Heat look to bounce back, host struggling Jazz

The Miami Heat return home from a six-game road swing Saturday, looking to start a new winning streak when they host the sputtering Utah Jazz.

Miami closed its lengthy road odyssey, split by the All-Star break, with a 103-97 loss Thursday to the Denver Nuggets. The defeat snapped a five-game winning streak and denied the Heat a perfect road trip.

Despite the loss, Bam Adebayo said battling back from a 16-point first-quarter deficit can be a positive going forward for Miami.

“Having that type of adversity is good for us, especially in these types of environments,” Adebayo said following the rematch of the 2023 NBA Finals. “A lot of shots (that) usually go in, they didn’t tonight. We’re all human. Some days we’re all going to shoot 60 (percent) or higher, some days we’re not.”

Miami shot just 42.2 percent from the floor against Denver, including 26.9 percent from 3-point range, en route to its first sub-100-point performance since Feb. 4.

Although the Heat rank 27th in the NBA in scoring offense (110.4) entering play on Friday, they offset that by allowing a league third-best 109.9 points per game.

Utah, meanwhile, ranks 11th in the NBA in scoring at 117.3 points per game, but 25th in defense at 120.2 points allowed per contest.

The Jazz lost for the seventh time in eight games in a 115-107 setback to Orlando on Thursday. Over those seven losses, Utah allowed 127.1 points per game.

As the Jazz try to shore up their defense, Utah coach Will Hardy said he will be looking to rookie Taylor Hendricks. Hendricks moved into the starting lineup after the All-Star break.

“Taylor’s No. 1 thing has to be to focus on his defensive assignment,” Hardy said. “I recognize that he’s getting put on a variety of players. … It’s been (Charlotte’s) Brandon Miller, (San Antonio rookie phenom Victor) Wembanyama and (on Tuesday at Atlanta, Bogdan) Bogdanovic.

“I recognize that those three people are very different. But to be the type of defensive player that we want Taylor to be, he’s going to have to take on a variety of matchups.”

The Jazz face a varied offense in Miami that, despite its low scoring average, offers a variety of potential difference-makers. Jimmy Butler is averaging a team-best 21.5 points, followed by Tyler Herro (20.8) and Adebayo (20.3)

Adebayo also grabs 10.5 rebounds per contest.

Herro missed Thursday’s game with a knee injury, however. Herro told reporters earlier in the week his goal is to be at full strength in time for the postseason.

Herro’s status for Saturday is uncertain.

Utah was without Walker Kessler in Orlando. Kessler, who is day-to-day with a foot injury, is third among all Utah players with 7.4 rebounds per game, behind John Collins (8.5) and Lauri Markkanen (8.3).

Markkanen, the 2022-23 NBA Most Improved Player, is averaging 23.0 points per game this season.