Jimmy Butler comes through when needed as Heat hold off Pistons 118-110 for 11th win in last 14 games

MIAMI — The trap door was open.

The Miami Heat were teetering.

Because this would have been the type of loss that leads to the dangers of the play-in bracket.

Eventually, order was restored Tuesday night at Kaseya Center.


And, so, with a 118-110 victory over the Detroit Pistons. make it 11 victories in the past 14 games for the Heat, and a drop to 9-52 for the Pistons.

With forward Jimmy Butler seizing control late, with 15 fourth-quarter points, the Heat averted the unseemly and instead moved into the No. 6 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, a half-game out of No. 4.

While the matchup was lopsided in terms of records, with the Heat improving to 35-26, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the mettle his team showed at the close was playoff level.

“If you just always guarantee we get the win,” he said, “I want as many of those as possible.”

Butler closed with 26 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Again playing in the absence of guard Tyler Herro, who remains sidelined by foot pain, the Heat got 18 points apiece from center Bam Adebayo and guard Duncan Robinson, 17 from guard Terry Rozier and 15 from forward Caleb Martin.

“We’re trending in the right direction,” Martin said. “I think we’re starting to figure out a base for ourselves.”

The ante next rises considerably, with a two-game trip against the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday and Friday nights.

“These next 21 games, there probably will be a lot of these,” Spoelsta said of the scrambled playoff race. “It’s just the way it’s been going now.”

Five Degrees of Heat from Tuesday night’s game:

1. Closing time: The Heat led 36-26 at the end of the opening period, 61-60 at halftime and 93-88 going into the fourth.

In an ongoing twist from the Heat’s approach over the first half of the season, Butler then was on the court to start the fourth quarter.

But with Butler on the bench, the Pistons closed within 104-101 with 4:16 to play, with Butler returning at that stage.

After the Pistons drew within one with 2:40 to play, the Heat pushed their lead to 111-105 with 2:05 left on a Robinson transition 3-pointer.

But a 3-pointer by the Pistons’ Simone Fontecchio drew Detroit within 111-108 with 52.5 seconds to play.

A Butler basket and then a Butler 3-pointer eventually put it away.

“That was a physical game,” Spoelstra said., “And you can’t look at their record. You try to tell that to your team as much as possible.”

2: Butler does it: Butler’s late 3-pointer not only kept the Heat afloat, but also three Butler streaks.

Butler now has recorded both a 3-pointer and steal in 14th consecutive games, one off Rafer Alston’s franchise record for such a streak.

He also extended his career-best streak of games with at least one 3-pointer to 15.

And he extended his season-best streak 13 consecutive games with at least one steal.

He closed 7 of 13 from the field and 11 of 12 from the line.

Mostly, though, it was about his performance at closing time.

“He has a feel for that,” Spoelstra said of Butler at closing time. “It’s not like I’m telling him in a timeout, ‘Hey, it’s your time to take over.’ ”

3. Slow, then go: It was an uneven first half for Adebayo against the Pistons’ size, at 3 for 10 over the first two periods.

That’s also when he seemingly said enough was enough, converting his first four shots of the second half, including an alley-oop dunk that capped a 12-0 run and forced a Pistons timeout.

Adebayo was up to 17 points going into the fourth quarter.

He closed 8 of 17 from the field, with seven rebounds.

“Bam has really given us a place where we can throw the ball in the fourth quarter,” Spoelstra said.

Adebayo said having to go — and being able to go — the distance to seal the win was meaningful.

“It’s great for us looking to the playoffs,” he said, “when games become possession by possession.”

4. Rough go for Niko: Nikola Jovic, who has been playing as the Heat’s starting power forward, was ejected with 5:43 to play in the third period with his second technical foul, cited for over-vigorously contesting a foul call, after a first technical foul was for throwing the ball against the stanchion.

“I’m definitely not going to try to squash that,” Spoelstra said of the emotion. “We love passion. We love competition. We love guys getting into all that.”

Spoelstra took exception to the rulings.

“You’re allowed one emotional burst,” he said. “Everybody is.”

The ejection came eight days after Jovic was suspended from last week’s road victory over the Sacramento Kings for leaving the bench during the melee against the New Orleans Pelicans three days earlier.

“Will it be a teaching moment? Yes,” Spoelstra said. “But at the same time, I like his emotions.”

Jovic played 21:22, closing with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting, four rebounds and two assists.

“Man,” Adebayo said with a smile, “we’ve got to keep him in the game.”

5. Altered reality: With Jovic banished to the locker room, it led to the first action since Jan. 31 for backup center Thomas Bryant, who entered at the start of the fourth quarter.

Bryant had been held out of nine of the previous 12 games by coach’s decision, suspended by the NBA for the other three for his role in the melee in New Orleans.

The Heat’s power rotation already was shorthanded with Kevin Love missing his third consecutive game with a bruised right heel.

Orlando Robinson had played as the Heat’s backup center in the first half, with five rebounds in his 7:33.