Just hot enough

Winslow’s 26 points help push re­silient Heat north of the .500 mark

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Ira Win­der­man

MI­AMI — This time the Mi­ami Heat fol­lowed up some­thing good with some­thing good enough, which in many ways was all that was re­quested.

No, this was not nearly as dy­namic a per­for­mance as Thurs­day’s tour de force against the Bos­ton Celtics. But it was a

mo­ment when the Heat also didn’t play down to the level of the com­pe­ti­tion, or at least not long enough to get them beat.

So even with a few shaky mo­ments at the close, the Heat found a way Satur­day to push past the Mem­phis Griz­zlies 112-108 at Amer­i­canAir­lines Arena and move back above .500 at 21-20 at mid­sea­son.

“Well, they missed a cou­ple of shots, we got a cou­ple of stops,” Heat coach Erik Spoel­stra said. “And we just found a way to close it.

“There was some progress in this one.” Jus­tise Winslow led the Heat with 26 points on a night of oth­er­wise bal­anced scor­ing for the Heat.

“He puts in a great deal of time on his game,” Spoel­stra said. “This first half tonight, there was a need for him to be more ag­gres­sive.”

It was a rocky ride, but ul­ti­mately a suc­cess­ful one.

“It’s about pick­ing up wins,” said Dwyane Wade, who again played as closer for the Heat.

The Heat led by 13 in the third quar­ter and went into the fourth up

91-83. And then it was tied 108-108 in the fi­nal minute. From there, with Winslow off with a 10-foot jumper, Mem­phis’ Mike Con­ley Jr. missed an open floater and fouled Heat cen­ter Bam Ade­bayo with 55.9 sec­onds to play. At 4 of 5 from the line to that stage, Ade­bayo made only the sec­ond foul shot, to put the Heat up 109-108.

But that is when Griz­zlies cen­ter Marc Ga­sol air-balled an open

3-pointer with 31 sec­onds to play. Wade missed a jumper, but Richard­son se­cured the of­fen­sive re­bound and was fouled with 9.5 sec­onds to play. Like Ade­bayo, he made only one of the two free throws, leav­ing the Heat up 110-108.

The Heat then forced a jump ball with 4.0 sec­onds to play off a blocked shot by Wade. Wade then won the jump, with Richard­son fouled on the play, to close out the scor­ing.

“I think I mus­tered ev­ery­thing I had to jump,” Wade said.

Five de­grees of Heat from Satur­day’s game:

1. Jus­tise binge-slow: This was more than Jus­tise Winslow shoot­ing 7 of 9 for 18 first-half points. This was Winslow keep­ing a shaky Heat start­ing lineup afloat early, with no other Heat starter with more than Richard­son’s seven first-half points.

“His con­fi­dence is at an all-time high,” Richard­son said.

With four first-half as­sists, Winslow ac­counted for half of the Heat’s first-half scor­ing.

He kept go­ing from there, now with dou­ble-digit points in 10 con­sec­u­tive games for the first time in his NBA ca­reer.

“I was just be­ing ag­gres­sive,” he said. “The looks were just there.”

He added seven re­bound and four as­sists.

“The stat line might look a lit­tle dif­fer­ent each game,” Spoel­stra said. “But he has that kind of mind to be able to de­velop that.”

2. First things: Speak­ing of the Heat start­ing lineup . . . changes could be on the way. Rod­ney McGruder and James John­son both played the open­ing 4:22 — and that was it for the first half.

With Hassan White­side out due to ill­ness, the Heat went with their 16th start­ing lineup, with Ade­bayo do­ing his job off the boards.

Spoel­stra went for in­stant en­ergy early, with Der­rick Jones Jr. en­ter­ing with Dwyane Wade as the Heat’s first sub­sti­tutes.

The ap­proach worked, but it also ul­ti­mately left Dion Wait­ers as 10th man, en­ter­ing after Tyler John­son and Kelly Olynyk. Wait­ers also was the fifth sub­sti­tute to en­ter in the sec­ond half.

3. Mes­sage re­ceived: Spoel­stra’s ir­ri­tabil­ity in the two days lead­ing up to this clearly was a mes­sage to his team that it is not good enough to ease off the gas.

Whether the testi­ness was gen­uine or oth­er­wise, the mes­sage worked, with the Heat not al­low­ing Thurs­day’s im­pres­sive vic­tory over the Bos­ton Celtics cre­ate a let­down against a team that en­tered 14th in the Western Con­fer­ence.

“There’s a lot of things on my mind,” Spoel­stra said go­ing in. “I just want us to get to a dif­fer­ent level. That’s my main mes­sage with our team. Con­sis­tency is a part of it.”

4. Three for all: A game after con­vert­ing a sea­son-high 18 3-point­ers, the Heat were 10 of 15 from be­yond the arc in Satur­day’s first half and closed 15 of

31, their high­est two-game to­tal for threes this sea­son.

Be­yond Winslow’s long-dis­tance ac­cu­racy, there were mul­ti­ple

3-point­ers from Tyler John­son and Olynyk, in a game the Heat went into with a de­cided bench ad­van­tage.

5. Sub­tly smooth: With Winslow scor­ing, Richard­son played more as play­maker, clos­ing with a ca­reer-high nine as­sists.

“I think I’m start­ing to make bet­ter reads,” he said.

Richard­son’s pre­vi­ous ca­reer high had been eight, with his pre­vi­ous sea­son high at seven.

“We’re get­ting bet­ter in terms of help­ing each other gen­er­ate open looks,” Spoel­stra said. “J-Rich was able to be ag­gres­sive, and be­cause of his size he was able to make plays over the top.”


Jus­tise Winslow of the Heat keeps his eyes on the bas­ket and scores two of his 26 points in the vic­tory over the Griz­zlies on Satur­day.


Josh Richard­son of the Heat drives on the Griz­zlies in the first half Satur­day at Amer­i­canAir­lines Arena.

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