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Jimmy Butler’s 37 power Heat past Rockets

/ 04:39 PM January 01, 2022
Jimmy Butler Heat

FILE – Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat drives against the Brooklyn Nets during their game at Barclays Center on October 27, 2021 in New York City.  Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP 

Jimmy Butler scored a game-high 37 points to pace six in double figures as the visiting Miami Heat fended off the Houston Rockets 120-110 on Friday for their fifth consecutive victory.

Butler shot 12 of 21 from the floor and 11 of 11 from the free-throw line to lead the Heat, who had their scheduled Wednesday game with the San Antonio Spurs postponed due to a lack of available players.

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Against the Rockets, Miami relied on a balanced attack as Tyler Herro had 16 points, six rebounds and nine assists while Kyle Guy, fresh off signing a 10-day contract, tallied 17 off the bench. Omer Yurtseven posted a 10-point, 13-rebound double-double for the Heat.

Houston’s Jae’Sean Tate paired 22 points with seven rebounds in his return from health and safety protocol. Christian Wood scored 18 points, Jalen Green 16 and Eric Gordon 15 for the Rockets, who dropped their sixth consecutive game.

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Seemingly unable to mount enough stops to muster a serious threat, the Rockets unexpectedly produced a 13-1 run that sliced the deficit to 101-95 on two KJ Martin free throws with 8:21 left.

Butler then responded with a pair of three-point plays, scoring through fouls from David Nwaba and Green to push the Heat lead back to 107-97. Tate pulled the Rockets to within five with a corner 3, but a near two-minute scoreless drought allowed Miami to seize control.

Miami opened the game on fire, shooting 66.7% while making 7 of 10 3-pointers in the first quarter. Butler and Yurtseven were particularly scorching, starting a combined 6 for 6 en route to totaling 16 points in the period. Yet, despite that hot start, the Heat trailed 27-24 when Rockets rookie guard Josh Christopher drilled a 3-pointer with 4:07 remaining in the opening period.

The Heat responded with the first of two decisive first-half runs, closing the quarter on a 17-2 surge. Guy nailed three 3-pointers in succession to get the run started, one that Herro closed with a trio of free throws before his 3-pointer with 26.7 seconds left gave Miami a 41-30 lead.

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Houston cut that deficit to nine points on an Alperen Sengun 3 at the 10:09 mark of the second period. Miami followed with a 15-0 blitz that featured only one 3-pointer but included two transition layups from Caleb Martin, jumpers from Kyle Lowry and Guy, and a dunk from Yurtseven that followed Miami aggressively pushing the ball up the court after a defensive stop.

Suddenly the Heat led 62-38 and the Rockets faced an uphill climb. Green buried a 3-pointer late in the half only for Butler to answer with a trey just before the buzzer for a 74-60 halftime lead.

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