Need help? Just dial up Richardson
Spoelstra made correct call to snap 3-game losing streak
TORONTO — The 26-point lead was almost gone, the Miami Heat were searching for survival. Erik Spoelstra was frantically attempting to dial up help.
This time the call did not go to Dwyane Wade. This time Spoelstra dialed 0 instead of 3.
Josh Richardson took over from there. No, victories over the Chicago Bulls are not something particularly celebrated these days. But it beats the alternative, especially when the two-game trip ends Sunday against the leagueleading Toronto Raptors.
Enter Richardson, who shot 5 of 6 and scored 12 points in Friday night’s fourth quarter. Three-game losing streak over.
“I think he understands he’s our guys, we’re going to him,” Wade said across from Richardson’s locker. “He’s picking up the phone every time we call him, for
the most part. And that’s all you can ask for.”
Amid the Bulls’ frantic rally within four, Spoelstra made a statement about a franchise with no option but to be forward thinking, even with 36-year-old Wade having made a career of such moments. Instead, the choice was to go with the youth of Richardson, Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo.
“I didn’t necessarily do it on purpose,” Spoelstra said, “but I did want to see that group finish without Dwyane. I did not want to see him go in there and all of a sudden everybody defer to him.
“We’re going to need that, obviously, because Dwyane is one of the very best ever in this league closing games. But J-Rich has been in this situation a few times. I thought his poise and preparation to get to the proper spots was much better, much more detailed and even made some plays out of that, which was growth. And even if the shots didn’t go, they were the right place, right tempo and right actions, and that’s something we can build on and his confidence will only grow from this.”
Asked and answered, with Richardson flattered by Wade’s “phone” comment.
“It means a lot,” he said. “These are guys that I care about, that they like playing with me. The fact I get that kind of praise
from one of the leading guys on our team means a lot.”
Richardson said he did not necessarily choose the moment.
“Our team doesn’t have just a guy,” he said, “so it’s like whoever is stepping up, I guess. Today my number got called and I just tried to answer it the best I could.”
Instead, the moment chose him.
“When I came in the fourth, I knew the game was close,” he said, “a little too close. And once I hit those first couple pull-ups, I knew I was rolling. I just told myself to give it a chance.”
Forward James Johnson, another of the Heat’s veterans who sat while the kid stuff carried the Heat to victory, said he appreciates what the moment meant to and for Richardson.
“I think he learned a lot,” Johnson said. “He learned from his mistakes. He’s one of those guys that doesn’t sleep well if things go bad, and that’s what you want. He’s been playing fabulous basketball.
“Now he’s starting to find ways to make everybody on the team better, being our leading scorer.”
Richardson led the Heat with 27 points, with no teammate scoring more than 18.
“He’s been doing a great job all year of being willing to take all those shots,” Wade said. “When you have success, it gives you more confidence to take them.”
Josh Richardson continues to evolve into a leading man for the Heat, gaining confidence from teammates.