Chaminade wins state title
Trailing 10-0, team closed with 38 straight points against King’s.
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.
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Goran Dragic showed Friday why the Heat could miss him on nights such as Saturday against the Clippers in Los Angeles.