MIAMI — Jimmy Butler made the final free throw of the night, then bent his knees slightly and looked almost unsure of what would happen when the ball headed for the rim.
Turns out it was perfect, just like the Miami Heat on Tuesday night.
They set an NBA record by making their 40 free throws, the last of those to come on Butler’s three-point play with 12.9 seconds left, and rallied in the dying moments to beat the Thunder d ‘Oklahoma City 112-111.
Miami outscored Utah’s 39-for-39 effort against Portland on December 7, 1982.
“It’s just a normal Tuesday night for the Miami Heat,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I think that’s when we feel most alive, when everything is happening and all our competitive juices are coming out. It’s the team we can all relate to. It’s the team that I love.”
Just a snippet of what happened Tuesday: The Heat went without six injured players, including four starters; relief center Dewayne Dedmon was sent off after arguing with his own team and slamming a massage gun onto the pitch during play from the touchline; Miami had a six-point possession in the fourth quarter; and Josh Giddey had a triple-double for the Thunder.
Oh, and the line folder.
“First off, give them credit for it,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “It’s impressive.”
Butler scored 35 points and was 23 for 23 on the line, tying the second-most clear marks in NBA history. James Harden had a clear 24 for Houston on December 3, 2019, and Dirk Nowitzki had a clear 24 for Dallas in a playoff game against the Thunder on May 17, 2011. Dominique Wilkins also went 23 for 23 in a game in 1992.
“We won,” Butler said. “A complete team effort. I’m proud of my guys.”
Max Strus scored 22 points and Victor Oladipo had 19 for Miami. The Heat were without four regular starters – Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry and Caleb Martin – due to injuries.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 26 points for the Thunder. Giddey finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists, earning the triple-double on an assist setting up Aaron Wiggins’ dunk for a 111-106 lead with 1:28 remaining.
Miami scored the final six points.
“Whatever it takes to win,” Butler said.
Miami led 89-88 going into the fourth, and with Butler on the bench after playing all of the third quarter, the Thunder took advantage. They scored the first six points of the final period, taking their first more than three-point lead when Tre Mann connected on a jumper with 9:20 remaining for a 94-89 lead.
But a six-point possession gave Miami the lead. Oladipo stole and Thunder center Eugene Omoruyi was called for a clear foul. Oladipo made both free throws, and on Miami’s continued possession, Gabe Vincent made a 3-pointer while getting fouled by Mann. Vincent made the free throw, and just like that, a 96-91 deficit was a 97-96 lead.
“We’re always talking about finding a way to win. … It’s a good start for that,” Butler said.