Is the Miami Heat’s usage of #HeatCulture a mere marketing ploy or the embodiment of a team that competes no matter who’s on the court?
Wednesday night, it looked a lot like the latter.
Miami faced the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics Wednesday night without Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson and Justise Winslow. At one point in the second quarter, the Heat fielded a lineup of Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Derrick Walton Jr., Jordan Mickey and Udonis Haslem.
No matter. Behind a career night from former Celtic Kelly Olynyk, the Heat seized control against Boston with a dominant third quarter and withstood a late rally to come away with their best win of the season in a 90-89 decision. The win moved the Heat to 16-15 on the season two days after falling to the NBA-worst Atlanta Hawks.
Olynyk scored 32 points on 12-of-15 shooting from the field, including 6-of-8 shooting from 3-point range, and grabbed seven rebounds. The 7-footer made three of his 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the final one putting Miami up 85-75 with four minutes left.
Miami’s 2017 free agent signing scored the Heat’s final eight points, including a nice layup after exploiting a mis-match and an emphatic dunk in a nice pick-and-roll sequence with one minute left. The game ball goes to Olynyk.
Absolute dagger.— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) December 21, 2017
We know that one felt good! pic.twitter.com/uqOYIZhAfR
Josh Richardson also put together a stellar night on both ends of the floor, guarding Kyrie Irving much of the night and forcing him into an off-balanced jumper at the buzzer that clanked off the rim. Richardson played 37 minutes and poured in 19 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the field, including two 3s, four rebounds and six assists.
Miami used with a seven-player rotation in the second half, only using Wayne Ellington and Jordan Mickey off the bench. Ellington hit two big 3s in the fourth quarter after struggling through the first three quarters.
Mickey contributed eight points and eight rebounds, utilizing his athleticism for some crafty finishes around the basket. Erik Spoelstra actually played Mickey over Bam Adebayo in crunch time, and the Heat coach will have some questions to address once Hassan Whiteside comes back. On the flip side, Mickey missed some defensive assignments that led to Marcus Smart 3-pointers. Smart hit five 3-pointers in the game, huge on a night the Celtics shot just 37.5 percent from the floor.
This win was about #HeatCulture, and it should go right up there with the victory over the Atlanta Hawks without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade from the 2011-12 season. It brought back memories from last year’s 30-11 run — the intensity the team played defense, the crisp ball movement that led to open 3s.
Yes, the Heat almost blew this game — looking at you, Dion Waiters, for taking a contested 3-pointer with 40 seconds left and no ball movement to speak of. Miami also missed 11 free throws, with Olynyk and Tyler Johnson combining to go just 4-for-10 on these, you know, wide open shots. But the Heat did enough right and came away with their best win of the season. With a favorable schedule coming up, Miami is looking good now.