For much of Tuesday night, the Heat appeared in danger of losing to the Detroit Pistons. Dwyane Wade had an off shooting night, and Andre Drummond dominated Hassan Whiteside, gobbling up nine offensive rebounds.
That was before Joe Johnson took over the game.
The Heat's mid-season pickup scored 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, putting the Heat in the third seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs with their 99-93 victory. Miami's win also locked the Pistons into the eighth seed, setting up Detroit to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.
Johnson showcased his entire repertoire in crunch time, proving why he has served as such a valuable signing for the Heat. He made back-to-back 3s midway through the fourth to put the Heat up 85-78. About three minutes later, Johnson faked out a couple Detroit defenders to set up Hassan Whiteside for a huge alley oop slam. And then for the dagger, a Whiteside offensive rebound led to a Johnson corner 3 to give Miami a 96-89 lead with 46.5 seconds left.
The 15-point outburst from Johnson came at just the right time for Miami. Because Wade shot just 6-of-16 from the field. Because Goran Dragic, though he played well, only played 26 minutes due to foul trouble. Because Justise Winslow was out and couldn't offer a punch off the bench. The seven-time All Star shot a perfect 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter -- it's great to have a player who can calmly sink clutch shots as the playoffs approach.
Johnson's heroics may overshadow everything else from this game, but Luol Deng deserves major credit for this crucial Heat win. This game got off to a slow start -- the score was 4-4 with 7:06 remaining in the first quarter -- but Deng's activity and energy helped Miami. Deng finished with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field and 10 huge rebounds. He made three 3-pointers tonight, but also made several nice cuts to the basket when Miami needed a basket.
Dragic added 16 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field, five rebounds and four assists. In a bit of misfortune for the Heat point guard, Stanley Johnson swiped at Dragic's jaw in the first quarter, knocking Dragic's tooth out. The former Third-Team All-NBA player simply tossed his tooth to the side and continued playing (he did bark at the official for the lack of a foul call).
Unreal.— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 13, 2016
Goran Dragic get his tooth knocked out, and just chucks it to the sideline.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called Udonis Haslem's number for some minutes in the third quarter -- the sixth straight game Haslem has played in despite appearing in just 36 games this season. The Miami native helped buttress the Heat's defense in his stretch, and he was a +8 on the court in his eight minutes of action. Unfortunately, though, Haslem suffered a foot injury and limped to the locker room in the fourth quarter.
The Heat will finish the regular season in Boston tomorrow night at 8 on ESPN. The Heat will clinch the three seed with a victory.