New York, January 8: The surging Miami Heat boosted their playoff hopes with a 103-102 win over the Utah Jazz in the NBA on Sunday (January 7).
For all the chatter surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics, the Washington Wizards and the Toronto Raptors this season, few have mentioned the Heat as possible contenders in the Eastern Conference.
While the Heat may not have a line-up filled with superstars, they earned their fourth straight win to vault to fifth in the east.
Miami had six players reach double-figure scoring in the win, led by Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson's 16 points apiece. Hassan Whiteside and Josh Richardson added 14 points each, and Kelly Olynyk chipped in with 12 points.
The Heat (22-17) are void of any real weakness defensively, and have started putting up more explosive offensive numbers. Dragic remains one of the more underrated floor generals in the NBA, and James Johnson, a starter on most teams, came off the bench to score 13 points with 11 rebounds.
Sensational rookie Donovan Mitchell led Utah with a game-high 27 points, but the rest of the team struggled to convert. Point guard Ricky Rubio scored just four points on 0-for-six shooting.
HARKLESS STARS IN LILLARD'S ABSENCE
Playing without Damian Lillard, a late scratch before Sunday's clash with a calf injury, the Portland Trail Blazers found a balanced scoring attack to beat the San Antonio Spurs 111-110 at home.
Maurice Harkless was a huge contributor off the bench, scoring 19 points in just 24 minutes of action. Harkless also added five rebounds and two key blocks.
THUNDER LET WESTBROOK DOWN
Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook recorded his 14th triple-double of the season, scoring 26 points with 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
However, the Oklahoma City Thunder still lost 114-100 to the Phoenix Suns. Carmelo Anthony and Paul George shot a combined 11 of 28 from the field, and the bench managed just 21 points.
INGRAM GETS IT DONE AT BOTH ENDS
Brandon Ingram scored 20 points to help the Los Angeles Lakers defeat the Atlanta Hawks 132-113. Atlanta's bench registered a combined minus-83 in the loss.
The Minnesota Timberwolves – winners in eight of their last 11 games – host the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have lost four of their last six games.
Cleveland have endured a roller-coaster season, but things are starting to fall into place. The young Timberwolves are starting to gel on both ends of the court, making them potential playoff sleepers as they continue to mesh.