Miami • Alec Burks earned himself a new nickname.
The third-year Jazz guard had a career night Monday, squaring off against LeBron James and the defending champion Miami Heat. Burks hassled dribblers on defense, slashed to the hoop and finished at the rim and showed off a refined touch from outside, all while helping the Jazz to a halftime lead over the Heat.
“He had a hell of a game,” Utah forward Marvin Williams said afterward. “I’ve been calling him Easy 20. He scores 20 points easier than anybody I’ve seen. I’m gonna start calling him Easy 30 now.”
Burks would rather be called something else: winner.
He had outscored James, notching a career-high 31 points, dished a career-best seven assists, grabbed three rebounds and notched four steals. But, in the end, it wasn’t enough as the Heat showed their class and imposed their will, running away from the fledgling Jazz (6-21) in a 117-94 blowout.
“I could have 50,” Burks said. “We lost still, so it don’t really matter.”
Burks came into the night averaging 12.2 points a game, but eclipsed that mark by halftime.
“He did a great job of attacking early,” Jazz coach Ty Corbin said. “The entire game he came off the pick-and-rolls. He was able to get down the lane a few times. He was able to get to the top of the basket. He was able to make the right pass. He played with a lot of energy.
“He’s really in a good groove of what we’re looking for from him.”
For a half, Utah as a whole played with the energy it seemed to lack last weekend against San Antonio. Center Enes Kanter broke out of a two-game slide, scoring 10 of his 14 points and grabbing seven of his eight rebounds in the second quarter. The Jazz had more fast-break buckets than Miami, more rebounds, more second-chance baskets and — most importantly — three more points after two quarters.
A first half to remember. A second half to forget.
Rookie Trey Burke opened the third by missing a 3-pointer. Gordon Hayward missed one, too. The team’s starting backcourt would end up combining for just 10 points on 3-of-16 shooting.
Those early third-quarter misses, along with a Hayward turnover, each led to a Miami basket, giving the Heat a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“I thought our bench held us in there our first half,” Corbin said. “I thought our starting group would give us a little more pep in the third quarter and they just came out and took over the game.”
Miami opened the third quarter on a 14-3 run while the Jazz missed eight of their first nine attempts before Corbin brought Burks back in the game.
The guard quickly found his way to the rim for a bucket.
“I was just being aggressive,” Burks said of his performance. “I saw gaps in the defense and I just wanted to be aggressive. So I took it to the rim.”
Said Kanter of his teammate, “If he just keeps being aggressive like that he’s going to be unbelievable. He can go at guys and they just can’t stop him.”
On Monday, the Heat didn’t have to.
Miami simply overwhelmed the Jazz en route to its 18th victory of the year — “a good, professional win,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
James put on a show, and nearly recorded a triple-double, scoring 30 points, grabbing nine rebounds and assisting nine times.
When the MVP injured his ankle, sidelining him for a time, the remaining two-thirds of Miami’s “Big Three” shouldered the load. Dwyane Wade scored 27 points and center Chris Bosh added 20.
“The defending champs do what they do,” Burks said. “… That’s why it says champions outside the arena.”