Heat 100, Cavaliers 97
Jimmy Butler scored 23 points, Bam Adebayo added 18 points and 11 rebounds and the Miami Heat showed their experience down the stretch in a 100-97 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night.
Caleb Martin scored 18 points and matched his career high with 10 rebounds, and Tyler Herro also scored 18 for the Heat, who moved within 1 1/2 games of the fifth-place Cavs in the Eastern Conference standings.
After 45 up-and-down minutes, the Heat made key plays when it mattered most.
“When it gets to the last three of four minutes, because of the experiences we’ve had, guys feel comfortable enough to execute under that kind of pressure,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said Miami's maturity was the difference.
“That's why they are who they are,” he said.
Butler, who has been slowed by injuries for much of the season, hit a short jumper to put the Heat up 98-93 with 1:23 left, and his free throw — following a huge offensive rebound by Adebayo — kept the Heat ahead by five with 12 seconds left.
Darius Garland's 3-pointer brought the Cavs within 99-97 with 8.7 seconds remaining. Cleveland fouled Butler with 7.3 seconds left, and he split his free throws, giving Cleveland a chance to tie.
All-Star starter Donovan Mitchell rushed the ball up the floor but his contested 3-pointer at the buzzer was short.
“They know who to key in on at that point,” Bickerstaff said. “But I thought (Mitchell) did a great job of creating separation and getting a shot off. I thought we got as good a look as we can at that point.”
Butler was most pleased by Miami's defense in the closing minutes.
“We still had lapses, but I'm glad those lapses did not cost us the game,” he said. “We got stops down the stretch when we needed to.”
Evan Mobley scored 19 points, Mitchell had 16 and Jarrett Allen added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavs, who dropped to 21-6 at home.
Mitchell and Darius Garland were a combined 4 of 19 on 3-pointers.
The NBA's top-rated defensive team, the Cavs came out looking to make everything difficult for the Heat offensively.
Miami had no early answers and started 2 of 10 from the floor with five turnovers in the first five minutes, but Butler scored 11 points in the quarter while helping his teammates settle in.
“We were disjointed at the beginning of the game, and I think Jimmy sensed that and went to work,” Spoelstra said.
Ricky Rubio had eight points, five rebounds and five assists in 17 minutes for Cleveland. He's beginning to look more comfortable after returning from knee surgery. Kevin Love (back spasms) sat out his fourth consecutive game.
Nuggets 122, Pelicans 113
Jamal Murray scored 32 points, Nikola Jokic had his 16th triple-double of the season and Denver held off reeling New Orleans.
Jokic finished with 26 points, 18 rebounds and 15 assists as the Western Conference leaders improved to 16-0 when Jokic has a triple-double. Murray made a season-high seven 3-pointers.
CJ McCollum and Herbert Jones each scored 21 points for the Pelicans. They have dropped nine straight games to finish 3-13 in January.
Part of the reason for the slide has been the absence of standout Zion Williamson, who has missed 15 straight games with a hamstring injury.
Bucks 124, Hornets 115
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points and 18 rebounds and Milwaukee beat Charlotte to win its fifth straight and avenge one of its most embarrassing losses of the season.
The Bucks withstood a triple-double from Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball, who had 27 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
Charlotte (16-36) entered the night with the fourth-worst record in the NBA, but the Hornets won 138-109 at Milwaukee on Jan. 6 to hand the Bucks their second-most lopsided loss of the season.
Clippers 108, Bulls 103
Kawhi Leonard scored 33 points, Norman Powell added 27 and Los Angeles beat Chicago for its sixth victory in seven games.
Paul George added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers.
Nikola Vucevic had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Chicago.