Dragic had 33 points, one point short of his franchise high, after a one-game absence recovering from his eye injury. He was practically unstoppable attacking off the dribble and shooting from long range, highlighted by his 16 points in the third quarter. The team clearly missed him in their road loss to the Indiana Pacers and he carried the team on his shoulders, especially offensively to start the game. The one-eyed dragon scored 12 of the Heat’s first 20 points but it was a team effort, as it’s been since their mega win streak, that was needed to put away the pesky Pelicans down the stretch.
Hassan Whiteside had a strong game with 20 points and 17 rebounds battling the entire night in the paint against DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis. He had a key block in crunch time but also committed five turnovers and picked up a tech after a questionable foul call. Dion Waiters had his moments with 14 points, only making his lone 3-pointer out of six attempts with just a minute left in the game, but was a bit out of control at times with the ball and struggled overall with his shot (5-15 FGs).
The Heat would grab a 14-point lead at 45-31 midway through the second quarter but New Orleans refused to give up and stormed back with 11 straight points as part of a 21-9 run to end the quarter. Cousins had an uneven game, scoring nine of his 19 points in his first 19 minutes of action but was hobbled three separate times with an injury and had another temper tantrum with the referees to earn a technical foul.
Anthony Davis was a matchup nightmare with 27 points and eight rebounds, going 13-18 from the charity stripe, but the Pelicans also got a boost from the bench highlighted by E’Twuan Moore’s 18 points to help them keep pace with the Heat in the fourth quarter.
Coupled with Dragic’s dominant third quarter outburst, Miami’s 66 points in the second half wouldn’t be possible without the bench showing up. Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Johnson and James Johnson all knocked huge shots in the final quarter to battle back and take the decisive lead. Miami knocked down seven 3-pointers in the final quarter alone and 16 total. With a victory margin in single digits, it was especially crucial for the team to have a strong showing at the free throw line and they took advantage going 16-19.
With the victory the Heat temporarily moved into the eighth and final playoff spot but dropped back down to No. 9 after the Milwaukee Bucks pulled off a tight road win against the Los Angeles Clippers later that night. Regardless, it’s a huge accomplishment for a team that at one point this season had the most losses in the NBA.