Fortunately, the Heat had Dion Waiters back.
Waiters made the next two field goals for Miami — a step-back jumper and a clear-out 3 — in a 29-second span to put the Heat up 117-106 with 1:33 left to go. Waiters subsequently fouled out of the game, but Miami held on for the 126-115 victory to improve to 5-6 on the season and 2-2 on their current West coast road trip.
The Heat’s win Wednesday stands as an efficient, quality road win. Miami was in control most of the night, and the Heat responded when the Suns made runs in the third and fourth quarters. In some ways, it was similar to Sunday’s victory over the Los Angeles Clippers — but without the monumental collapse that nearly cost Miami the game.
Waiters’ return was especially valuable because Tyler Johnson sat out Wednesday night’s game due to an illness. Waiters’ timing was off — part of the reason why he struggled through foul trouble, and he committed six turnovers — but he still contributed 16 points and those two huge fourth-quarter baskets to keep Phoenix at bay.
Another player Miami was happy to have back? Hassan Whiteside, who played just more than a minute in the Heat’s loss to the Golden State Warriors Monday. Whiteside finished with a double-double of 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
On two consecutive Heat fourth-quarter possessions, James Johnson and Justise Winslow found Whiteside for alley-oops that also stood as big baskets. Those two possessions featured the Heat alternating point-forwards, and it worked. Wednesday night, we saw the active and engaged Whiteside who will continue to earn his minutes in a Heat uniform.
Goran Dragic scored a season-high 29 points, all but two of which came in the first three quarters of action. Dragic was a perfect 10-for-10 from the foul line, grabbed nine rebounds and had four assists. The point guard also worked well off a ball-handling James Johnson. Look at this play here when he rolls to the basket.
Erik Spoelstra made another lineup change Wednesday night, but it wasn’t to put Johnson in the starting lineup. Spoelstra kept Johnson off the bench and had Justise Winslow start in place of Okaro White. The Heat coach stuck with an eight-man rotation, using only Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Kelly Olynyk off the bench. That may be Spoelstra’s playoff rotation if this team makes the postseason.
Winslow had one of his more complete games this season, finishing with 14 points (including two made 3-pointers), six rebounds and five assists. He displayed his full versatility Wednesday night, finding open players and making nice drives to the basket when he could score on his own.
Ball control. Body control. Another smooth moment for Winslow. pic.twitter.com/wBwDa3DfFT— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) November 9, 2017
As for Johnson, he finished with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field, seven rebounds and five assists. Olynyk also had a strong game, adding 10 points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. Olynyk had a nice put-back on a missed James Johnson 3 and a clear-out dunk early in the fourth quarter, helping manufacture points that protected the Heat’s lead.
The Heat will visit the Utah Jazz Friday at 9 p.m. EST.