Issel for 87th.
“My guys were just looking for me to get open,” Butler said.
4. Robinson at home: Robinson continues to be on the mark at home games, this time converting an early pair from beyond the arc.
Robinson entered at .441 percent (15 of 34) on 3-pointers at FTX Arena this season.
Robinson not only scored from deep, but also off cuts and with his emerging floater.
“Duncan finally dribbles now,” Adebayo said with a smile, “so he can run and shoot a floater.”
With his third point, Robinson moved past Steve Smith for 23rd on the Heat all-time scoring list.
Capitalizing at moments such as these could lead to regular minutes once Herro returns (and possibly reestablish trade value).
5. Short again: Herro was sidelined for a second consecutive game by the sprained left ankle suffered during the first half of Friday’s road loss to the Indiana Pacers. With the Heat’s light scheduling, it gives him six days off if he returns in Saturday’s rematch against the Hornets.
Forward Caleb Martin, who had been listed as questionable pregame with a quad bruise, was in the Heat starting lineup, but his twin brother, Hornets forward Cody Martin, was unavailable due to a sore left quad.
The Hornets also were without Gordon Hayward (shoulder) and LaMelo Ball (ankle).
“We’re getting better,” Lowry said. “I think we have a chance to grow.”