The Miami Heat used a decisive 17-0 run in the second quarter to secure a lead they would never relinquish against the Brooklyn Nets to win their eighth straight game Monday night, 104-96. The icing on the cake came with 56.9 seconds left to go, when James Johnson tip-dunked a Rodney McGruder 3-point attempt.
Monday’s win represented another step forward for a team making an improbable playoff run after starting the season 11-30. The Heat have now won eight consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NBA.
Like other games on this streak, the Heat’s starting backcourt led the way. Goran Dragic scored 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field to go along with eight assists, three steals and just one turnover on the night. Dion Waiters, meanwhile, scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half, made three 3-pointers and contributed six rebounds and nine assists.
During the Heat’s decisive 17-0 run — which was the Heat’s longest of the season — Waiters scored eight points in 57 seconds to wrestle the lead away from the Nets. Waiters has shown why Miami signed him during this winning streak: he may take some ill-advised shots (and Waiters did tonight, going into the lane for some tough shots that were blocked), but Waiters can create his own shot and has 3-point range.
But the Heat also got a lot of help from several other players. Hassan Whiteside shook off a lackadaisical first half to finish with 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field, nine rebounds and three blocks. Whiteside was active and engaged on the defensive end of the floor, including having one of his best blocks of the season.
Miami’s surprise point forward, James Johnson, had 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field, four rebounds, five assists and three blocks on the night. In addition to the game-sealing tip-dunk, Johnson had a huge 3 and a jumper in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter to keep Brooklyn at bay.
Rodney McGruder supplied some much-needed offensive help Monday night, especially with eight first-quarter points. The Heat’s starting small forward had 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting on the night, including three 3-pointers. McGruder played so well that he even stole some fourth-quarter minutes from Okaro White, who also put his positive imprints on the game.
Monday night also represented the return to action for Tyler Johnson after a five-game absence due to a strained shoulder. The guard shot just 1-for-7 from the field, but his one bucket came on a nice, acrobatic drive to the basket in the fourth quarter. As he shakes off the rest, Johnson will provide another spark plug off this newly reinvigorated team.
Willie Reed went a perfect 3-for-3 from the field to score six points and grab six rebounds as Whiteside’s backup.
The Heat will go for their ninth straight win Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks at 7:30.