Miami started off with fire, forcing an Aaron Gordon turnover and converting on a Goran Dragic bucket. From the pre-game statements it seemed as if Miami was determined to play one of their best games for the fans, but recurring problems from that hindered the squad throughout the season were still an issue. Despite the presence of Hassan Whiteside, Miami still struggled to guard the paint proving yet again that another big will be key if Miami wants to make a title run next season.
Udonis Haslem, was semi effective making his sixth straight start, but still flashes of two-man game plays with Dragic made me long for the return of Chris Bosh. What's usually not discussed as it happens away from the hardwood, is how much this team likes each other. Following a Dwyane Wade to Whiteside alley-oop, Birdman was flexing his "wings" as the bench went nuts. Chemistry is rare to find in the NBA, and while they're not LeBron's "familia" this team is special in its own right.
The Heat did play well offensively going on 8-1 run around the 6 minute mark, with Whiteside absolutely dominating in the key, while the rest of the team performed well from mid-range. Chalmers found time on the floor as well, but really exhibited a lack of confidence or the sense of a roll that he complained about recently. He looks lost, especially without the ball in his hands. James Ennis was also in the rotation, playing as hard as ever converting almost immediately on a fast break lay-up and later with a spectacular jam. Following the Ennis dunk, Miami was able to string together a series of buckets ending the quarter on a strong note.
Miami continued their dominance coming into the second. Dragic would miss a three point shot, but grab his own rebound and set up a Birdman dunk. Birdman was everywhere, following his first dunk with a second off of a 'Rio assist. Dragic has an uncanny ability to finish at the rim, finishing an and-1 with relative ease on the left-hand side creating a 16 point lead.
Miami's second unit was very effective at guarding the paint, making up for first quarter lapses with Birdman's aggression (though Vucevic's absence in the quarter helped). Chalmers seemed to grow more comfortable, hitting a three to put Miami up 20 as well as attempting to get his teammates involved.
The Wade-Whiteside connection continued, converting on yet another alley-oop that would have had NBA Jam announcers freaking out. Whiteside seemed to grab every rebound in his vicinity grabbing a double double around the 3 minute mark. He also had an amazing block on Aaron Gordon that should be on Sportscenter in the morning. Dwyane Wade also got active offensively in this quarter scoring 7 points. The Heat would end the quarter solidly, despite a tiny scoring run by Orlando,
Miami would continue their solid play, with Wade getting revenge on Oladipo by blocking his shot in transition. Orlando came out scrappy, obviously upset about how they were dominated in the first half, and in turn fouling Miami consistently. Nevertheless, Orlando's best efforts proved ineffective with Oladipo being their only effective scorer and putting on his best Wade impression.
Miami was able to get effort out of each of their players, something they've struggled with all season. Orlando managed to go on a small run in the latter half of the quarter led by Tobias Harris, and Oladipo and with the lead down to 15 Miami elected for a line change. Miami would end the quarter in a strong fashion, bringing Tyler Johnson in for an injured 'Rio and continuing to dominate the paint.
Miami began the quarter with their reserves and looked relatively sloppy turning the ball over multiple times and making some questionable decisions. Orlando was able to bring the lead down to 13 points after a scoring run, thus forcing the Heat to make some changes early. The Heat would bring their lead back to 17 off some solid plays, yet allowing Orlando to keep chipping away at the free throw line.
Orlando would respond with six straight points, forcing Miami into panic mode. Wade would score on back-to-back buckets on two beautiful drives that would allow the Heat to regain some momentum. This seemed to visibly shock Orlando, as well as get Miami going. Luol Deng was extremely effective doing his best to grab every offensive board possible. Orlando would eventually battle back on a 11-0 scoring run, but Miami would attempt to hold on for dear life. With less than a minute left, Tobias Harris would turn over the ball which would then turn into a Luol Deng three. Tobias Harris would break hearts, hitting a well contested three to bring Orlando within six once again. Fortunately, Miami held on to win 100-93.
Hassan Whiteside: My god, is there anything this guy can't do? He's like a basketball playing Groot, scoring 24 points, blocking 5 shots and grabbing 13 boards while guarding the
Dwyane Wade: Wade took a while to get going, but when he did he was exceptional. Wade scored 22 points, dished out 5 assists and grabbed 4 rebounds.
Goran Dragic: Dragic was on the court for a very long time(39 minutes), and looked solid, though he did have some trouble scoring in the latter half. He scored 13 points, while dishing out 8 assists.
Luol Deng: Deng, always silent but deadly had 14 points and 10 boards. He's had a very good season.
Pin Stripe Jerseys: How nice are those Orlando jerseys, easily one of the nicest in the league.
Late game mistakes: Miami outclassed Orlando for almost all of the game, but mistakes in the fourth quarter almost made them lose their well crafted lead.
This may be it: There are too many intangibles that need to go right for Miami to breach the postseason. It's disappointing, but Wednesday's game might be it for the season. If that's the case, I've had a great time covering the season with you guys, but I'm still holding out hope we squeak in.