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Heat ride rotation reset to 121-95 rout of Magic behind Butler’s 23

MIAMI – It probably is too early to say whether the Miami Heat definitively have found a better way.

But Tuesday night, coach Erik Spoelstra made clear it was time for a different way.

So he changed his starting lineup, altered his rotation, redefined some responsibilities and saw his team put together one of its best performances in weeks.

With Jimmy Butler leading the way, and with Terry Rozier finding his way, the Heat pushed past the Orlando Magic 121-95 Tuesday night at Kaseya Center, their third victory in the last four games.

Butler, playing more as a point guard than previously this season, closed with 23 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. The Heat also got 18 points from Rozier, and 14 apiece from Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro.

Those efforts, which helped fuel a 40-point third period, allowed the Heat to move past Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at the start of this four-game homestand that continues Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs.

Five Degrees of Heat from Tuesday night’s game:

1. Closing time: The Heat lead 26-19 at the end of the first period, went up 20 with 3:45 left in the second, but were reduced to a 56-49 lead at the intermission,

After Orlando closed within five early in the third, the Heat pushed back to a 24-point lead, before going into the fourth up 96-75.

Then, in continuing with the night’s theme of a rotation, reshuffle, Butler opened the fourth quarter on the court, instead of his typical bench mode at the start of the period.

From there, the Magic closed within 10 early in the fourth, before consecutive Butler 3-pointers as part of his personal 8-0 run pushed the Heat ahead 106-88.

The Heat kept it safety ahead from there.

2. And another one: A game after unveiling their 26th lineup of the season, the Heat this time moved to lineup No. 27 in their 51st game.

The change had Caleb Martin opening in place of Haywood Highsmith, who had started the previous seven games.

Martin’s previous start was the Jan. 21 road loss to the Magic, with Martin apparently Spoelstra’s preferred defender against the Magic’s size.

The rest of the starting lineup remained Adebayo, Butler, Herro and Rozier.

The next starting group then moved to a 12-point lead before the Heat’s first substitution.

3. With a twist: The revised alignment in the returns of Herro and Duncan Robinson from absences had Butler exiting early and then returning to close out the first period with a reserve unit of Kevin Love, Jaime Jaquez Jr., Josh Richardson and Robinson.

Butler played as the de facto point guard in that alignment, as both Herro and Rozier sat.

That unit also started the second period.

With his 3-pointers, Butler extended his career-best streak with at least one to nine games.

Butler closed 6 of 9 from the field, 9 of 12 from the line.

4. The Terry tracker: Rozier did not allow his recent shooting struggles to temper his aggression, in what turned into one of his most efficient performances since joining the Heat in his trade from the Charlotte Hornets.

Playing more off the ball, Rozier stepped into his 3-pointers with confidence, playing well in tandem with Herro, and then later with Butler.

He shot 7 of 12 from the field, including 2 of 4 on 3-pointers, with seven assists and six rebounds.

“Still getting there. Still getting there,” he said. “Trying to get acclimated.”

5. The tiebreaker: The victory not only extended the Heat’s franchise record to a ninth consecutive home victory over the Magic, but also secured a 3-1 win in the season series.

In a competitive Eastern Conference playoff race, that not only stands as a tiebreaker advantage over the Magic, but also for a potential Southeast Division title.

While a division winner is not necessarily guaranteed a playoff berth, a division championship serves as a leading playoff tiebreaker beyond head-to-head record.

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