MIAMI — Bam Adebayo knows the Miami Heat have work to do to climb the ladder.
Thursday was, he hopes, a good start.
Adebayo had 31 points and 10 rebounds, Jimmy Butler added 26 points and the Heat held the Los Angeles Clippers 115-110.
“If we worry about ourselves, I have a feeling we’re going to be fine,” Adebayo said.
Tyler Herro scored 19 and Caleb Martin finished the heat with 17. Butler scored the last eight points for Miami (12-14), which is 10th in the Eastern Conference — but just two games behind No. 4 Brooklyn.
“We gave Jimmy the ball and let him do his thing on the track,” Adebayo said.
Paul George finished the game with 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Clippers, who went 2-0 on their Florida swing Wednesday after falling in overtime in Orlando.
Reggie Jackson scored 20 for the Clippers while Nic Batum and Marcus Morris Sr. each added 11.
“We just had too many breakdowns, that’s what it came down to tonight,” said George. “They are a good team.”
The Clippers were without Kawhi Leonard – he has now missed 20 of 27 games this season – on the second night of a back-to-back, part of the ongoing plan to deal with his right knee problems. For Miami, starting point guard Kyle Lowry was out for the first time this season as he had a game off to rest and backup point guard Gabe Vincent (left knee) remained sidelined.
“You just have to try to do what you can to stay afloat and the mindset you have to have and the culture you set doesn’t matter who’s on the floor, you have to believe that you can win the game,” said Clippers coach Tyronn Lue. “That’s our mindset since I’ve been here.”
The win was the 672nd for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and put him 21st on the NBA career list with Mike D’Antoni.
There were 25 lead changes and 11 draws in a game that was close to the end until Butler took over in the dying moments.
“Both teams pretty much went back and forth the whole game,” Spoelstra said. “Our approach from the start was that this would last the entire 48 minutes, if not more… and stack up game after game after game.”
Clippers: Lue is one win away from tying fellow NBA player Kevin McHale (232) for 93rd on the coaching list. … GF Terance Mann put himself on the NBA’s concussion records and missed the game. Mann was injured in the final seconds of overtime in the Clippers’ 116-111 loss in Orlando on Wednesday. … The Clippers are 5-2 with Leonard and 9-11 without him.
Heat: Miami outscored the Clippers 22-6 in turnovers. … Martin’s 16-point second quarter was the third-most points in a quarter by a Heat player this season. Strus had 19 points against Boston in the third quarter on November 30, and Adebayo had 18 points against Washington in the first quarter on November 25. … With Lowry and Vincent out, two-wayer Dru Smith made his first career start. He is now the 201st player to start a game for Miami.
BACK AND FORTH
From the 9:36 mark of the second quarter to the 4:21 mark of the fourth quarter, a total of 29:15, neither team had a lead of more than six points.
American soccer star Christian Pulisic, who had a role in all three American goals in his four games at the World Cup – one goal and two assists – was in attendance.
Clippers: Visit Washington on Saturday.
Heat: Host San Antonio on Saturday.