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Jimmy Butler’s triple-double powers Heat past Wembanyama, Spurs 116-104

MIAMI – Through all the unevenness of what now is a 28-24 record, the given for the Miami Heat has been beating up on the bad.

So now make it a 19-7 record against teams with losing records after Wednesday night’s 116-104 victory over the San Antonio Spurs at Kaseya Center.

With Jimmy Butler stabilizing the Heat late, with Bam Adebayo holding his own in his matchup against Victor Wembanyama and with Tyler Herro keeping the Heat afloat through the first three periods, the Heat made it four victories in their last five games.

“That was a good defensive game overall,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’re starting to building a little bit more consistency on that end.”

Herro led the Heat with 24 points, with Adebayo closing with 20. Butler made it a triple-double night with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

It was Butler’s 15th triple-double with the Heat, including playoffs, the 19th of his career.

Wembanyama, in his Miami debut, finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, as the Spurs fell to 10-41.

“There were a lot of contributions through the course of the game,” Spoelstra said.

The Heat now are idle through Thursday’s NBA trading deadline until their Super Bowl Sunday home game against the Boston Celtics, with a decidedly more difficult close run to the All-Star break. Following that game against the Celtics, there will be road games against the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.

Five Degrees of Heat from Wednesday night’s game:

1. Closing time: The Heat led 32-31 at the end of the opening period, 53-51 at halftime and 78-77 going into the fourth quarter.

From there, largely playing in transition, the Heat then moved to a 96-85 lead with 6:34 to play on a Jaime Jaquez Jr. transition layup off a Duncan Robinson steal.

The lead then moved to 100-87 with 4:24 to play on a Caleb Martin 3-pointer, with a pair of Butler free throws later pushing the advantage to 15.

“We just had to kind of slow the game down a little bit,” Spoelstra said, “and Jimmy can do that as well as anybody in this league.”

2.  More of same: A night after Spoelstra reworked the Heat rotation, it was the same substitution pattern.

That had an opening lineup of Adebayo, Butler, Herro, Terry Rozier and Martin.

From there, Jaquez, Kevin Love, Josh Richardson and Robinson entered off the bench, with Butler cycling back into the mix to play with those four at the end of the first period and start of the second.

Butler for the second consecutive night was on the court to start the fourth quarter, a dramatic switch from Spoelstra’s previous approach.

“He definitely just stabilized things,” Spoelstra said.

3. Takeover time: Butler seemingly said enough was enough at the start of the fourth quarter, when he scored seven points in the first 3:04 of the final period after scoring eight total points to stage.

Then, after a timeout,  he hit Adebayo with a transition alley-oop pass for a basket that put the Heat up 10.

Butler’s fourth-quarter surge included a 3-pointer, extending his career-best streak of games with at least one to 10. He closed with nine points and six assists in the 9:34 he played in the fourth quarter.

Butler shot 5 of 12 from the field, but was 6 of 6 from the line.

4. Middle men: In the featured matchup in the middle, Adebayo was up to 10 points before being forced to the bench with his second foul 8:26 into the opening period.

Adebayo shot 5 of 6 in the first period, with his only miss being a shot that was blocked by Wembanyama.

Adebayo and Wembanyama each had 12 points at the intermission.

Adebayo then was called for his fourth foul with 6:38 left in the third period. He closed 10 of 14 from the field, with five rebounds.

Wembanyama shot 7 of 13.

5. Herro ball: Herro was up to 20 points by the midpoint of the third period, in one of his more efficient performances.

The effort came amid solid playmaking as he works his backcourt chemistry with Rozier.

Herro closed 10 of 15 from the field, including 4 of 7 on 3-pointers. He also had seven assists and six rebounds.

“I think you’re going to see Tyler and Terry build an even better connection with more games,” Spoelstra said. “But you see the speed, quickness and skill that they both have.”

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