Jimmy Butler Outduels Fred VanVleet as Heat Defeat Raptors 116-108
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Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Jimmy Butler scored 14 of his game-high 27 points in the final 5:01 of regulation to lead the Miami Heat to a 116-108 home win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Norman Powell’s three-pointer cut Miami’s lead to 100-98 with 5:24 left, but Butler caught fire down the stretch, scoring 14 of the Heat’s final 16 points and assisting on a Bam Adebayo bucket.

The Raptors lost despite shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from three-point range and outscoring the Heat 21-10 off turnovers. Miami outrebounded Toronto 50-37.

Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet led the Raptors with 24 points apiece. Pascal Siakam scored just five.

The Heat welcomed back guard Goran Dragic, who had been out since Feb. 5 with a sprained left ankle. Dragic finished with 15 points to help the Miami reserves outscore the Toronto bench 39-24.

The 15-17 Heat have won four straight games. The 16-17 Raptors have dropped two in a row.

Notable Performances

Raptors PG Kyle Lowry: 24 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds

Raptors SG Fred VanVleet: 24 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds

Raptors F Norman Powell: 17 points, 3 assists

Heat SF Jimmy Butler: 27 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds, 3 steals

Heat C Bam Adebayo: 19 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists

Heat SG Duncan Robinson: 17 points

Butler Too Much for Raps in Final 5 Minutes

The Heat had a chance to put the game away after taking a 65-50 lead late in the second quarter, but the Raptors made a run to start the third quarter and tied things up. Miami again extended its lead to double digits late in the period and in the fourth, but Toronto pulled within one possession on Powell’s triple.

Butler, however, shut the door on a comeback.

He responded to Powell’s make by hitting a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down to put the Heat up 103-98. He then stole a Powell pass and took care of business himself for a seven-point edge:

Miami HEAT @MiamiHEAT

It’s Jimmy timeeee https://t.co/0Buko3vabi

VanVleet answered with a three, but one minute later, Butler hit another shot from downtown.

That kickstarted a 7-0 run by Butler run that launched Miami to a 112-101 advantage. But after VanVleet sank a three and OG Anunoby dunked to slice the deficit to six, the Heat had to answer.

They were able to do that with Butler. He missed two shots on the next possession, but Andre Iguodala and Kendrick Nunn grabbed offensive rebounds. The third time was a charm, as Butler found Adebayo for the game-sealing bucket:

Miami HEAT @MiamiHEAT

the end 💥 https://t.co/umDQz5xTtI

The Heat look like they’re back to their 2020 postseason form after a rough start in which they were hindered by injuries and absences because of health and safety protocols. Butler’s February performance explains part of the reason why:

StatMuse @statmuse

Jimmy Butler in February:
🔥 20.4 PPG
🔥 8.7 RPG
🔥 8.8 APG

Bam Adebayo in February:
🔥 19.2 PPG
🔥 9.8 RPG
🔥 55.8 FG%

The Heat are now 7th in the East, having won 8 of their last 11 games. https://t.co/lqHlNGISVL

With Miami awaiting the return of just one key rotation player in Tyler Herro, it appears ready to make a big move in the second half and challenge for a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference once again.

Winning the East’s No. 1 seed may be tough with the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets neck and neck, but the Heat last year made the NBA Finals from the No. 5 spot.

4 Factors Led to Raptors’ Loss

It’s been an interesting season in the East, with each team having its share of struggles, and the Raptors are among seven squads at or near .500.

But Toronto appears to be rounding into form. Yes, it has lost two straight, but falling to the East’s top team in the 76ers and the streaking defending conference champion Heat isn’t a huge deal, especially since the losses came on back-to-back nights.

On Wednesday, Siakam arguably had his worst game of the season, sitting out the fourth quarter as head coach Nick Nurse decided to shake things up.

“In regards to Siakam sitting out the fourth, Nurse said he liked what he was seeing from the group that was on the floor, thought they were hanging in/making runs and wanted to change up the rotation in the 2nd night of a back-to-back, could do that more often in 2nd half of season,” Josh Lewenberg of TSN tweeted postgame.

Siakam, an All-Star Game starter last year, had just one made field goal and two rebounds. It’s not much to be concerned about considering he was averaging 23.3 points and 7.1 rebounds since Jan. 29 before this game.

Other problems arose, though.

The Raptors had just three more turnovers, but theirs proved more costly, with the Heat turning them into 21 points. None hurt more than Butler’s steal and score with the Raptors possessing the ball down five late.

The boards were also not Toronto’s friend. Adebayo had two times as many offensive rebounds (six) as the entire Toronto team (three), and his work on that end helped the Heat seal the game in the fourth.

The return of Dragic also boosted the Heat’s second unit. He went just 4-of-13 but helped the Heat pull off a 34-21 second-quarter edge. Andre Iguodala’s four three-pointers helped matters as well.

Toronto can’t be happy that it sits under .500 once again after fighting its way back over that mark earlier recently, but the Raptors still have 39 games left, and they won’t be facing brutal road schedules every week. Brighter days await ahead.

What’s Next?

Toronto will host the Houston Rockets on Friday at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. Game time is 7:30 p.m. ET.

Miami will stay home to welcome the Utah Jazz, who hold the league’s best record. Game time is 8 p.m. ET Friday.

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