Dion Waiters sprained his ankle in the first quarter of the Miami Heat’s game against the Dallas Mavericks Friday night. He did not return, joining Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, James Johnson and Hassan Whiteside as injured players.
It wasn’t a problem for this scrappy Heat team, which moved two games above .500 for the first time in two years with a 113-101 win over Dallas.
Wayne Ellington powered Miami with a career night of his own after Kelly Olynyk scored a career-high 32 points against the Boston Celtics Wednesday night. Ellington hit a career-high eight 3-pointers, four of which came in the fourth quarter and kept Dallas at bay. Ellington, who started the second half after Waiters’ injury, tied his career high with 28 points.
As good as Ellington’s 3s were, it was also nice to see him make a nice backdoor cut for a good layup. Making plays like this one frustrate opposing defenses because they don’t know whether to defend for the 3-point shot or the cut off all those screens. Erik Spoelstra has found the closest person to a Ray Allen clone for this team.
Someone left the back door open pic.twitter.com/v54g8tfZgz— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) December 23, 2017
Overall, the Heat shot an incredible 64 percent from the field — a mark that would compete against any NBA team. Miami’s hot shooting helped them overcome the fact that they were essentially playing without their entire first unit.
Aside from Ellington, Josh Richardson helped carry the load for this injury-depleted Heat roster. Richardson scored 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the field, including 2-of-3 shooting from downtown, to go along with four rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Richardson’s offensive explosion this month has helped compensate for all the injuries. You don’t miss Dragic’s ability to drive the Heat offense when Richardson is doing a pretty good job of that.
Tyler Johnson also put together a great shooting night, going 8-for-12 from the field for 19 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists. Johnson made two straight field goals midway through the fourth quarter in a contest that was a game of runs. Johnson also made this great move on Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber.
Bam Adebayo scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, making some quick, decisive moves against the slower Dirk Nowitzki and connecting on some alley-oop lobs throughout the game. Adebayo also grabbed eight boards and collected five assists, showcasing his ability to find shooters like Ellington in a mid-point setting. Adebayo was also an amazing +28 on the floor for the Heat.
The Heat went to a zone defense for stretches of the second half, and it flummoxed the Mavericks for several possessions and catalyzed some Miami runs. Erik Spoelstra also used the zone defense, though more sparingly, against the Boston Celtics Wednesday night. Spoelstra want to use the zone to preserve some energy for Miami’s healthy players. Ellington, Richardson, Johnson and Adebayo all played 36 minutes or more.
Spoelstra went to Udonis Haslem in the first quarter for his earliest stint of the season. The Heat co-captain entered to loud cheers from the crowd and grabbed one rebound and dished out one assist in seven minutes of action.
Waiters’ injury provided an opportunity for Derrick Walton, Jr., who is on a two-way contract with the Heat. Walton made one 3-pointer and finished with seven points on the night. He may become a regular member of the rotation if Waiters and Dragic have to miss more time, similar to how Jordan Mickey has played consistently over the last week.
The Heat will host the New Orleans Pelicans tomorrow night at 7:30.