Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) jumps to pass, while defended by Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gay, center left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, March 13, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
MIAMI (AP) — Another night, another close game for Miami.
Jimmy Butler scored 24 points to lead seven Miami players in double figures, Tyler Herro and Gabe Vincent each scored 18 and the Heat held off the Utah Jazz 119-115 on Monday night.
It was Miami’s 24th win by five points or less this season.
“When it gets into those moments of truth, I’ve said this before, at least we understand what our package is and what we’re trying to do, how we want to execute,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ve had so many reps and film sessions and walkthroughs and teaching points … I think we’ve all gotten better from that, including the coaching staff.”
Bam Adebayo scored 16 for Miami, while Victor Oladipo and Kevin Love each had 11 and Caleb Martin scored 10.
Lauri Markkanen scored 38 for Utah, which got 23 from Simone Fontecchio and 14 from Ochai Agbaji. Miami was 31 for 36 from the foul line, compared with 13 for 18 for the Jazz.
“We can still get better,” Markkanen said. “Obviously, they made some good shots too, so credit to them.”
Talen Horton-Tucker put Utah on top with a short jumper with 1:16 left, and Herro gave Miami the lead right back on a 3-pointer with 55.3 seconds remaining. It stayed a two-point game until the final seconds; Agbaji missed a short shot in the lane that was blocked by Adebayo, who got the rebound, then was fouled and made two free throws with six seconds left to seal the win.
Clutch games are defined by the NBA as those within five points with five minutes remaining in regulation, and nobody has played more of them this season than Miami and Utah. This was the 50th for the Heat, the 46th for the Jazz.
And this was so on brand for both teams.
There were 13 lead changes in the fourth quarter alone, after there were only five of them — and five ties — in the first 36 minutes. Miami is now 28-22 in clutch games, Utah 20-26.
“As long as it’s a close game and we end up winning in the end, I’m happy, I’m content with that,” Butler said. “We’ve just got to string together some wins, now more than ever, which we are capable of. So let’s make it happen.”
The win also gave Miami a bit of breathing room over Atlanta in the race for the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks (34-35) lost to Minnesota while Miami (37-33) moved 2 1/2 games ahead of Atlanta — and Miami also owns the tiebreaker if necessary.
Jazz: Former Miami forward Kelly Olynyk, a starter for the Jazz, got the traditionally warm introduction reserved for past Heat players — instead of a far-more-subdued announcement that most everyone else gets when lineups were announced. … Utah now has four full days off — a rarity in the NBA outside of the All-Star break — then resumes play Saturday against Boston.
Heat: Cody Zeller (broken nose) did not play. He got hurt Saturday at Orlando. … Caleb Martin (left knee soreness) played after sitting out Saturday. … Vincent remained in the starting lineup, with Kyle Lowry coming off the bench at point guard.
2 WITH 20
Markkanen (21) and Fontecchio (20) were the first Jazz teammates to have at least 20 points by halftime since Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson did it against the Los Angeles Clippers on June 18, 2021, in a playoff contest.
Miami was last in the NBA in scoring (108.3 points per game) at the All-Star break and remains last. But since the break, there has been improvement; the Heat are 22nd in the league in scoring (110.7 ppg) since All-Star weekend. “We’re slowly starting to put more points on the board, which is a good thing,” Spoelstra said. But Butler noted that Miami now needs to tighten up on defense — while keeping the additional scoring.
Jazz: Host Boston on Saturday.
Heat: Host Memphis on Wednesday.