Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 90-85 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, which moved Erik Spoelstra ahead of Pat Riley for most coaching wins in franchise history.
1. Erik Spoelstra surpasses Pat Riley, tips his cap to his mentor. Spoelstra has come a long way from his days as the Heat’s video coordinator to earning the most coaching wins in franchise history. Spoelstra achieved the milestone on Saturday as the Heat gutted out an ugly yet satisfying victory against the Clippers that took nearly every player available.
“I have an idea of what you guys are going to ask, so I thought that it would be most fitting to go retro and have an old-school Miami Heat game in honor of Coach Riley,” Spoelstra said. “This is the type of game he probably enjoys the most: You win shooting 37 percent. I think we scored too many points this game. But those are the old-school, tough, grind-it-out, find-any-way-as-a-competitor to win the games. That’s in honor of my mentor and my coach. He’s still my coach.”
Spoelstra’s career record is now 455-296.
Riley’s record with the Heat was 454-395. Spoelstra reached the win total in 99 fewer games than Riley.
Spoelstra is only the second active coach to produce at least 450 wins with their current team, joining the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich.
Spoelstra and Riley are only the second pair of coaches to win at least 450 games with the same team. Riley (533) and Phil Jackson (610) also achieved that with the Lakers.
With his next coaching victory, Spoelstra would move into 35th place on the NBA’s all-time list, breaking a tie between Billy Cunningham and Byron Scott.
“The respect for Spo has always been there, to be honest,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before the game. “Spo is so unassuming. He’s like the greatest coach that no one knows. I think that’s the way he probably wants it.
“I don’t know how he gets away with it, though. I mean, he’s had the three great players together. He looks like he’s on the GQ cover and nobody actually notices him. He gets away with murder as far as I’m concerned. He’s a terrific coach and one of the great ones.”
2. Josh Richardson rescues the Heat as he delivers his second career-best scoring performance this month. A pair of free throws with 19.9 seconds left gave Richardson 28 points and one point above his career-high mark of 27 that he scored 15 days earlier against Charlotte.
Richardson also set a career-high with six made three pointers. He shot 10 of 16 from the field and went 6 of 8 from long range with one of the biggest coming with 3:37 left in the fourth that gave the Heat an 82-79 lead after the Clippers tied it up.
The performance was desperately needed with the Heat shorthanded losing another key player to injury in the first quarter.
“That’s what kind of team we are,” Richardson said. “Every year there’s been a guy that steps up huge for us. My first year, it was me. Last year, it was Rodney [McGruder]. This year, Jordan [Mickey] is stepping up, Bam [Adebayo] is stepping up. There’s always had to be times where someone has to step up out of nowhere and be always ready.”
3. More injury woes for the Heat to overcome. Heat tri-captain James Johnson left the game with 6:15 to go in the first quarter and did not return. The Heat originally labeled Johnson’s injury as a right ankle injury, but Spoelstra called it a “lower leg injury” after the game.
Spoelstra said Johnson would undergo an MRI on Sunday.
“He was getting treatment when I came in, and he’s going to get out of here, get some rest and we’ll find out tomorrow,” Spoelstra said.
Spoelstra said pregame that the Heat is already going to be without Hassan Whiteside (left knee bone bruise) for the next two games in Atlanta and Boston as its starting center will not make the trip.
Justise Winslow (left strained knee) sat out Saturday night, but will travel with the team. However, it’s unclear if Winslow will be available against the Hawks.
4. Seldom-used Jordan Mickey chips in for the second consecutive game. With the Heat’s lineup depleted, Mickey was pressed into service again Saturday and held his own well. Mickey, who had a career-best eight points in Charlotte, topped that with nine points on Saturday in a season-high 27 minutes and 15 seconds.
“This one was different,” Mickey said. “You knew early you were going to be needed.”
Mickey said his mindset Saturday didn’t change even after being needed even more than the previous game when Johnson got hurt.
“I just got to go out there and make something happen for my team, play good defense,” Mickey said. “I don’t really focus on offense too much. It’s not what my role is. So on this team, I’ve got to try to go out there, get stops, crash the backboards. And if I get an open shot, be able to knock it down. So I just want to go out there and play hard for my teammates.”
5. DeAndre Jordan and Clippers feasted in the paint, but Heat found a way to limit him late. Jordan finished with 12 points and a game-high 20 rebounds, which was only eight more than the Heat finished with as a team. But rookie Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk and Mickey collectively found a way to slow down Jordan and keep him scoreless in the fourth quarter as the Heat made enough plays down the stretch to win.
“Just trying to keep him out of the paint,” Adebayo said. “That’s easier said than done. Just trying to keep him out of the paint, keep my ball screens, limiting his lobs. I feel like we did a good job at that.”