Coach Erik Spoelstra reinserted Goran Dragic back into the starting lineup and made Tyler Herro a featured sixth man in moves that paid immediate dividends Friday night. Couple with a complete team effort that recalled their bubble days, the starting lineup went out and sparked an early onslaught that would lead to a feel-good blowout 122-95 win versus the Washington Wizards.
Miami came out looking sharp and Dragic was back to his usual self. Instead of struggling to finish around the rim as he had the last few games, he pushed the pace early and often which allowed the team to shred the Wizards’ porous defense before they had time to react. Time and time again, the Heat’s shooters finally looked like a threat while an ultra-aggressive Bam Adebayo had his way inside and made a steady march to the free throw line in the first quarter leading to 21 points for the night.
Ultimately, it was seldom-used guard Kendrick Nunn’s night however with a confident looking 25-point performance that was long overdue, but was expected after a good run whenever he recently was given playing time. This was a game that was more in line with a player who was runner-up to Rookie of the Year last season and it makes the team that much more dangerous.
It’s a sign of a complete team effort when Jimmy Butler’s stat-stuffing line of 14 points, eight rebounds, three steals and nine assists in only 26 minutes doesn’t receive top or even second billing.
Another near triple-double from our leader ☕ pic.twitter.com/yFI8lUiTaw— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) February 6, 2021
But when everyone is rolling and shooters like Duncan Robinson, Kelly Olynyk, and Herro (who scored his 1000th NBA point tonight) are making the defense pay for leaving them open, the team is much better off rather than having to depend on Butler to do everything as well as score a bunch of points. Olynyk in particular was efficient, going 5-7 from deep for 17 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes.
A shame really that the feel-good vibe tonight was marred somewhat by Dragic’s departure in the third quarter with an ankle sprain. Though Spoelstra declined to give an injury update after the game, X-rays returned negative so here’s hoping that he doesn’t have to be forced to make another lineup change after the team looked so impressive tonight. (Should Dragic miss any time however, it’s comforting to see Nunn playing well.)
At one point the Heat were up by 37 points, their biggest lead of the season, and even a lengthy Wizards run in the fourth quarter wasn’t enough to overcome a huge hole they had dug for themselves. Bradley Beal, the NBA’s leading scorer, incredibly missed his first 13 shot attempts and went on to score just seven points on 1-14 shooting. He sat out the entire fourth quarter along with Russell Westbrook, who was also invisible with 13 points. As important as it was to see the Heat get back into a good offensive flow, it would have meant little if they were just trading baskets with Beal and Westbrook so it was also critical for the team to get back to priding themselves on defense.
The Wizards struggled all night getting into any offensive rhythm with their two All-Stars looking like shells of their former selves. They shot 37.5% from the field and 8-33 from 3-point territory, and that’s including the fourth quarter where Alex Len dominated rookie Precious Achiuwa around the rim and Ish Smith gave the Heat problems with his quickness. Though the lead was trimmed below 20 it was still a sizable lead with several minutes left, though Bam Adebayo was swiftly inserted back into the game to settle the team down and the team continued to cruise to victory.
The Heat next hit the road to face the New York Knicks on Super Bowl Sunday at 1pm.