With headliners Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid sidelined for the Miami Heat’s marquee matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers, it was the rookie, Jaime Jaquez Jr., who played like a star on one of the biggest days of the NBA calendar.
Jaquez finished with career-highs in points (31) and rebounds (10) for his first double-double to lead the Heat to a 119-113 win over the 76ers at Kaseya Center Monday night.
“This is a game that I thought he had around 21 points,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I didn’t think he had that kind of game because he does a lot of stuff without the ball in his hands. I don’t think I called one play for him tonight, literally.”
Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored a game-high 31 points to lead the Jimmy Butler-less Heat to a big Christmas. Day win over the 76ers.
Jaquez poured in 11 of 15 from the field and made all eight of his free throw attempts. He scored off cuts, post-ups, behind-the-back crossovers and hook shots. He pushed the ball in transition and caught outlet passes from Kevin Love on the break. He grabbed offensive rebounds that turned into key second-chance points for the Heat down the stretch.
When the 76ers cut Miami’s 21-point lead to two with under 5 minutes to go, Jaquez rebounded a Kyle Lowry missed three and got to the foul line. His pair of free throws at the end, for his 30th and 31st points, put the game away.
“Definitely special,” Jaquez said. “Great to get a win, career night, Christmas. I grew up watching these games and to be able to play and have a career night, I just go back to all the hard work and late nights in the gym just preparing for moments like this.”
Jaquez’s 31-point night tied Kyle Kuzma for the seventh-most points scored by a rookie on Christmas, behind only Wilt Chamberlain (45), Walt Bellamy (35), LeBron James (34), Bill Cartwright (33), Patrick Ewing (32) and Oscar Robertson (32).
His 31 points is tied for the third highest scoring game by a Heat player on Christmas, tying Dwyane Wade’s 31-point game against the Cavaliers in 2014. Only Wade’s 40-point game against the Lakers in 2006 and LeBron James’ 37-point game in Dallas in 2011 were higher.