Heat players, coach lose it in bench scuffle in loss to Warriors

MIAMI — Jimmy Butler and Udonis Haslem were shouting at each other, fingers were pointed in various directions, some Miami players were trying to play peacemaker and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra slammed a clipboard to the floor in frustration.

And that wasn’t the evening’s low point for the Heat.

The short-handed Golden State Warriors made things even worse for Miami when the final buzzer sounded — and suddenly, Miami’s grip on the top spot in the Eastern Conference is tenuous at best.

Jordan Poole scored 30 points to continue his hot scoring run, plus had a career-best nine assists, and the Warriors scored the first 19 points of the second half on the way to beating the frustrated Heat 118-104 on Wednesday night.

“Our overall competitive fire and execution at both ends … was excellent,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

Damion Lee, Jonathan Kuminga and Andrew Wiggins each scored 22 points for the Warriors, who got 11 points from Gary Payton II and 16 rebounds from Kevon Looney.

The Warriors were already without Stephen Curry because of a sprained left foot and Andre Iguodala with low back tightness, plus gave Draymond Green, Otto Porter Jr. and Klay Thompson the night off for injury management.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra yells at Jimmy Butler during their 118-104 loss to the Warriors.
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Golden State made that decision based on medical rationale and a desire to minimize the chance of injury going into the playoffs — not because of a bad loss at Orlando on Tuesday.

They had more than enough.

The Heat, they just had problems.

Kyle Lowry scored 26 points, Bam Adebayo had 25, Butler finished with 20 and Duncan Robinson had 13. Miami shook off the huge Warriors run to start the second half — and a huge dust-up on its bench during a timeout — to lead briefly in the fourth, then let the game slip away and had its lead in the Eastern Conference race trimmed to 1-1/2 games over Milwaukee and Boston.

“You can use moments during the season to catapult you,” Spoelstra said. “You can galvanize together over frustration and disappointment. Teams can also go the other way. I don’t see that with our group. I don’t see that with our locker room. But we have needed a kick in the butt.”

Miami couldn’t hit anything to start the second half. That’s when the Heat seemed to be contemplating hitting one another.

Golden State started the third quarter on a 19-0 run — capped by three 3-pointers from Poole from 31, 35 and 30 feet respectively, two of them banked in from just in front of the Heat bench to make a disastrous start even worse for Miami.

And during a huddle during a timeout during that Warriors’ flurry, tempers flared on the Miami bench. Butler and Spoelstra had things to say to one another, then Butler and Haslem exchanged words, both eventually needing to be held back by teammates.

“It was crazy,” Lowry said. “It was passion.”

Miami seemed to channel the anger.

The Heat went on a 19-6 run to get the lead down to a 75-69, had the margin down to 81-80 entering the fourth and went up by three early in the final quarter.

Golden State wasn’t flustered in the least. Back-to-back layups by Kuminga gave the Warriors the lead to stay. And a trio of 3-pointers — by Lee, Payton and then Poole — just about sealed things, putting Golden State up 105-95 with 4:21 left to seal perhaps one of the more surprising Warriors wins of the season.

“It’s so important to just keep pushing ahead and not succumb to the noise and to the roller-coaster nature of it all,” Kerr said. “You just got to keep pushing forward. And that’s what our guys did tonight.”

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