Heat push past short-handed Lakers, 110-104, as Victor Oladipo exits early

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Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·4 min read
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The Miami Heat were served up a buffet of Los Angeles Lakers leftovers Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

For most of the game, it seemingly left them with indigestion.

No LeBron James. No Anthony Davis. No Kyle Kuzma. Heck, not even Talen Horton-Tucker.

Eventually, Erik Spoelstra’s team offered up something palatable enough to move to a 110-104 victory, albeit a victory that could have come at a price, with newcomer Victor Oladipo limping to the locker room midway through the fourth quarter.

So make it five victories in the past six games, as the Heat now head west for a four-game trip that opens Sunday in Portland, facing questions about Oladipo’s availability.

Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 28 points, supported by 18 from Oladipo, 15 from Tyler Herro, 13 from Bam Adebayo and 11 from Duncan Robinson. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the Lakers with 28 points.

After falling in six games to the Lakers in the 2020 NBA Finals, the Heat won the season’s first meeting 96-94 on Feb. 20 at Staples Center, when James and most of the Lakers beyond Davis were available. They then completed the sweep Thursday, against a lineup bearing little resemblance to last season’s championship team, in a turnover-filled contest.

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Five Degrees of Heat from Thursday’s game:

1. Closing time: The Heat strung together an 8-0 run, highlighted by a Robinson four-point play, to move to an 80-72 lead with 2:46 left in the third period, but the Lakers immediately pushed back, going into the fourth within 83-80.

The Heat pushed their lead to eight early in the fourth quarter, but by the midpoint of the period the Lakers closed within 92-89 on a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 3-pointer.

Later, jumpers by Butler and Herro put the Heat up 99-92, with a Robinson 3-pointer eventually making it 102-94.

Shortly thereafter, Lakers forward Markieff Morris was ejected with a pair of technical fouls, with those Butler free throws giving the Heat a 104-94 lead.

2. Oladipo’s night: It started with arguably the most aggressive action for Oladipo since debuting with the Heat a week ago, in attack mode at the outset, with six early free throws.

He then had a statement moment with 7:11 left in the third period, with a vicious driving, showstopping dunk against Lakers center Andre Drummond, briefly flexing afterward, as if shedding the doubts about his surgical quadricep.

Oladipo also converted a pair of third-quarter 3-pointers, easing those doubts, as well.

But then, after another dunk, this one midway through the fourth, Oladipo landed awkwardly and immediately signaled he needed to be removed as he limped back on defense, going directly into the locker room.

3. Another opportunity: After nothing but mop-up duty the previous three games, Precious Achiuwa got another chance when he was inserted for the first time with eight minutes to play in the third period, as the Heat’s first big man off the bench in the second half.

It did not go well initially. He was called for a foul 33 seconds after entering, and another exactly one minute later, leading to four Lakers free throws.

Achiuwa’s third and fourth fouls followed in short order, forcing him back to the bench with 3:55 left in the third.

Nemanja Bjelica had played as the Heat’s first big man off the bench in the first half.

Achiuwa then had to return with 36.5 seconds left in the third, when Adebayo was called for his fourth foul.

To his credit, Achiuwa remained aggressive and had his moments later in the game, affording Adebayo needed rest.

4. Attack mode: The Heat came out in attack mode, closing the first quarter 16 of 18 from the line.

The 18 free throws were a Heat high for any period this season and the team’s high for a quarter in more than four seasons.

The Lakers’ lone foul shot in the first period was a conversion by Ben McLemore after a Heat illegal-defense violation with 54 seconds left in the quarter.

But, as has been the case in several recent games, it was not sustained.

5. Sloppy mode: From precise the Heat went to ragged, with six turnovers in the second period and 12 in the first half.

That allowed the Lakers to overcome an 11-point second quarter deficit and move to a 56-54 halftime lead.