Pierce’s prat­tle

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Golf | Auto Racing - Iwin­der­[email protected]­tinel.com. Fol­low him at twit­ter.com/ira­heat­beat or face­book.com/ira.win­der­man

TORONTO — In the heat of a play­off race, the last thing tol­er­ated is tak­ing the long view.

Yet amid the Mi­ami Heat’s glut of late-sea­son in­juries, Erik Spoel­stra has been af­forded that op­por­tu­nity.

With Josh Richard­son side­lined by a hip is­sue, Jus­tise Winslow back from a thigh bruise, and with Go­ran Dragic again in rhythm fol­low­ing De­cem­ber knee surgery, the Heat opened Fri­day night’s loss to the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves at Tar­get Cen­ter with Dragic at point guard and Winslow at small for­ward.

It was the first time the two started in the same lineup since Winslow had in­her­ited the ma­jor­ity of ball­han­dling re­spon­si­bil­i­ties amid Dragic’s two-month ab­sence.

“It’s not re­ally an ad­just­ment,” Winslow said. “I mean, this game is five play­ers out there on the court. You’ve got to be able to play with the ball and off the ball.

“So, of course, I was able to flour­ish with the ball in my hands,

Heat at Rap­tors: Three things to watch

Here are three things to watch when the Heat play the Rap­tors at noon Sun­day at Sco­tia­bank Arena:

1. Who is in, who is out? For the Heat, Josh Richard­son (hip) is out. For the Rap­tors, Pa­trick McCaw (thumb) is out.

2. What is the Rap­tors' mo­ti­va­tion? Ef­fec­tively locked into the No. 2 seed in the East­ern Con­fer­ence be­hind the Bucks, how much will the Rap­tors bal­ance play­off pre­pared­ness vs. rest­ing play­ers in ad­vance of next week­end's start of the play­offs? The last time the teams met, the Rap­tors gave Kawhi Leonard the day off and still pum­meled the Heat at Amer­i­canAir­lines Arena, 125-104.

3: Will Danny Green again be a Heat pest?

Ac­quired in the off­sea­son from San An­to­nio, where he pro­vided his share of Heat tor­ment with the Rap­tors, Green shot 5 of 8 on

3-point­ers in the teams' pre­vi­ous meet­ing, the Heat vic­tim­ized in that March 10 loss by 21-of-40 Rap­tors ac­cu­racy from be­yond the arc.

How to watch/lis­ten: Fox Sports Sun, 790-AM, 106.3-FM, 98.3-FM (Span­ish), 1140-AM (Span­ish), 760-AM (Span­ish) but I’m ca­pa­ble of play­ing with­out the ball, as well. I’m ver­sa­tile. I un­der­stand the game. I know how to play the game the right way. So it’s not much of an ad­just­ment for me.”

Dragic closed the loss to the Tim­ber­wolves with 15 points, nine as­sists and seven re­bounds, Winslow with 13 points, four as­sists and seven re­bounds.

Coach Erik Spoel­stra thought the lineup had its mo­ments.

“That was fine,” he said, be­fore — Ira Win­der­man

turn­ing his at­ten­tion to Sun­day’s game against the Toronto Rap­tors at Sco­tia­bank Cen­ter. “We got some good looks at the be­gin­ning of the third quar­ter.”

If noth­ing else, the pair­ing al­lows the Heat to learn about the chem­istry of the com­bi­na­tion over these re­main­ing three games, with Dragic en­ter­ing the fi­nal sea­son of his con­tract, with the abil­ity to opt out by June 30, and with Winslow about to be­gin the first year of a three-year ex­ten­sion.

“When I came here I was off the ball,” he said of this first three sea­sons af­ter be­ing se­lected No. 10 out of Duke in the 2015 NBA draft. “I’ve been off the ball 31⁄2 years. So I’ve learned how to play, how to cut, how to move with­out the ball.

“Of course, with the ball, I’m most com­fort­able. But I’m not go­ing to have the ball the whole game and I un­der­stand that. So it’s not re­ally and ad­just­ment, play­ing off the ball for me. It’s just un­der­stand­ing the other guys out there and what my team needs for me.”

Paul Pierce, us­ing his plat­form on ESPN’s NBA stu­dio show, at­tempted to make a case Fri­day night for hav­ing the bet­ter ca­reer than Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who is retiring af­ter this 16th and fi­nal NBA sea­son.

The de­bate be­gan with a be­nign ques­tion ask­ing about which was bet­ter.

“That’s easy,” Pierce said. “I could say off the bat, me.”

Then when so­cial me­dia took over, with Wade re­post­ing sev­eral tweets not­ing his mer­its.

Pierce then re­sponded on ESPN’s postgame show, not­ing how, in his view, the emer­gence of so­cial me­dia tilted the de­bate in Wade’s fa­vor.

“A lot of stuff that the peo­ple didn’t get a chance to see this be­fore Twit­ter and In­sta­gram,” he said. “So that’s why I say, go to YouTube, look at some of those games, ‘early 2000s, Paul Pierce.’ “

Pierce noted his ac­com­plish­ments.

“Peo­ple for­get early 2000s, my matchups with the New Jer­sey Nets, Ja­son Kidd, Allen Iver­son, to close out se­ries, 45 in the close­out game, In­di­ana se­ries, 28 in the sec­ond half,” he said.

It is not the first time Wade has dealt with push­back from an NBA stu­dio show, with Charles Barkley hav­ing taken shots over the years on TNT’s “In­side the NBA.”

“Just like Wade didn’t win with­out LeBron, Bosh, Shaq, you can’t do it by your­self,” Pierce said. “You need the other great play­ers.”

Pierce’s clos­ing com­ments came af­ter a card­board cutout of Wade was placed along­side in ESPN’s stu­dio.

Wade said among the gifts re­ceived from Tim­ber­wolves owner Glen Tay­lor on Fri­day night were Kevin Gar­nett and Prince jer­seys.

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