The Miami Heat stumbled out of the gate early and faced a 19-point deficit against the visiting Los Angeles Lakers, but took the game over with a dominant second half for a crucial 115-107 win.
Justise Winslow had a career-best game, matching center Hassan Whiteside with 23 points and 13 rebounds each — representing career highs in both categories for the second-year player. Tyler Johnson, James Johnson and Josh Richardson also had big roles in the comeback victory, which was the second consecutive game in which the Lakers lost a 19-point lead.
Perhaps they were spurred on by the emotional halftime ceremony in which the Heat organization officially retired the No. 32 jersey of Shaquille O’Neal. But first Miami started the game missing their first six shots and quickly fell behind 0-11 within minutes. Their first field goal came with 7:30 left in the opening quarter with a lethargic Whiteside allowing Timofey Mozgov getting the best of him.
Nick Young would increase the Lakers lead with a four-point play to open the second quarter and following that up with a corner three to make it 32-17. Reserve Lou Williams gave the Heat’s defense fits all night long, scoring eight points in the second quarter and finishing with 27 points in 28 minutes.
The home team’s 12-2 run midway through second quarter cut the deficit to single digits and they eventually took their first lead of night at 79-78 with one minute left in the third quarter on a superb Winslow drive to the rim to highlight a 10-0 run. Miami closed the quarter with a 16-4 run.
Coming through for the Heat with big minutes in the second half include James Johnson, who ended up as the tallest player in Erik Spoelstra’s ultra-small lineup during the final quarter as Whiteside rested for several minutes, filling up the box score with 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 26 minutes off the bench. Goran Dragic had another strong game with 21 points and seven assists.
But the night ultimately belonged to the Heat’s young core of Whiteside, Winslow, Richardson and Tyler Johnson, who each showed how the team’s rough season could soon give way to a brighter future on a night where the organization looked back to honor a Hall of Fame player who played a big part in their rich history.