It wasn't pretty but the Miami Heat improved to 4-0 in the Orlando Summer League tournament in a close 87-85 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers.
With a fourth game played in five days, head coach Dan Craig opted for a slightly different rotation and played second-year point guard Shabazz Napier for the first time in the tournament. Rookie Justise Winslow only played eight minutes in the first half and recorded just a turnover and a personal foul to his name.
Willie Reed again proved why he not only deserves a training camp invitation but also a possible roster spot on the Heat with yet another strong performance, leading his team with 17 points on 7-10 shooting along with seven rebounds and four blocked shots. The big man continues to showcase the ability to score inside and all-out hustle for loose balls and rebounds without being out of control and picking up needless fouls. How good he truly is against stronger competition remains to be seen but he is earning playing time with his dedication. He played the most minutes on the team along with James Ennis.
Napier quickly showed why he is the best pure point guard on this Summer League team and made an immediate impact in his first game, with six points, three rebounds and three assists in his first five minutes of action. He finished with 14 points on 4-9 shooting but earned several trips to the free throw line with his penetration, going 6-7 from the charity stripe, and led the team with six assists in just 17 minutes.
Ennis' outside shot wasn't falling -- he ended up 2-8 from the field -- but he collected the majority of his points at the free throw line on 9-10 shooting and finished with 14 points. Zoran Dragic also found plenty of success driving to the rim and finishing with his left hand, showing that he's much more than a shooter. He also impressed with his intensity on the defensive end as his brother Goran looked on sitting next to Erik Spoelstra on the sidelines. Dragic scored 12 points but missed two free throws near the end of the game that could have iced the game.
Tyler Johnson's day was cut short after he was on the receiving end of a hard screen set at mid-court in the third quarter and was on the ground for a few minutes before leaving the court when he realized he lost a tooth. Free of the primary ball handler responsibilities with Napier back on the court, Johnson was filling up the box score and had seven points, four rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot in 15 minutes.
Miami came back from a 28-20 deficit at the end of the first quarter but got back into the game by swinging the ball around and consistently penetrating the Clippers defense to look for a better shot. As HHH writer Leonard Kreicas pointed out today, the Heat's Summer League squad is finding success with a simplified, efficient game plan despite little success shooting from the outside. It also helped that the Clippers missed their first 15 shots from beyond the arc and failed to score for a very long stretch of the game through the second quarter and deep into the third quarter after leading 39-33. Miami outscored L.A. 21-11 in the second quarter to take the lead at halftime and increased the lead to double-digits in the third with an extended 18-0 run.
The Heat entered the final quarter up 70-57 but the Clippers finally came to life and battled back with a run of their own and managed to tie the game 85-85 with less than a minute left. Dragic was unable to convert from the free throw line to help seal the win but Napier closed the game with two clutch free throws and a strong team defensive sequence as the clock ran out robbed the Clippers of a good look at the rim to either tie the game or steal the victory.
Miami is now 4-0 and has a chance to win the Orlando Summer League tournament on Championship Day Friday before flying out to Las Vegas for their next tournament.