Fortunately, the Heat have someone named Dwyane Wade on their team.
Wade made two clutch jumpers in the final two minutes of the game — the second one a pull-up jumper with 46.1 seconds left to put the Heat up 88-83 — to help Miami defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 94-87 and win their fourth straight game. The Heat improved their overall record to 15-16 after starting the year 7-13.
The Heat won this game on defense, holding the Bucks to an eight-point first-quarter output and a 9-of-43 performance from downtown. The Heat played man-to-man defense for much of the game, but switched to a 2-3 zone late in the game. Miami’s zone defense worked well, confusing Bucks players when they needed to score and paying attention to 3-point shooters.
Miami played crowding, tough defense against Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with just nine points on 3-of-12 shooting from the field. Bam Adebayo even defended him on the court and did an admirable job.
This gives you a pretty good idea of how the Heat are defending Giannis. If the Bucks aren't going to open things up from three (0-of-9 now), it's going to be tough sledding. pic.twitter.com/oGNV1glzRs— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) December 23, 2018
Neither team shot the ball well — the score was 38-37 at the half; how often does that happen in the NBA in 2018? — and each team enjoyed sustained runs. The Heat dominated the third quarter, 35-20, only to see their lead whittle down in the final period. Fortunately for the Heat, they made enough plays at the end to stop the bleeding and win the game.
Josh Richardson led Miami with 16 points, including a satisfying crusher to put the game away. After Wade’s jumper with 41 seconds left, James Johnson blocked a Khris Middleton 3-point attempt. Wade tapped out a loose ball to Richardson, who jammed the ball home.
Richardson made a few costly errors — including a foul to give Milwaukee a four-point play in the fourth quarter — but added five rebounds and three assists. When Tyler Johnson goes 1-for-6 from the field, as he did Saturday night, Miami needs Richardson to play well, and he did that.
Saturday also marked the first game James Johnson played crunch-time minutes — his 16th game this season. Johnson contributed 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, six rebounds and four assists. Like his performance against Houston Thursday, Johnson made a few aggressive drives to the basket for field goals.
Erik Spoelstra’s frontcourt of Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk didn’t work well in the fourth quarter and Spoelstra went back to his starters, Johnson and Hassan Whiteside. Although Whiteside had a bad offensive night, shooting 5-of-17 from the field, he completed two dunks midway through the fourth quarter. Those dunks were needed during a rough stretch for Miami’s offense. Whiteside had 13 points and 13 boards on the night.
Justise Winslow returned after his absence in Miami’s win over the Houston Rockets Thursday. Spoelstra needs to figure out how to balance Winslow and Derrick Jones Jr.’s minutes. He played Jones for an extended period in the second quarter, leaving Winslow on the bench. But then Spoelstra played Winslow in the fourth quarter, and Jones never got off the bench the entire second half. When Jones can give Miami put-back opportunities and plays like this, he deserves some second-half playing time.
We love when defense turns into offense! pic.twitter.com/4pxkxwbRJS— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) December 23, 2018
The Heat will visit the Orlando Magic Sunday at 6 p.m.