Through the Miami Heat’s season turnaround over the last month, Justise Winslow has grown into a better NBA player. Friday night, Winslow played like the franchise cornerstone many hoped he could become when the Heat drafted him in 2015.
Winslow scored 24 points on 11-of-21 shooting from the field, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out seven assists in 34 minutes. He comfortably finished around the basket — something he struggled to do earlier in his career — and made nice passes for easy buckets.
With Winslow leading the way, the Heat dominated the bottom-dwelling Cleveland Cavaliers in the second half for a 118-94 win that puts Miami back at .500, at 17-17. The Heat had climbed to 16-16 on a five-game win streak that the Toronto Raptors snapped Dec. 26.
After a tightly contested first half, Erik Spoelstra went to a zone defense early in the third quarter when Hassan Whiteside committed his fourth foul (Spoelstra did not take Whiteside out of the game). The move stifled the Cavaliers offense, which scored 30 points in the first quarter but only mustered 17 in the third. And the Heat’s methodical offense ballooned a four-point halftime lead into double digits.
Aside from Winslow, Bam Adebayo also put together a fantastic performance Friday. The Heat’s 2017 first-round pick was a perfect 8-for-8 from the field for 18 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes. The Heat center feasted on dunks, and even made a few nice shots around the basket early in the fourth quarter to keep Cleveland at bay.
The Heat had seven players score in double figures. Those contributions were all needed, as James Johnson played eight minutes in the first half but did not return. James Johnson was suffering from an illness Friday. To start the second half, Spoelstra played Derrick Jones Jr. instead of Kelly Olynyk. Both played well — Dwyane Wade found Olynyk for a couple nice scores in the fourth quarter, and Jones blocked a potential Cavaliers transition opportunity when the game was still close.
Josh Richardson and Rodney McGruder each contributed 16 points for the Heat, with McGruder going 4-of-8 from downtown. Richardson, though, did have a shaky offensive night, shooting 5-of-14 from the field. Those aren’t especially out of the ordinary for Richardson, who will need to avoid taking some ill-advised shots to become a more efficient player. Winslow may have leapfrogged him as the Heat’s best player over the last month.
Wade added 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field to go with six rebounds and four assists. Wade also played as the backup point guard for the Heat, directing the offense when Winslow went to the bench. Tyler Johnson added 11 points, making three 3-pointers Friday night.
The Heat have one more game in 2018, and it’s Sunday at 6 p.m. against the Minnesota Timberwolves.