Adebayo’s late jumper lifts Heat over Magic 99-96 in absence of three starters

Adebayo’s late jumper lifts Heat over Magic 99-96 in absence of three starters

MIAMI – Yes, this was Miami Heat-Orlando Magic. Sort of.

Related Articles

With the Heat without three starters, the Magic without two.

In the end, it wasn’t half bad for the Heat, which was good enough for a 99-96 victory Friday night at Kaseya Center.

“That,” Heat guard Duncan Robinson said, “was grind it out. We talked about it, just find a way to win, no matter if it’s pretty, ugly, somewhere in between. I thought we had stretches where we played well, some stretches where we gutted out a win.”

With the Heat lacking Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry, and with the Magic without Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr., this hardly was the truest test of Florida supremacy.

But it was a needed bounceback for the Heat after Wednesday night’s drubbing by the Oklahoma City Thunder,

So, after a go-ahead jumper by Bam Adebayo and two late clutch free throws from Haywood Highsmith, with Sunday night’s game against the Charlotte Hornets remaining, there remains the opportunity to close out a 3-1 homestand.

“We had to win it ugly,” Adebayo said.

The Heat got 23 points from Robinson, 19 from Jaime Jaquez Jr. and 21 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists from Adebayo.

“This is a throwback Miami Heat game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s OK to keep the score down and defend and then find a way to win at the end.”

The Magic were led by 25 points from Paolo Banchero.

Five Degrees of Heat from Friday night’s game:

1. Closing time: The Heat led 30-22 after the first quarter and 56-55 at halftime, after pushing to an 11-point lead in the second period.

Even with a 12-0 Magic run in the third quarter, the Heat were able to take a 75-73 lead into the fourth.

Eventually, it stood as a two-point Heat lead when Adebayo went to the line with 1:24 to play, making only the second of the two free throws for a 95-92 Heat lead, with Banchero then burying consecutive jumpers for a 96-95 Magic lead with 38 seconds left.

Out of a timeout, Adebayo was swarmed in the paint, with the ball going out of bounds off the Magic. After an unsuccessful Magic challenge on the out-of-bounds ruling, Adebayo buried a 13-foot jumper for a 97-96 Heat lead with 18.8 seconds remaining.

“We were running basically every action through him,” Spoelsrta said.

Orlando followed with its final timeout, with Banchero off on a pair of shots, including one on an offensive rebound.

“I thought it was fitting we were able to seal it for a defensive stop,” Spoelsta said.

That then had Highsmith at the line with 7.8 seconds remaining, with his two free throws closing out the scoring.

“I haven’t been in that situation in my career a lot,” Highsmith said, “so I just wanted to step up and make two free throws.”

The game ended on an errant desperation 3-point attempt by Banchero.

“It would have been nice to have it a little easier than that,” Heat forward Caleb Martin said.

2. The complete (exhausted) Bam: On a night of ample missed shots, Adebayo took control of the boards early, with seven first-quarter rebounds.

Then, with his offense off early, he turned to playmaker, with five first-half assists.

Later, unlike when Spoelstra typically rests his leading man at the start of the fourth, be it Butler or Herro when available, he this time had Adebayo on the court at the open of the final period . . . and through to the finish.

The exhaustion eventually showed . . . until that final go-ahead jumper.

Adebayo said the winner came from muscle memory.

“The hours and hours and work of doing that shot,” Adebayo said. “That comes from all the work I’ve done for that one that, that one moment.”

Adebayo played all 12 minutes in the fourth, with seven points in the quarter,

“I just felt he had his fingerprints all over this game,” Spoelstra said. “I felt like he had a triple-double. His playmaking was elite and essential.”

3. Martin back: Martin was back for the Heat after missing the previous seven games with a sprained right ankle, entering for the first time with 3:26 left in the opening period.

Spoelstra said it was a welcomed infusion of intangibles.

“It’s hard to actually explain it,” Spoelstra said. “You just feel it when he’s out there. It’s the quick twitch, that speed, quickness. And he fills in a lot of those X-factor gaps that I talk about that lead to winning.”

Martin, who was injured during the Christmas night victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, had pushed to return sooner.

“I know how badly he’s wanted to get out there,” Spoelstra said. “So it’s good to see him in a better mood.”

Martin said he tried not to force the action,

“I wanted to feel the game out,” he said.

Martin had seven points early in the fourth to keep the Heat afloat, closing with 11 points and four rebounds in his 23:57.

“He’s a gnarly competitor,” Spoelstra said.

4. No. 21: With Butler, Herro and Lowry out, the Heat opened with their 21st lineup in their 38 games.

This one was somewhat unique, without a true point guard, instead opening with Adebayo, Jaquez, Robinson, Highsmith and 6-foot-10 Nikola Jovic as the ballhandler. It was Jovic’s fifth consecutive start, after starting only once previously this season.

The 21 lineups tie for the most in the NBA.

“When I do my prep, that’s different for every game,” Spoelstra said. “You definitely can’t check boxes and mail it in.”

5. The streak: With the victory, the Heat improved to 8-0 within the Southeast Division and made it a franchise-record 21 consecutive home wins within the division, with an opportunity to extend that streak to 22 on Sunday night, when the Charlotte Hornets visit.

The previous Heat record had been 20 consecutive such divisional home wins, from March 2004 to March 2006.

The current home divisional winning streak, the longest active such run in the NBA, began on March 11, 2021.

The other two teams in the division are the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards.