Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler will be looking for improved defensive results on Friday night against the visiting Indiana Pacers.
Butler, a five-time All-Star and a four-time member of the NBA’s All-Defensive second team, failed to stop Memphis’ Ja Morant from scoring the game-winning layup on Wednesday. Butler picked up Morant full court, but the young Grizzlies star drove to his left and banked in the clutch shot.
“I’ll be better the next time I’m in that situation,” said Butler, who has at least one steal in 14 straight games. “My job was to get a stop, and I didn’t get it.”
That next time could be on Friday against the Pacers, who are desperate for a win. Indiana has lost eight of its past 10 games.
“All four games after the (All-Star) break we’ve struggled in the fourth quarter. We’re not getting stops when we need them,” Pacers star Domantas Sabonis said.
Miami, which is 11-2 in its past 13 games, could get a boost from 35-year-old Trevor Ariza, who was acquired on Wednesday in a trade with Oklahoma City.
It is not yet known if Ariza will make his Heat debut on Friday. But Miami is Ariza’s 10th different NBA team, and that doesn’t include a pair of franchises he has played with on two occasions.
The Pacers could get a similar boost if Jeremy Lamb returns to the court. Lamb, who has missed three straight games due to a knee injury, is averaging 10.9 points per game.
Indiana’s main contributor is Sabonis, who is second on the team in scoring (20.4) while ranking first in rebounds (11.2) and assists (6.4) per game. Sabonis had a triple-double on Wednesday, posting 18 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in the Pacers’ 124-115 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
The Pacers also got a team-high 24 points from Malcolm Brogdon and 19 points from Caris LeVert, who made his home debut nearly two months after kidney surgery.
“I wish we could’ve gotten the win,” said LeVert, who was acquired on Jan. 16 in a multi-player trade involving James Harden.
In addition, the Pacers got nine points and two blocks from starting center Myles Turner, who has rejected at least one shot in a franchise-best 55 consecutive games.
For the season, Brogdon leads the Pacers in scoring (21.7). LeVert is averaging 16.3 points with Indiana, although he has played just three games with his new team.
Butler leads Miami in scoring (21.8), assists (7.6) and steals (2.1). Bam Adebayo is a triple-double threat, averaging 18.9 points, a team-high 9.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.
Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic — with just 22 starts between them this season — are often utilized as off-the-bench scorers. Herro is averaging 15.5 points and 3.4 assists while shooting 33.3 percent on 3-pointers. Dragic is averaging 13.8 points and 4.9 assists while shooting 34.4 percent from deep.
In addition, Erik Spoelstra coached career game No. 1,000 on Wednesday, and he did all of that with the Heat.
“I’m grateful to the people I work for,” Spoelstra said. “I’m humbled.”
–Field Level Media