NBA regular season

Jimmy Butler returns from 7-game absence, guides Heat past Nets in overtime thriller


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Jimmy Butler returns from 7-game absence, guides Heat past Nets in overtime thriller

NEEDED HELP. Brooklyn Nets guard Dennis Smith Jr. (4) drives in between Miami Heat forwards Caleb Martin (16) and Jimmy Butler (22) in the fourth quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Jimmy Butler scored 31 points in a successful return from a sprained toe and hit the go-ahead free throws with 11.8 seconds left in overtime as the Miami Heat outlasted the struggling Brooklyn Nets for a 96-95 victory Monday night (Tuesday, January 16, Manila time) in New York.

In his first action since December 30 following a seven-game absence, Butler helped the Heat earn their third straight win and showed little effects from the injury. He scored 21 in the second half and overtime after the Heat scored 31 points in the opening 24 minutes for their lowest half all season.

Butler made 8 of 12 field-goal attempts and hit 15 of 16 free throws, including the go-ahead free throws after the Heat trailed by five early in the extra period.

A 3-pointer by Royce O’Neale gave the Nets a 93-88 lead with 3:51 left in OT, but the Heat pushed back and were within 95-94 after Tyler Herro sank a triple with 49.1 seconds left.

After Nic Claxton was called for offensive goaltending with 24.7 seconds to go, Butler was fouled by Dennis Smith Jr. and made both free throws.

The Nets did not call timeout and the game ended when Mikal Bridges missed a 10-footer with 1.1 seconds.

Herro scored 23 of his 29 after halftime for the Heat, who shot 37.9 percent overall despite hitting only 26.2 percent in the first half. Bam Adebayo contributed 11 points and a season-high 20 rebounds for the Heat, and Herro added 11 boards.

Bridges scored 26 points to lead the Nets, who dropped their third straight and lost for the 13th time in 16 games. Cam Thomas added 23 while O’Neale contributed 15 for the Nets, who shot 34.3 percent and sank only 12 of 55 3-point tries (21.8 percent).

Claxton’s three-point play less than two minutes into the second quarter gave Brooklyn its first double-digit lead. The Nets scored the last six points of the half for a 45-31 lead at the break.

The Heat ripped off a 19-3 run and forged a 50-50 tie on Butler’s hoop with about five minutes left in the third. The visitors took a four-point lead before Thomas hit a pair of free throws with 11.5 seconds left to give Brooklyn a 69-68 lead entering the fourth.

Butler’s hoop capped an 11-2 spurt that put Miami ahead 79-74 with 6:15 left.

The Heat took an 82-79 edge with 3:45 to go when Butler banked in a 10-footer off the glass, but two free throws by Bridges forged an 88-88 tie with 4.4 seconds left. Butler missed a potential game-winning 19-footer at the horn to send the game to overtime. –

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