With seven minutes and five seconds left in the Miami Heat’s game against the Houston Rockets, James Harden made a layup. He had scored his 32nd and 33rd points of the game and put the Rockets up one. Miami was yet again in a close game (this one featured 19 lead changes), and seemed at risk of losing yet another hard-fought game in what has become a lost season.
Fortunately for Heat fans, the team pulled it out Tuesday night. And this performance reminded fans that while a high draft pick could turn around the fortunes of this franchise, a win every once in a while feels good, too.
One of the few bright spots for this Heat roster — James Johnson and Tyler Johnson — made pivotal plays to help the Heat come away with a 109-103 victory. Tyler Johnson made two consecutive fast-break buckets — one dunk, one running layup — to give Miami the lead.
Sixteen seconds later, Houston coach Mike D’Antoni picked up a technical foul. Wayne Ellington knocked down the free throw. And about a minute later, Ellington made a 3-pointer. Miami was rolling, and another Ellington 3 with 101 seconds left all but iced the game. For a team that has played with effort throughout the season, it was nice to see the players finally come away with a victory.
In some ways, tonight’s performance represented the best of what this Heat roster is capable of. (Of course, we had the injuries to Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson prevent them from suiting up tonight.) Ellington shook off his shooting slump during Miami’s just-concluded six-game road trip and knocked down five 3s on his way to an 18-point performance off the bench. These are the types of nights Pat Riley hoped for when he signed the veteran swingman.
James Johnson brought his dynamic play to the game, making nice spin moves, crafty layups and bullet passes. Johnson finished with 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the field, eight rebounds and six assists. On the flip side, Johnson committed five turnovers, but this forward has emerged as a pleasant surprise for the Heat this year.
And of course, Miami wouldn’t put together a win that gave fans a glimpse into the best of what this roster could provide without quality production from Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside. Dragic finished with 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field, eight rebounds and eight assists. The Heat starting point guard stood as the catalyst for much of the Heat’s decisive fourth-quarter stand, coming up with three assists in the final seven minutes of the game.
And as for Whiteside, he earned his double-double early in the third quarter. The Heat center registered 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and 15 rebounds on the night.
The Heat will host the Dallas Mavericks Thursday at 7:30 p.m.