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Dion Waiters thriving in the clutch

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The numbers back it up — Waiters is leading the league in fourth-quarter performance.

NBA: Miami Heat at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat fans remember Dion Waitersgame-winner over the eventual champion Golden State Warriors last year. They may also remember his 14 fourth-quarter points against the Brooklyn Nets in Miami’s very next game.

Now, after signing a four-year, $52 million deal, Waiters still hits shots in the clutch.

The latest example came with Waiters scoring 12 of the Heat’s final 15 points against the Utah Jazz Friday night, helping bring Miami back to the .500 mark.

As the Palm Beach Post’s Anthony Chiang pointed out, though, Waiters’ clutch shooting isn’t a one-off. Waiters is averaging 5.9 points on 58.8 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent from downtown in the fourth quarter. His field goal percentage leads guards who have played in at least five games and average at least three shot attempts in the fourth period.

In “clutch situations” — defined for NBA statistical purposes as the final five minutes of a game with a margin of five or fewer points — Waiters is averaging 5.8 points on 64.7 shooting from the field and 60 percent from downtown. He missed a potential game-winning shot against the Denver Nuggets Nov. 3, but has been more than a good bet in late-game situations this year.

The Heat first signed Waiters after the franchise’s favored son, Dwyane Wade, left in a messy divorce. Among those who were in favor of the Heat signing the mercurial shooting guard, the rationale was to have a player who could replicate some of what Wade could do — create his own shot late in the shot clock, take the big shot in the fourth quarter, score a flurry of points to pull away in a game or get back in it. Miami may have signed Goran Dragic to a long-term deal, but he couldn’t do that. Waiters could.

Thus far, it’s looking like Waiters is serving that role.