The Miami Heat held an 89-84 lead over the Dallas Mavericks Monday night with 4:39 left, but couldn’t score the rest of the way. As a result, Miami lost a game they shouldn’t have — all the more important as the Heat try to make their way into the playoff picture.
The Heat made sure that didn’t happen Wednesday night.
Miami scored the first seven points against the Philadelphia 76ers, building a lead they would never relinquish in a 125-98 win. For the Heat, this game represented utter professionalism — dominating a sub-par opponent to bounce back after a disappointing loss.
The Heat struggled for much of Monday’s game against Dallas, but went back to the high-octane play that earned the team their 13-game winning streak on Wednesday night. Erik Spoelstra didn’t have to play any of his starters more than 24 minutes.
Tyler Johnson scored a team-high 24 points for the Heat off the bench, going 8-of-12 from the field and 2-of-3 from downtown. Johnson participated in two great alley-oops early in the second quarter — he gave a nice lob to Okaro White before receiving a lob from James Johnson for a two-handed slam.
The Heat’s three key starters — Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside — each scored 15 points in efficient manner. Whiteside did a bit of everything, scoring inside the paint with drop-steps, hook shots and jumpers in a 6-of-9 shooting performance. The Heat center also grabbed 11 rebounds, blocked four shots and had a career-high three assists Wednesday night. One of his assists came on a nice pass off a Dragic cut — those are the types of plays good-passing centers make. It was an encouraging sign from Whiteside.
Waiters scored 10 of his 15 points in the third quarter, driving into the lane for layups in a 7-for-12 shooting performance. Dragic shot 6-of-13 from the field and added three assists in 22 minutes. The lack of 3-point shooting notwithstanding (“7/11” combined for one 3), this game was the type of play that the Heat backcourt needs to deliver.
Wayne Ellington knocked down a season-high six 3-pointers, five of which came in the fourth quarter and helped protect the Heat’s lead. The Heat’s blowout victory also allowed Josh Richardson to get significant playing time, and he still looked rusty on offense. Some may assume that Richardson will replace Ellington in the rotation, but if their offense tonight was any indication, Ellington may stay there.
Wednesday’s game also marked the second consecutive game for the Heat without backup center Willie Reed. Like Monday night’s game in Dallas, Erik Spoelstra utilized a small lineup with White and James Johnson when Whiteside sat out. Both players filled in admirably, with James Johnson scoring 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting, four rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
The Heat will visit the Orlando Magic Friday night at 7.