Heat relying on Butler entering matchup with Jazz

NBA
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The Utah Jazz, who snapped a season-worst five-game losing streak last week, now have won three games in a row.

Up next: the Miami Heat in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night.

Miami knows all about snapping skids. The Heat broke a season-worst, three-game tailspin Monday night, beating the Golden State Warriors 113-101. It was Miami’s first win at Golden State since February of 2014, and it happened only after Heat star Jimmy Butler returned to the lineup after missing two games due to a shoulder injury.

“We look like a totally different team when our max player is out there,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Butler, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds. “He makes our offense run smoother and more settled. He finds a way to get to the free-throw line.”

Indeed, Butler is averaging 9.2 free throws per game, and Miami’s next-best player in that category is Bam Adebayo with just 5.1.

Butler, a five-time All-Star who is shooting 83.7 percent from the foul line, also leads Miami in scoring (20.5), assists (6.2) and steals (1.8).

Interestingly, Butler’s effective field-goal percentage — a metric that adjusts for the extra value of a three-point shot — is last among Heat rotation players at 47.9 percent. Butler is shooting just 25.5 percent from three-point range.

In other words, Butler does a lot of damage by attacking the rim, and it will be up to the Jazz to keep him off the foul line on Wednesday.

The Jazz defense entered Tuesday tied for seventh in the NBA in points allowed (107.3) and eighth in foul shots allowed (21.3).

Miami is 15th in the league in scoring (111.9) but fourth in getting to the line (25.2 shots per game).

Utah should have an advantage at home, where the Jazz are 19-5. Miami is 13-15 on the road.

Overall, it’s a battle of fourth-place teams — Utah in the Western Conference and Miami in the Eastern Conference.

Utah is led by 6-1 guard Donovan Mitchell, a rising star in just his third year in the NBA. He averaged 20.5 points as a rookie and 23.8 points last season. This season, he is a first-time All-Star, averaging 24.3 points, which ranks 14th in the league.

But the Jazz have more talent than just Mitchell.

Bojan Bogdanovich is averaging 21.0 points while leading the team in three-point percentage (42.3). All-Star center Rudy Gobert is averaging 15.6 points while ranking second in the league in rebounds (14.5) and fifth in blocks (1.92).

Bogdanovich started Utah’s current win streak with a team-high 27 points Friday in a 117-114 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. Two nights later, Bogdanovich’s 3-pointer at the buzzer beat the Houston Rockets 114-113.

“He knows how much I trust him,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of Bogdanovich’s shooting skills.

On Monday, the Jazz beat the Dallas Mavericks 123-119 as Jordan Clarkson scored a team-high 25 points. Mitchell and Bogdanovich had 23 points each, and Gobert added 17 points on 7-for-7 shooting to go with 16 rebounds.

Both teams are relatively healthy except for Heat guard Tyler Herro, who missed Monday’s game at Golden State due to a sprained right ankle. He has missed the past four games.

In recent history, the teams split their two-game series last season, with the home team prevailing each time. The Heat won at Miami this season, 107-104 on Dec. 23.

–Field Level Media

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