Hot Jimmy Butler, Heat face slumping Magic
Coming off a fourth-quarter rally in a win Friday night vs. Cleveland, the Miami Heat will play the second game of a back-to-back on Saturday night against the skidding Orlando Magic.
Miami outscored Cleveland in the fourth quarter on Friday, 37-26, thanks in part to Jimmy Butler's 4-of-4 shooting from the floor in the period. Butler scored a team-high 33 points for his third straight game with at least 26.
The win gave Miami a 3-3 record at the conclusion of a six-game homestand.
In his post-game press conference, Butler credited Caleb Martin for providing quality minutes off the bench, particularly on defense.
"Caleb came in and changed the game on the defensive end. We really admire that. It sets a tone that everybody has to follow suit," Butler said.
Miami got other key contributions from the bench, including 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point range by Max Strus, who finished with 14 points. Victor Oladipo recorded eight points and three steals.
The Heat remain in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, tops among the four play-in spots, with a 1 1/2-game lead over eighth-place Atlanta. Miami is 2 1/2 games behind sixth-place Brooklyn ahead of Saturday's trip to Orlando.
The Magic have lost ground in pursuit of 10th place and the final play-in position with a three-game skid and defeats in four of their past five games.
Orlando is 0-3 in a four-game homestand that will conclude with Saturday's contest after dropping a 131-124 decision to Utah on Thursday.
The Magic rallied from down 13 points in the third quarter to the Jazz and took a brief lead but could not keep pace with Utah down the stretch.
"Offensive rebounds killed us at the end, (and) a few fouls," Markelle Fultz said in the post-game press conference.
Utah's Walker Kessler scored on a pair of putbacks, including an and-one, in crucial moments down the stretch.
The Magic have been solid keeping opponents off the offensive glass for much of the season. Utah grabbed only 11 rebounds on that end on Thursday.
In losses to Portland and Milwaukee earlier this week, however, Orlando struggled in other defensive areas. The Magic gave up 46-of-78 shooting from the floor to the Bucks and surrendered 16 made 3-pointers to the Trail Blazers.
The different make-up of each loss produced two more close losses for an Orlando team that has dropped five games by seven points or less since Jan. 27 -- including finals of 110-105 and 107-103 in overtime its past two times facing Miami.
In the overtime loss, on Feb. 11, the Magic gave up 23 points to Tyler Herro, 22 to Butler and 20 to Gabe Vincent, as well as 13 points and 17 rebounds to Bam Adebayo. The Heat grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and forced the Magic into 18 turnovers.
No Orlando scorer recorded more than Fultz's 17 points in that contest. Fultz is coming off a 25-point performance against Utah. Paolo Banchero posted 26 points in Thursday's loss and now is averaging 20.1 points per game for the season.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 11, 2023