We just found a way at the end, and that's what the guys were able to do. —Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra
MIAMI — Donovan Mitchell had been on fire all half in leading the Utah Jazz to a lead over the Miami Heat with an array of baskets, including a highlight-reel one-handed catch and dunk off a lob from Thabo Sefalosha. The Jazz naturally turned to Mitchell in the final five seconds after Miami took the lead, but the rookie guard couldn’t pull off any more magic as his last-second shot bounced off the rim, leaving the Jazz with a disheartening 103-102 loss.
The Sunday afternoon defeat at American Airlines Arena was the 13th in 16 games for the Jazz, who played one of their better games of late, only to fall victim to a late comeback by the Heat for the second time this season
The Jazz (16-24), who had led by eight points midway through the fourth quarter, watched the Heat chip away and take their first lead since early in the fourth quarter on Josh Richardson’s driving layup with 5.1 seconds remaining.
Utah called timeout and got the ball to Mitchell, who had to retreat to nearly three-quarters court. He got a head of steam up as he drove up the right side with the option to kick out to Rodney Hood. However his running jumper from 18 feet was not good and the Miami faithful celebrated to the sound of Glen Frey’s "The Heat is On.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder explained what the Jazz were trying to do on the final sequence after getting the ball at midcourt following a timeout.
“Let (Mitchell) play downhill. Rodney was at the top of the key for a switch to peel out, but Donovan downhill with a head of steam and Rodney peeling out to the 3-point line those are our two best offensive players.”
Mitchell, who led the Jazz with 27 points, blamed himself for not making a better read on the play.
“They double-teamed me, which meant Hoodie was open, so I should have made the right read instead of shooting that,” he said.
On the previous possession, Hood has his opportunity with the Jazz up 102-101. There were 37 seconds left and Hood took the inbounds pass and brought the ball down, dribbled around, waved off teammates, then launched a 3-pointer from out front at the 15-second mark.
Why Mitchell or anyone else wasn’t involved in Hood’s singular play is a good question, but Snyder defended Hood afterward.
“There was a possession before that and a possession before that,” he said. “Rodney had a streak there in the second half where he really had it going and with his height, he’s able to get a clean look. I thought he shot it with confidence and missed it, but there were a number earlier that he did make.”
“His hands were down that’s how I shoot all the time,” said Hood. “Every time you miss, you feel you could have done something different, but I’ll take that one.”
The Jazz fell behind by nine points in the first half, but pulled within two by halftime. They had led Denver two days earlier at halftime, only to be outscored by 22 in the third quarter on their way to an eight-point loss.
This time, the Jazz came out with energy, led by Mitchell, who hit his first six shots, including a 3-pointer, to stake the Jazz to a 64-60 lead at the 6:53 mark. The sixth shot was the most impressive as Mitchell took a pass from Thabo Sefalosha from near midcourt, caught it with one hand and slammed it home.
As spectacular as the play was, Mitchell shrugged it off afterwards, saying, “It was cool, a good pass by Thabo. But that stuff doesn’t really mean much to me right now. It was a nice dunk and all, but it didn’t really affect the way we played at the end of the game.”
The Jazz led 75-74 at the third-quarter break and moved out to a 91-83 lead on a Sefalosha layup with 6:59 left. Utah still led 100-95 at the 2:03 mark after a Hood jumper, but Miami dominated the rest of the way.
Richardson scored on a layup and then after a Mitchell turnover, Goran Dragic hit a pair of free throws. Mitchell scored on a drive and then Kelly Olynyk made a pair of free throws with 37 seconds left.
After Hood’s miss, the Heat set up a play that featured Richardson cutting toward the basket off an inbounds pass, and he blew past Derrick Favors for the layup.
Richardson finished with 14 points as the balanced Heat had six players finish in double figures. Tyler Johnson and Dragic each scored 16, Hassan Whiteside had 14 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks, James Johnson scored 13 off the bench and Olynyk finished with 12.
Miami had come back in the final minutes for an 84-74 win in Salt Lake in November. Even Miami coach Erik Spoelstra admitted after this one, that the Jazz probably deserved to win.
“That was a tough one. Utah played a very good basketball game," he said. "In many ways they deserved to win this one. We just found a way at the end, and that's what the guys were able to do.”
The Jazz head up to Washington for a game Wednesday night and then play Charlotte on Friday night to conclude the nine-game road trip.