With Heat short on bodies and composure, Jimmy Butler saves night in 112-111 win over Thunder – The Denver Post


Tuesday night’s 112-111 victory over the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder just about summed up the Miami Heat’s season.

There were the requisite injury absences, in this case going without Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry, among others.

There was a moment of the unfathomable, in this case backup center Dewayne Dedmon ejected in the second period for whacking a training device onto the court as he stormed to the locker room after a confrontation with the coaching staff.

And there was tight, compelling competition to the finish, the game decided on a Jimmy Butler 3-point play with 12.9 seconds to play, on a night the Heat closed 40 of 40 from the foul line – an NBA record for conversions without a miss.

So, yes, more epic theater of the ailing, absurd, agonizing and astonishing.

Somehow, though it all, Erik Spoelstra’s team found a way to move two games above .500, with the next two to provide far more extreme tests, games on Thursday and Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks to close this four-game homestand.

Butler led the Heat with 35 points, converting a career-high 23 free-throws, without a miss, with Max Strus adding 22 points. From the Thunder, there were 26 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and 18 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists from Josh Giddey.

Five Degrees of Heat from Tuesday’s game:

1. Closing time: The Heat led 31-26 at the end of the first quarter, 63-56 at halftime and 89-88 through three periods.

What grew into a 14-6 Oklahoma City run then pushed the Thunder to a five-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

Heat guard Victor Oladipo then drew a clear-path foul off a steal with 8:10 remaining, with the Heat turning it into a six-point possession, with two Oladipo free throws and a four-point play by guard Gabe Vincent. A Jamal Cain 3-pointer with 5:56 left then staked the Heat to a 102-98 lead, capping an 11-2 Heat run.

But a pair of Vincent turnovers, putting him at seven for the night, left the Heat in a 102-102 tie with 3 minutes to play.

The Thunder moved to a 109-104 lead from there, matching their largest lead of the night, as Heat turnovers continued to mount, up to 20 at that stage.

An Oladipo 3-pointer with 42 seconds to play got the Heat within 111-109.

The Heat then challenged a foul called on Cain with 21.4 seconds left, but were unsuccessful, with Kendrich Williams missing both free throws, the Heat playing in transition, and Butler converting his 3-point play with 12.9 seconds left to close the scoring.

The Heat outscored the Thunder 6-0 over the final 1:28.

2. Early ejection: After what appeared to be heated words on the bench between Dedmon, Spoelstra and assistant coach Caron Butler between the first and second quarters, Dedmon headed to the locker room at the start of the second period, stopping to slap a Thergun therapy device onto the court.

Play was stopped, with Dedmon assessed a technical foul and ejected.

It left the Heat in a particular bind when fill-in starting center Orlando Robinson was called for his fourth foul early in the third period, forcing the Heat to go with 6-foot-7 Cain at center.

The two-year contract Dedmon signed in the offseason is only guaranteed through the end of this season.

An NBA suspension could follow because of the equipment winding up on the court, with the possibility of a Heat suspension, as well.

3. Butler forces action: With such a limited cast, the Heat turned to Butler early, often letting him work off the low block typically occupied by Adebayo.

Butler had eight points in his initial eight-minute stint and was up to 18 at halftime, when he was 14 of 14 from the line.

Butler later moved to 20 points early in the third quarter on only three made baskets, at 20 of 20 from the line entering the fourth quarter.

Eventually, the Thunder sent double teams at Butler on just about every touch.

4. Strus steps up: Strus was up to 20 points by the early stages of the third period. That gave him as many 20-point performances this season (eight) as he had all of last season.

Strus was 4 of 9 on 3-pointers through three quarters, the rest of the Heat 3 of 14.

In addition to his scoring, Strus also provided rebounding on a night the Heat needed alternate sources.

5. Something different: To show how quickly life can come at you in the midst of injuries, Tuesday night not only was the first NBA start of Heat two-way player Robinson, who opened at center, but the Heat wound up with four undrafted players in their opening lineup.

The lone exception was Butler, with Robinson, Haywood Highsmith, Vincent and Strus all undrafted.

And of the Heat’s four available reserves, only Victor Oladipo was drafted, with Cain, Dedmon and Udonis Haslem undrafted.



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