On the final night of a long six-game road trip, it wouldn't have been surprising if the Jazz came out somewhat lackluster against Miami. After all, that's human nature and typically what you see of teams after difficult road trips lasting that long.
But for those who've watched this Utah team all season, you knew that wouldn't happen. Behind a spirited effort in which the Jazz had a double-digit lead, fatigue set in over the final minutes, and Utah fell 119-115 to the Heat on Monday night.
Sometimes laughter is the best cure — at least in Lauri Markkanen's case.
After one of the worst shooting performances of his career against Charlotte two nights ago (3-for-22), Markkanen simply laughed off the bad game. He knew it was an outlier of what's been an All-NBA caliber season, and he knew he'd bounce back.
Turns out he was right.
Markkanen got going early and often against Miami, finishing with 38 points, eight rebounds, and three steals on 14-of-26 shooting and 6-for-12 from deep. It was his 15th game this season of 30+ points. The Heat had no answer for the 7-footer as he showed off his scoring at all three levels, coming off screens to get to the rim while knocking down shots from beyond the arc.
"It got pretty ridiculous," he said about his off-game two nights ago. "You can't really do anything but laugh about that. I mean, they were all good looks; they felt fine. I guess it was just one of those nights. ... That kind of thing can happen."
While Markkanen had the bounce-back game, Simone Fontecchio had himself a career night, which came in the first half.
The sharpshooter from Italy showed why the Jazz are so high on him as he started knocking down shots from the second he got into the game. He finished with a career-high 23 points on 8-of-17 from the field — adding four rebounds in a career-high 30 minutes.
Most impressively, Fontecchio did a great job of getting to the rim instead of settling for deep threes off screens.
He looked comfortable putting the ball on the floor and dropping a little push shot in the lane, an aspect of his game that hasn't been seen often. That ability forced the Heat to defend him differently, and he made them pay by knocking down a career-high five threes.
Finishing out the last of a six-game road trip, the Jazz looked like a team worn out as they got blitzed early by the Heat. A Markkanen three cut the deficit to 10-7 before Miami went on a 21-12 run in the blink of an eye to lead 31-19 with just under two minutes to play in the quarter.
The game would've been much worse without Fontecchio, who single-handedly kept Utah in it by scoring 11 points in the first. His four-point play late in the quarter helped the Jazz find some rhythm as they ended the first on a 7-2 run.
Utah trailed 33-26 after one.
Markkanen and Fontecchio continued their hot streak in South Beach when they combined to score Utah's first 18 points of the quarter as the Jazz opened the second on an 18-6 run. They each knocked down two threes, but most impressively, they stayed aggressive and had no issue putting the ball on the floor and attacking the rim.
The teams would then exchange buckets for most of the quarter until Miami caught fire late by turning up the pressure defensively. Forcing Utah into turnovers, the Heat got out in transition and cut into the deficit to end the half.
After Utah's lead stretched to eight following an Ochai Agbaji dunk, Bam Adebayo got a dunk, and Miami closed the quarter on a 7-0 run.
The Jazz led 57-56 at the break.
It was a three-point barrage in the opening minutes of the third as each team knocked down two of them in the first two minutes. An 8-3 run by Miami gave them the lead, but Markkanen answered with a three and a dunk as the Jazz retook the lead with nine left in the third.
Utah would later take a five-point lead, but the Heat kept battling back, tying the game at 85 with under two minutes following a 5-0 run. After the teams exchanged buckets, Rudy Gay hit a big three with 30 seconds remaining before Adebayo capped off his big quarter with a three-point play.
The game was tied at 90 after three.
The fourth quarter was full of action and drama, as no team led by more than five points as the lead was exchanged 13 times in 12 minutes.
After a pair of free throws to start the fourth gave Miami the momentum, Gay hit another big three for the first lead change of the quarter. Another Gay bucket a few minutes later gave the Jazz a one-point lead, but the Heat answered with a 6-0 run on threes by Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo.
Utah kept battling, responding with a 7-0 run as threes by Markkanen and Fontecchio gave the Jazz a two-point lead with less than five to play. Jimmy Butler would answer with a three of his own, and the Heat were back up one.
Following nearly three minutes of scoreless play, Talen Horton-Tucker got a clutch layup to drop as Utah took its final lead with just over a minute to play. Tyler Herro answered with a three, and the Jazz trailed by two. They had a chance to tie the game, but Adebayo blocked Agbaji's shot at the rim with six seconds left, ending the comeback attempt.
Agbaji finished with 14 points and four rebounds, while Horton-tucker chipped in nine points, eight assists, and six rebounds. Gay finished with eight points — all of which came in those four minutes — while Kris Dunn added nine points, eight assists, and five rebounds.
Utah finally gets the break it desperately needs, having four days off before returning to host the Celtics on Saturday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MT.