Cham­i­nade wins state ti­tle

Trail­ing 10-0, team closed with 38 straight points against King’s.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Ira Win­der­man

LOS AN­GE­LES — Ul­ti­mately, it was just a tease, a healthy point guard mak­ing the game eas­ier for team­mates.

Be­cause, in this case, Go­ran Dragic was there one night and gone the next, as the Mi­ami Heat con­tin­ued their six-game western trip.

No sooner did Dragic be­come the first Heat player this sea­son to reach dou­ble fig­ures in as­sists in Fri­day night’s 115-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns, then the Heat an­nounced that Dragic would sit out Satur­day night’s game against the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers at Sta­ples Cen­ter as a pre­cau­tion.

After Dragic had missed eight con­sec­u­tive games with a swollen right knee, a back-to-back was not con­sid­ered the op­ti­mal form of re­turn by coach Erik Spoel­stra or the team’s train­ing staff.

And yet, it ul­ti­mately might have been lungs, and not the knee, that needed the break.

“I was fa­tigued. I couldn’t move,” said Dragic, who made clear the knee was not an is­sue after play­ing 21:15 in his re­turn. “My lungs were al­most ex­plod­ing. But I was in con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Spo when I needed to get out and get back.

“I think for the first cou­ple of min­utes, three or four min­utes, I al­ready was sig­nal­ing to Spo that I wanted to get out.”

With Has­san White­side away from the team for the birth of his first child, and with Wayne Elling­ton at­tend­ing the funeral of his grand­mother, the reshuf­fled lineup Satur­day was just the lat­est ad­just­ment in a mix-and-match sea­son for the Heat.

But what Dragic of­fered with his 11 points and 10 as­sists on Fri­day night at Talk­ing Stick Re­sort Arena is what the Heat now hope to get on a more reg­u­lar ba­sis,

start­ing with Mon­day night’s game against LeBron James and the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers at Sta­ples Cen­ter, the third game on this trip.

“He’s our All-Star,” Spoel­stra said. “Some­times it can be as sim­ple as that. He just brings a level of con­fi­dence and calm­ness to the team. We’ve said that same type of thing about Dwyane [Wade].

“Go­ran gives us that endto-end, north-south at­tacker.”

It was a case Fri­day of re­al­iz­ing what the Heat can have after Dragic had been gone, es­pe­cially with the Heat not car­ry­ing a true backup point guard.

“It gets ev­ery­body back to their place and their spot,” Wade said. “He’s our start­ing point guard. Ob­vi­ously, ev­ery­body talks about the pace that he brings. His abil­ity to pen­e­trate.

“At this point in the year,

we’re try­ing to fig­ure out ways to win. Now that he’s back, we can get back into

the groove of things and hope­fully we don’t lose any­body else, and we can start

get­ting com­fort­able with the line­ups and the roles ev­ery­body has to play.”

Those plans were put on hold for an­other night, but not the hope of what is to

come, with the Heat without an­other back-to-back set un­til Dec. 23-24.

“He’s our leader. He’s the head of the Dragon as we like to say,” for­ward Jus­tise Winslow said. “He’s a spe­cial tal­ent. So to get that tal­ented of a player back is great for our team, the at­ten­tion he draws of­fen­sively is great for us. And also, just as a brother, you never want to see your broth­ers to go down to in­jury. So to see him back out there really helps.”

Dragic said the ex­am­ple set Fri­day, when the Heat closed with 32 as­sists to just 12 turnovers against the Suns, is the goal he hopes can fol­low, re­gard­less of if he is on the court.

“The whole five play­ers on the floor, they need to work to­gether and I feel [Fri­day], we did a bet­ter job,” he said.

iwin­der­[email protected] sun­sen­tinel.com. Fol­low him at twit­ter.com/ira­heat­beat or face­book.com/ ira.win­der­man

RICK SCU­TERI/AP

Go­ran Dragic showed Fri­day why the Heat could miss him on nights such as Satur­day against the Clip­pers in Los An­ge­les.

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