The lesson of this Miami Heat season is there is no playing with house money, even when the lead reaches 22.
Even when LeBron James arrives without much in the way of a supporting cast.
Even when the Los Angeles Lakers arrive with a 14-20 record, while playing on the second night of a back-to-back.
So Bam Adebayo was re-summoned early in the fourth quarter, Jimmy Butler asked to play deep into the final period of a game the Heat led by 22 with 14 minutes to go.
With a five-game western swing up next, the Heat needed this for reasons other than getting above .500 at 18-17.
So they did as needed, in pushing to a 112-98 victory to end an uneven 2-2 homestand.
“We need that,” Butler said of the Heat finding a way. “We need as many dubs as we can get right about now, start to turn this thing around.”
With point guard Kyle Lowry away from the team for personal reasons, Butler and Adebayo played as leading men, Butler with 27 points, Adebayo with 23 points and 14 rebounds. And on a night he shot 6 of 17, Heat guard Tyler Herro compensated with nine assists and a needed late 3-pointer.
“The biggest thing is being able to get a win like this without your QB1,” Adebayo said of winning in Lowry’s absence.
James led the Lakers with 27 points.
Five Degrees of Heat from Wednesday’s game:
1. Closing time: Fueled by 13 second-chance points, the Heat took a 33-25 lead into the second period. Then, having outscored the Lakers 19-0 on second-chance points over the first two periods, took a 61-52 edge into halftime.
The Heat then went into the fourth quarter up 95-78, before the Lakers closed within 105-98 on a Dennis Schroder 3-pointer with 3:59 to play.
But with 2 minutes to play, Herro, 5 of 16 to that stage, stepped up with a 3-pointer for a 108-98 Heat lead.
“We kept the lead,” Adebayo said. “The biggest thing is we kept the lead through adversity.”
2. Next gen: Butler never arrived as some sort of next-generation LeBron or, of course, Dwyane Wade, deferential to the Heat’s championship success.
But performances such as Wednesday’s showed his unique ability to manipulate games with high-percentage success, closing 11 of 18 from the field, 5 of 5 from the line, with five steals and no turnovers.
The ankle issue that had him out Monday night and had him listed as questionable earlier Wednesday did not appear to be a factor, also offering competitive defense against James.
Butler credited advice early in his career from Richard Hamilton when it came to his steals.
“He always told me, ‘If you want to score, you got to get the ball,’ ” Butler said.
3. Bam slams: With Anthony Davis out and the Lakers lacking much in their power rotation beyond James, Adebayo played in attack mode against the likes of Thomas Bryant and Wenyen Gabriel.
This was not Adebayo facilitating at the elbow. This was purely eyes on the rim, closing 10 of 16 from the field with no assists and one turnover.
Adebayo also played as a fulcrum in the defense against James.
“Just active hands, forcing tough shots,” Adebayo said. “We were really connected on the defensive end.”
4. Two back, one out: While the Heat got Butler and Adebayo back after they sat out Monday night’s victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Lowry’s absence left the Heat less than whole.
Lowry missed 13 games season for the same family reason, saying it “derailed” his season.
Gabe Vincent, who returned Monday after missing nine games due to a knee issue, started in place of Lowry, with Victor Oladipo playing as the first point guard off the bench.
Even without Lowry, the Heat closed with just six turnovers to 26 for the Lakers.
“Certainly with the moving parts and Kyle being a late scratch, that sometimes can add an element that can get you a little bit out of your normal game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “and thankfully that didn’t mess with us at all.”
5. LeBron returns: Listed as questionable earlier in the day, James, 37, played both ends of a back-to-back set for only the second time this season.
And he came out hot, with 10 points in the game’s first 5:02, including a pair of 3-pointers.
The Heat then went on a 9-0 run when James took his first break, with a similar pattern following in the second quarter.
As a matter of perspective, James had shot 0 for 15 on 3-pointers in his previous three road games.
With the start, LeBron appeared in the 1,393rd regular-season game, passing Tim Duncan for 10th most in NBA history.