The shorthanded Miami Heat showed plenty of character in an uplifting 100-97 road win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night. Playing without guards Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade, the Heat fielded an ultra-athletic, defensive lineup that hit timely shots during crunch time to seal the victory.
Just days after an awful blowout loss to the Utah Jazz and an emotional loss to the L.A. Lakers, the team came together with several breakthrough games from primarily the reserve players as well as a strong outing from Josh Richardson that was a long time coming.
Both Richardson and Kelly Olynyk led the team with 18 points, but J-Rich also picked up his playmaking in the absence of Wade and Dragic and notched seven assists to go along with five rebounds. Just as crucially, he knocked down several shots his team desperately needed to hold off a Grizzlies team that had many chances to win in front of their home crowd (with a little help from a pair of bizarre no-calls from the referees late in the game).
Tyler Johnson (17 points) and Olynyk also came through big time in the fourth quarter with huge buckets, and both finished 4-7 from 3-point territory. Joining them off the bench, Derrick Jones Jr. and Bam Adebayo were spectacular on the defensive end, erasing shots at the rim and refusing to allow the Grizzlies any hope of securing offensive rebounds and cutting the lead with second chance points. All four players were on the court for the entirety of the fourth quarter, alongside Richardson, when the Heat made their final stand as they held on fiercely to their lead to grab a quality win in one of their more impressive games of the season.
All the while, the Grizzlies were reportedly involved in a three-team trade proposal with the Washington Wizards and the Phoenix Suns that was agreed to in principle during the game. Subsequently, it was undone just as quickly over confusion between Memphis and Phoenix over which Brooks player, Dillon or MarShon, was involved in the deal. You just got to love the NBA.
Miami out-rebounded Memphis 50-34 and were able to grind out the victory in a slower-paced, physical game in which they scored precisely one fast break point. The team as a whole shared the ball extremely well, racking up 30 assists off 36 field goals made, and it seemed like every critical basket in the game came from swinging the ball and eluding the Grizzlies defenders with their spacing. They also needed offense from everyone on the floor and they benefitted greatly from the all-out energy and hustle from Adebayo and Jones Jr. Whiteside played for the first time during this road trip after the birth of his son and played 22 minutes, finishing with six points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks.
The Heat next play the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday with a chance to close out their road trip with what would be a very impressive 4-2 record.