Jimmy Butler took over and the Miami Heat beat the Detroit Pistons, 118 to 105, on Tuesday night.
- After the Pistons took a brief lead, Butler scored 18 of his 27 points in the final six minutes of the game to lift the Heat to a much-needed win.
- Butler’s driving layup with 1:23 left gave the Heat a 10-point lead and sealed the win in a game that featured 23 lead changes.
- The Heat led by as many as 17 points, but the Pistons used a 17-1 run to take the lead in the third quarter. Rookie guard Jaden Ivey finished with 30 points and seven assists, while Jalen Duren had 20 points and 14 rebounds.
- Miami improves to 42-37 to maintain a cushion for the No. 7 seed — and home court in the play-in tournament — in the East.
Is the new starting lineup here to stay?
For the second straight game, the Heat went with Max Strus as the fifth starter and brought Kevin Love off the bench. It appears Erik Spoelstra will roll with this lineup — with Strus alongside Gabe Vincent, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo — until he has a reason to change.
The Heat went with a similar group (with Cody Zeller starting in place of an injured Adebayo) in Saturday’s win over the Mavericks. At the time, it was unclear if Spoelstra went with that group for matchup purposes against a smaller Mavericks team, or if it was a matter of trying to invigorate an offense that had scored 100, 92 and 92 points in three prior losses.
As Spoelstra hinted at over the weekend, this is more of a longterm play. At least for the rest of the regular season. Against a Pistons team that runs large with James Wiseman and Jalen Duren — two centers — in the starting lineup, the Heat stuck with the small-ball lineup.
Beyond the changes to the starting five, Love has been used as the backup center behind Adebayo with most of his minutes aligning with Kyle Lowry and Butler. Caleb Martin rounds out the eight-man rotation. Zeller did not play Tuesday, nor did Victor Oladipo, Duncan Robinson, Haywood Highsmith or Omer Yurtseven.
The Heat opened up a 17-point lead in the second quarter and it appeared they were on their way to a no-mess win, but the Pistons used a 17-1 run to bridge the second and third quarters and take a one-point lead in the third. The game was back and forth after that, with 23 lead changes in all.
Butler, who had just two points in the first half while mostly looking to facilitate, took over down the stretch. He scored 18 points on 7 for 7 shooting in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter to put the game away.