Two days after needing a game-winning Josh Richardson layup to defeat the Utah Jazz, the Miami Heat found themselves in a similar position against the 28-10 Toronto Raptors. And the Heat somehow found a way, winning their fifth straight game thanks to a go-ahead layup from Wayne Ellington with 0.3 seconds left.
The Heat missed seven straight shots in the fourth quarter to blow a six-point lead with 3:48 left to go. But Goran Dragic broke Miami’s drought, driving in the lane for a layup to put Miami up 88-87. On Toronto’s ensuing possession, DeMar DeRozan turned the corner and tipped in his own missed layup to put the Raptors up.
And with 3.1 seconds left, Ellington got the ball in the corner. Instead of shooting a 3, the 3-point specialist drove to the rim and made the go ahead layup with feeble resistance.
After the final buzzer sounded, Dragic and DeRozan exchanged words at the end of a physical, testy game.
Wayne Ellington won it for the Heat with .3 seconds left...— SB Nation NBA (@SBNationNBA) January 10, 2018
Then Goran Dragic and DeMar DeRozan scuffled pic.twitter.com/dJvmn1St1b
Despite the fourth-quarter mishaps, this win ranks with the win over the Boston Celtics Nov. 20 as one of the Heat’s best. The Raptors are second in the East and came into Tuesday’s game with a 14-1 home record. Yes, Toronto was without Kyle Lowry, but the Heat didn’t have Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow and Tyler Johnson, who was a late scratch. And Miami held the lead for most of the way, with nice runs in the second and third quarters.
Dragic led the way for the Heat, scoring 24 points on 10-of-21 shooting from the field, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out four assists. Dragic was superb in the second quarter, driving into the teeth of the defense and scoring. He missed a few make-able shots — including a wide-open jumper from 15 feet — but made up for it with his clutch layup.
Dragic’s performance was all the more impressive because he took on even more of Miami’s playmaking duties with Tyler Johnson out. Moreover, James Johnson was ejected (along with Serge Ibaka) when the two got into a third-quarter scuffle. Erik Spoelstra couldn’t go too long without Dragic on the floor and played him for 39 minutes.
Johnson’s ejection forced Spoelstra to play Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo for their first extended stretch, and it worked very well. Whiteside and Adebayo dominated on both ends, blocking shots and scoring inside. The Raptors, who initially went small against the Heat’s bigger lineup, had to adjust to Miami.
Adebayo put together his best game of the season. He scored 16 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field, grabbed 15 rebounds and swatted five shots. For several possessions in the fourth quarter, the Heat ran their offense through the rookie in the mid-post for dribble hand-offs or drives to the basket. Adebayo’s offense sputtered at the end, but tonight was a big step forward for the 2017 first-round pick.
Miami’s other big man, Whiteside, was a bit more of a mixed bag. He had some good defensive sequences against Jonas Valanciunas and had a double-double of 13 points and 15 rebounds, but missed numerous point-blank shots, including one in the final minute off an offensive rebound. Whiteside also had this inexcusable no-show on defense that had Spoelstra fuming.
Erik Spoelstra demonstrating why Whiteside doesn’t get more minutes pic.twitter.com/cKmRwEGDht— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) January 10, 2018
Even with Tyler Johnson out, Spoelstra stayed with his rotation and kept Ellington off the bench. The starting job went to Derrick Jones, Jr., who has only been with the Heat for 10 days. Jones, though, stepped right into his role, scoring eight points and grabbing five boards in 28 minutes. Jones was active defensively and had this nasty throwdown in the second quarter. He’s a good player to have for Miami.
The Heat will visit the Indiana Pacers tomorrow at 7 p.m. and try to win their seventh straight game.