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Heat go from ragged start to a roll into No. 5 in East with 106-96 victory in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. – If the second half of the NBA season is about building toward something better, then Tuesday night’s 106-96 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center certainly served as a significant building block for the Miami Heat.

Playoff Jimmy Butler made a regular-season appearance.

Terry Rozier returned from his knee sprain with an aggressive bent.

Duncan Robinson recovered his 3-point stroke.

And in winning for the ninth time in their last 11 games, the Heat moved into fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

“We’ve always been all right,” Butler said, “but it feels good winning.”

So make it a five-game winning streak and a six-game road winning streak, behind 22 points, nine assists and four steals from Butler, as well as 19 points from Rozier and 17 from Robinson. The Heat also got 13 points and nine rebounds from Bam Adebayo.

“You can feel that the group is sensing an opportunity right now,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.

The Heat had Butler and Nikola Jovic back from their one-game suspensions that resulted from Friday night’s dustup against the New Orleans Pelicans at the start of this four-game trip. Also back for the Heat was Rozier, who had missed the previous four games.

“We were fortunate to get an influx of energy from the guys who didn’t play Monday,” Robinson said.

Out for a second consecutive game for the Heat was guard Tyler Herro, with a hyperextended knee.

The Heat caught a break when Blazers center Deandre Ayton, after going for 12 points and 10 rebounds in the first half, was unable to make it back for the second half due to a sprained right hand, his night limited to 18:34 of action.

That helped the Heat survive on a night they committed 20 turnovers and allowed 15 offensive rebounds.

“It was ugly at times,” Spoelstra said. “But learning how to win is a talent in this league.”

The victory combined with the Philadelphia 76ers’ loss earlier in the night to the Boston Celtics moved the Heat into the No. 5 seed in the East, as they head into Thursday night’s NBA Finals rematch against the Denver Nuggets.

Five Degrees of Heat from Tuesday night’s game:

1. Closing time: The Heat trailed 28-15 after the first period and 56-46 at halftime.

Finally on a driving Rozier layup that made it 73-71, the Heat took their first lead with 4:07 to play in the third period.

From there, the Heat went into the fourth quarter up 80-76, with Butler back on the court to start the fourth.

The Heat later took their first double-digit lead on a Jaime Jaquez Jr. 3-pointer with 4:03 remaining, holding on from there.

“I think we’re definitely building some resolve and identity,” Robinson said.

2. Rotation revision: Rozier not only was back, but was back in the starting lineup. In opening alongside Butler, Adebayo, Robinson and Jovic, it gave the Heat their 31st starting lineup of the season, tying the franchise record, with 24 games remaining.

Delon Wright had started at point guard Monday. In addition, Jovic, back from his suspension, replaced Caleb Martin in the first five.

The Heat then fell behind 8-0 at the outset and closed the first period 6 of 21 from the field, with six turnovers. The 15 points were a first-quarter low this season for the Heat.

“It was definitely a challenging start to this game,” Spoelstra said, “but I thought this was a very good response.”

3. Rozier’s night: Rozier, sidelined since spraining his right knee in the Feb. 11 home loss to the Boston Celtics, was 1 of 4 from the field without an assist in his opening eight-minute stint.

He then came around with a driving 3-point play late in the second period, followed up by a 3-pointer.

Rozier’s return added a spark of speed that had been lacking in his absence, with his penetration game creating offense for others, if not necessarily assists for himself.

“We’re definitely better when he’s aggressive and in attack mode,” Spoelstra said.

Rozier closed 7 of 14 from the field, with four rebounds and four assists.

“These guys are always picking me up,” Rozier said.

4. Butler’s return: Butler’s return from his one-game suspension initially came with a passive approach, his lone point in the first quarter on a free throw off a Blazers technical foul for illegal defense.

He then took a far more aggressive bent upon re-entering, attacking the rim, with nine points and three assists in the second quarter.

In the third period, Butler extended his career-best streak to 12 consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer, on his first attempt of the game from beyond the arc.

“It’s different than playing basketball in ‘the yard,’ ” Butler joked of having spent Monday in NBA prison with his suspension.

5. Robinson redeux: Having entered Monday night’s game in Sacramento having made at least five 3-pointers in his previous three games, Robinson then went 0 for 6 in the win over the Kings as part of his 1-of-11 night from the field.

Having compensated with 11 assists Monday, Robinson this time again found his stroke, closing 4 of 6 from beyond the arc, also creating a three-shot foul and converting all three free throws.

“I’m a beneficiary of the attention they draw,” Robinson said of Butler and Adebayo.

Spoelstra said Robinson’s night-to-night adjustment was essential.

“I think that shows the versatility and development of his game, that he was able to make the read of the game that this game was different than last night,” Spoelstra said. “Last night, the passing was necessary. Tonight, the passing was leading to some turnovers, so we just told him, shoot the ball, keep that simple.”