For the second time in as many weeks, the Miami Heat played the Cleveland Cavaliers. And for the second time in as many weeks, the Heat imposed their will on the league-worst Cavaliers to move to .500 on the year.
This time matching up in the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, the Heat dominated the second quarter 36-20 to turn a tight early contest into a blowout. Miami won their most lopsided game of the year, 117-92. As Miami has done in the past, the Heat utilized a zone defense to stifle their opponents. Although some miscommunication led to defensive breakdowns — particularly in the fourth quarter — the 2-3 zone worked well for Miami.
Great defense by Bam on Burks pic.twitter.com/7AYhe4AKuF— Joseph Beguiristain (@JoeBeguiristain) January 3, 2019
The Heat also made good use of the 3-point shot, knocking down 16 shots from the land of milk and honey. And the best part was that some of those 3s came from players who aren’t exactly known for their shooting. Derrick Jones Jr. and James Johnson each made three 3-pointers on the night.
And one of those 3-pointers came from none other than Dion Waiters.
Waiters Island is BACK. pic.twitter.com/tNcZq7AwKZ— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 3, 2019
Yes, Waiters played in an NBA game for the first time since Dec. 22, 2017. He first entered the game midway through the second quarter and promptly found Jones for a 3-pointer. He then nailed two jumpers and later made a hesitation dribble for a layup. Waiters also got a bit more playing time towards the end of the fourth quarter, and he made a nice lob pass to Bam Adebayo. It was an encouraging first appearance from the shooting guard.
The time when Erik Spoelstra finds out how to juggle playing time for all Heat players remains up in the air, however. Dwyane Wade did not play in Wednesday’s game due to an illness. Spoelstra slotted Waiters into some of Wade’s typical playing time this night, but the rotation will get interesting once Wade recovers from his illness.
Josh Richardson led the Heat with 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including 4-of-7 from downtown. Richardson played with the offensive leadership of a player many Heat fans hope Richardson can turn into this season, creating some offensive opportunities out of broken plays with his shooting and aggressive drives to the basket.
The Heat used a balanced attack for their offense, with seven players scoring in double figures. James Johnson made some nice drives to the basket in the third quarter. Justise Winslow again directed the Heat offense with gusto, scoring 10 points and dishing out seven assists.
Tyler Johnson picked up some of the offensive slack from Wade’s absence, scoring 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. Kelly Olynyk helped the Heat offense motor along with his smart 3-pointers, screen-setting and cuts to the basket. Hassan Whiteside was quiet offensively, going 4-for-8 from the field for eight points, but grabbed 12 rebounds. By comparison, the Cavaliers as a team grabbed 22 boards.
The Heat will face the Washington Wizards Friday at 8 p.m.