Heat center Justin Hamilton is from Utah, so he circled Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena long ago.
Hamilton’s entire family and maybe half the community of Highland, Utah, showed up for the Heat’s game against the Jazz, and the Hamilton clan let their presence be known. After all, who else is going to go insane when a kid named Justin Hamilton gets a rebound in a random game in Utah between two teams with losing records?
It was just last week that Hamilton went to the free-throw line in Milwaukee and a vocal section of Bradley Arena serenaded the 6-10 second-year pro with chants of “Who are you?”
The NBA at large might not recognize Hamilton, but they certainly know him well in Utah. Friday was his first game there since high school, and he and the Heat celebrated it with a hard-earned 100-95 victory to end a difficult five-game road trip.
Injuries and illnesses crippled the Heat’s lineups as the team bounced around the country, but the Heat (11-12) managed to go 2-3 on the trip which, all things considered, should be considered positive growth for a team still figuring things out.
Hamilton made important back-to-back baskets late in the fourth quarter and finished the game with nine points, which tied a career high.
The Heat led by six points with 58 seconds to play, but turnovers and missed free throws gave the Jazz life.
Hamilton told Chris Bosh before the game that the closest he had gotten to the court at EnergySolutions Arena before Friday was the ninth row. After the game, Heat center Udonis Haslem had a laugh with Hamilton about his large family.
“Sixty-six Hamiltons in the building tonight, to be exact, and they all looked alike,” Haslem said.
And they all sweated this one out until the end. It wasn’t over until a terrible blunder by the Jazz (6-17) allowed Norris Cole to end the game, mercifully, with a pair of free throws.
Jazz guard Rodney Hood cut the Heat’s lead to two points with six seconds left, and Dwyane Wade then missed 1 of 2 free throws to give the Jazz a chance to tie at the buzzer. But the Jazz couldn’t even pass the ball in-bounds following a timeout. Rookie Joe Ingles of Australia was called for a five-second violation, and Cole then made a pair of free throws with two seconds left.
“I was doing jumping jacks and jumping as high as I could just so he couldn’t see, and it’s tough to put a young fella’ in that position as well. I’ve been there before,” Wade said of Ingles. “But it went our way. Sometimes in this league you just need things to go your way.”
The Heat plays the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, and if things continue to go the Heat’s way the team can boost its record back to even. The Jazz has lost 10 of its past 11 games and played the majority of the game against the Heat without 6-10 power forward Derrick Favors, who left the game in the first quarter with a sprained ankle.
Of course, the Heat was hurting before the game even started. Wade played with the flu but scored a season-high 29 points. Josh McRoberts (knee) and Chris Andersen (ankle) both missed the game with injuries.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Wade ate only half a bowl of chicken-noodle soup in the 24 hours leading up the game. Wade did not attend the team’s shootaround Friday morning at the arena, choosing to conserve his energy for the game. It worked.
“I knew I was going to play all along,” Wade said.
Bosh had 22 points, going 9 of 16 from the field and 1 of 5 from three-point range. The Heat was 7 of 20 overall from distance but shot 50 percent from the field.
The Heat’s defense held the Jazz to 44-percent shooting.
The Jazz’s chances of a comeback diminished significantly when guard Trey Burke missed 2 of 3 free-throw attempts after being fouled in the act of shooting a three-pointer.
Wade made a key defensive stop on the Utah’s next possession with a block on driving layup attempt by Gordon Hayward.
Jazz center Enes Kanter then airballed a three-pointer with 1:23 remaining, and Bosh answered with a 16-foot turnaround jumper with 58 seconds to play.
A turnaround jumper by Kanter cut the Heat’s lead to two points with 8:25 remaining in the game, but Wade answered with a three-pointer and Mario Chalmers did the same on the Heat’s next possession.
Once again, the Heat’s eight-point lead wouldn’t hold.
Much to his surprise, Kanter swished a why-not three-pointer with 6:34 to play and Hayward scored a difficult driving layup to cut the Heat’s lead to 89-86.
The Heat led by 11 points in the first quarter when Favors left with his ankle injury. Favors twisted his foot attempting to block a shot by Haslem.
▪ The Heat shot 62.9 percent in the first half, which set a new season high for a half. Luol Deng went 5-of-5 shooting in the first half, Bosh was 4 of 6 from the field, and Wade was 5 of 7. Deng finished with 14 points.
▪ The Heat’s three turnovers in the first half were a season low for turnovers in a half. Only Deng, Bosh and Chalmers committed turnovers.
▪ Jazz backup center Rudy Gobert of France started the second half after Favors went out with an ankle sprain in the first quarter.