The face of desperation was the face of the Miami Heat on Friday night when they went down 14 in the third quarter.

It turned out to be a good look, or at least a needed look, one that will be further necessary in the heated middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Forced to take on some of the best of Donovan Mitchell, the Heat made a needed stand in a 119-115 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers to salvage a 3-3 homestand,

“We’re fighting for our competitive lives right now,” coach Erik Spoelstra said after the season’s latest nail-biter. “Is this the position we want to be in now? No. But this is what you want, you want games with incredible pressure and context.”

While work remains to get out of an Eastern Conference play-in seed and into one of the six automatic playoff seeds in the East, this was a night when the Heat stared down adversity when it was casting its ugliest face.

A loss would have trimmed the Heat’s lead at No. 7 in the East to a mere half-game over the Atlanta Hawks, who won earlier in the night. Instead, the Heat remained within 2 1/2 games of the No. 6 Brooklyn Nets and three games of the No. 5 New York Knicks.

“At this point,” guard Tyler Herro said, “all these games are playoff games for us.”

With the game standing within five points in the final five minutes, it left the Heat with their league-high 48th clutch game of the season.

Harrowing, as usual.

Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 33 points, supported by 25 from Herro, 19 from Bam Adebayo, with Max Strus offering needed 3-point support in a 14-point effort off the bench.

Mitchell led the Cavaliers with 42 points, his ninth 40-point game of the season.

Five Degrees of Heat from Friday’s game:

1. Closing time: The Heat led 27-26 at the end of the first period, but then trailed 59-50 at halftime.

The Heat then closed within one early in the third period, when down 14 later in the period, before closing within 89-82 entering the fourth.

Then, with Butler on the bench, the Heat pushed to a four-point lead early in the fourth, with Butler shortly thereafter returning to help push the Heat lead to seven.

“We just had to stay afloat,” Herro said of those fourth-quarter minutes without Butler.

A Caris LeVert 3-pointer then drew Cleveland within 105-101, with a Ricky Rubio 3-pointer …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


Jimmy Butler seizes a needed moment as Heat hold off Cavaliers, Donovan Mitchell 119-115

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