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Heat getting healthy in advance of visit from Jazz

Mar 11, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry (7) shoots the ball against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat finally have point guard Kyle Lowry back from the injured list, giving them an added boost for Monday’s game against the visiting Utah Jazz.

Lowry, who had not played since Feb. 2 due to a left knee injury, logged 36 minutes off the bench on Saturday as Miami lost in overtime to the Orlando Magic 126-114. Lowry had 12 points, four assists and two steals, making 4 of 8 shots (3 of 6 on 3-pointers).

It was Lowry’s first game as a reserve in 10 years.

“He does not have a minutes restriction, but we will be mindful,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s worked diligently behind the scenes to prepare for this.

“I’m excited to have him in the mix. We can use another spark for the stretch run.”

Indeed, the Heat have lost four of their past seven games despite a great effort on Saturday from Jimmy Butler, who scored a season-high 38 points. He made 14 of 25 shots from the floor and 8 of 8 from the foul line.

Monday will be Miami’s first game against Utah since the Heat beat the host Jazz 126-123 on New Year’s Eve.

Butler missed that game due to a knee injury, but Heat starters Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, as well as backup Victor Oladipo, stepped up in his absence.

Adebayo had a game-high 32 points, Herro added 29 points and a team-high nine rebounds, and Oladipo came through with 23 points. Herro made a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, taking his shot off of one leg.

“The ball was flying around,” Herro said after that game. “We were making plays for each other.”

But while the Heat are 22-13 at home and are in seventh place in the battle for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Jazz are rebuilding out West.

Even so, Utah, just 13-22 on the road this season, entered Sunday in 10th place in the Western Conference, which would put the Jazz in the play-in round.

It is an impressive showing for the Jazz, who have a rookie coach in 35-year-old Will Hardy and a rebuilt roster. Hardy replaced Quin Snyder, who stepped down after eight seasons.

Former Boston Celtics executive Danny Ainge, hired by Utah in December of 2021, started a massive rebuild this past offseason by trading Royce O’Neal. Ainge has since traded three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and four-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell, 2021 All-Star Mike Conley and others, netting eight first-round draft picks, three pick swaps and 13 players in a flurry of moves.

What was left is a roster led by 6-foot-4 shooting guard Talen Horton-Tucker, who scored 37 points in Utah’s 119-111 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday. Horton Tucker made 14 of 24 shots from the floor, including 2 of 5 on 3-pointers.

“I’m not trying to be cocky, but I felt like I could do it,” said the 22-year-old Horton-Tucker, who has averaged 8.5 points per game. “It’s not the only time.”

The Jazz also have some other young players with notable experience such as Lauri Markkanen, 25, who leads the team in scoring (25.4 points) and rebounds (8.5); and 7-1 center Walker Kessler, 21, who tops the squad in blocks (2.3) while averaging 8.5 points and 8.1 rebounds.

All three of those players arrived in Utah via recent Ainge trades.

–Field Level Media