Roughly 48 hours after hitting the game-winning 3 against the Golden State Warriors, Dion Waiters found himself with the ball at the top of the key in a tight game against the Brooklyn Nets. With the confidence only he can muster, Waiters rose and knocked down another 3.
That was the dagger, and Miami overcame an 18-point second-half deficit to win their fifth straight game and beat the Nets 109-106 on Wednesday night.
The Heat found themselves down 97-84 with 5:33 left to go, but stormed back thanks to the strong play of Waiters, Goran Dragic and Okaro White. Yes, that Okaro White who signed a 10-day contract with Miami Jan. 17. White made a huge corner 3 with 58.6 seconds left off some nice penetration from Waiters to give Miami a 102-101 lead. That shot gave Miami their first lead since early in the second quarter.
But it wasn’t just that one clutch shot. White had seven rebounds and four blocks in 27 minutes off the bench, helping to stymie a Nets offense Miami had trouble defending for much of the night. White’s length allows him to cover a lot of ground defensively and guard multiple positions, valuable assets in today’s NBA.
White wasn’t the only player from the Heat’s D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, who fueled the Heat’s comeback. Willie Reed was nothing less than an injection of intensity for Miami in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
The Heat needed him amidst a listless performance from Hassan Whiteside, who shot just 3-of-10 from the field (missing a number of shots he has no business missing) with just one rebound and one block in 20 minutes. Erik Spoelstra benched him for most of the second half, and it was the right call. Reed was a +34 on the night, and Whiteside was a -30.
As for the Miami starters, Waiters finished with 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field, five rebounds and eight assists. Waiters took some ill-advised shots and only played well in the first and fourth quarters, but made a number of big plays during the Heat’s comeback. His offensive output these last three games has helped make up for the absence of Tyler Johnson.
Dragic scored seven of his 17 points in the fourth quarter to go along with nine rebounds and nine assists. He made a huge 3 to pull the Heat within seven, and less than a minute later rebounded his own missed layup and made a nice, soft hook shot to trim the deficit to five.
The Heat also received some nice help from Wayne Ellington, who made his first five shots Wednesday night. He cooled off a bit after that, but the former North Carolina swingman connected on a corner 3 with 2:17 left to tie the game. He finished with 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 shooting from downtown.
In many ways, Miami didn’t play well Wednesday night. The Heat relaxed after building a 10-point lead in the second half and went through extended stretches of porous defense and questionable shot selection. But this winning streak has given Miami experience in closing out games, and the Heat stood as the more poised team tonight.
Miami will look for their sixth straight win against Dwyane Wade and the Chicago Bulls Friday at 8 p.m.