Basketball Basketball

Richardson’s late strike lifts Heat over Jazz

Goran Dragic scored 16 points as the Miami Heat scored a much-needed 103-102 victory over the Utah Jazz © GETTY/AFP/File / Cliff Hawkins

MIAMI, United States, Jan 8Miami forward Josh Richardson drove for a layup with 5.1 seconds left to lift the Heat to a much-needed 103-102 NBA victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday.

Richardson’s basket capped the Heat’s rally from an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit, giving Miami a fourth straight victory as they head into a tough stretch of 11 road games in their next 14.

“Utah played a very good basketball game. In many ways they deserved to win this one,” Erik Spoelstra said after a contest that saw 18 lead changes.

“But we’ve got to make up some ground. We’ve given up some games we wished we could have back so, quite frankly, we need to steal some.”

Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson scored 16 points apiece for the Heat. Center Hassan Whiteside added 14 with 10 rebounds. Richardson and Kelly Olynyk both scored 14 and James Johnson added 13.

Olynyk had made two free throws to pull the Heat within 102-101 with 37 seconds to play. After a missed three-pointer by Utah’s Rodney Hood, Spoelstra called a timeout with 7.8 seconds left.

That set the stage for Richardson’s basket, which stood as the game-winner when Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell missed a running jumper just before the buzzer.

Spoelstra called Richardson’s drive to the basket a “heck of a play.”

It came after Spoelstra spoke of Richardson as worthy of All-Star consideration prior to the contest, when he said the small forward’s improving play was reaching an elite level.

“If he started out (the season) playing this way, Josh Richardson would definitely be on that list, in my mind,” Spoelstra said. “And he’s going to be considered for that as we move forward. I think that much of him.”

Richardson’s performance on Sunday only increased Spoelstra’s confidence that he’s taking his game to a new level.

“He’s ready for the next jump,” Spoelstra said. “Now it’s just a matter of when.”