Two teams looking to end the year on a good note after taking disappointing losses Friday night will square off on Saturday when the Utah Jazz face the Miami Heat in Salt Lake City.
The New Year’s Eve contest gives the teams a quick opportunity for a positive outcome after each side squandered a late lead on the road on Friday. Miami is coming off a 124-119 loss to the Denver Nuggets, while Utah clawed back to take a lead over the Sacramento Kings, only to stumble in the final seconds of a 126-125 setback.
The Jazz, who didn’t take their first lead until early in the fourth quarter, were up 124-121 with under a minute to go after Lauri Markkanen hit a 3-pointer with 1:03 left and another bucket with 36.1 seconds to go.
“He’s a matchup nightmare,” Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk said of Markkanen. “He’s shooting the ball unbelievably the whole season really. … He’s tough to guard. You can’t take away one thing.”
However, Markkanen’s 36-point effort went for naught. Sacramento’s Kevin Huerter drained a game-winning 3-pointer with nine seconds to go after the Jazz couldn’t corral a defensive rebound on two misses by the Kings. Huerter scored 15 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, a period in which the teams exchanged the lead 12 times.
Markkanen’s 16-foot shot at the buzzer was off, resulting in a third straight loss for Utah. The Jazz saw their record slip to 19-19, marking the first time they’ve been at .500 all season after a sizzling start.
“Tough finish. Our guys hung in all game and battled,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “To be able to come back late and take the lead showed a lot of resolve from our group.”
While the Jazz rallied from a 10-point, third-quarter deficit to move into position for a possible win, Miami squandered a second-half advantage in Denver.
The Heat, who were outscored 39-29 in the fourth quarter, held a 117-115 lead with two minutes to go before the Nuggets finished with a 9-2 surge.
The result got the Heat off to a sour start to their five-game Western Conference trip and spoiled a historic night for Duncan Robinson. He hit three 3-pointers to surpass Tim Hardaway (806) and become Miami’s all-time leader in treys made with 807.
“You want to do it in a win, so that’s disappointing,” Robinson said. “Just feel very fortunate to get it. … I’ll definitely take a second to appreciate it.”
Tyler Herro led Miami with 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Bam Adebayo scored 22 points.
“We pride ourselves in being able to win games with defensive stops going down the stretch,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I can’t recall a stop in the last three or four minutes. It seems like they were scoring or being fouled on each one of those possessions.”
Coincidentally, the Heat also saw their record drop to .500 at 18-18 as they lost for just the third time in nine games.
The Saturday game will be the first of two games between Utah and Miami this season, with the Heat having won the past three meetings. The Jazz will visit Miami on March 13.
–Field Level Media