Five takeaways from the Heat’s breathtaking 102-101 come-from-behind win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, which moved Miami (32-29) to within a game of the Sixers for seventh in the Eastern Conference and 3 1/2 games ahead of Detroit for the final playoff spot:
1. Dwyane Wade treated us to a vintage performance. The 36-year-old, 12-time former All-Star scored 15 of his season-high 27 points in the fourth quarter and buried the game-winner with 5.9 seconds to go on a stepback jumper from 21-feet out. Wade was ultimately responsible for the Heat’s last 17 points because he assisted Hassan Whiteside on the only other Miami basket scored after he entered the game with 5:55 to play.
“There’s something about Dwyane Wade when you put that Miami Heat jersey on and play in front of these fans,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He becomes somebody very special.”
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At one point, Wade scored 10 straight points with moves reminiscent of his glory years. The Heat was trailing 100-97 when Wade was fouled attempting a three-pointer with 27 seconds to go. He calmly stepped to the line and made all three shots before fouling Ben Simmons immediately after the Sixers inbounded the ball. Simmons made 1 of 2 from the line before Wade hit the eventual game-winner on the other side.
Wade finished 10 of 16 from the field and even showed off his three-point touch. He made a pair of threes including one at the end of the third quarter and celebrated it by lifting his three fingers up afterward. It was simply a magical night for Wade – only six games after Pat Riley reacquired him at the trade deadline for a 2024 second round pick.
“He loves those moments in front of this crowd, when you get there in the fourth quarter and the crowd is rocking like it was tonight,” Spoelstra said. “He feels an incredible sense of calm and peace in those pressure moments.”
2. The Heat got lucky on two fronts down the stretch, too. After Wade hit what turned out to be the game-winner, the Sixers worked the ball around and got a wide open look for JJ Redick from three-point range at the buzzer. Redick’s shot clanked off the back of the rim.
Even before that, though, the Heat were fortunate a miscommunication between Spoelstra, Wade and point guard Goran Dragic didn’t come back to haunt them. Before Wade fouled Simmons, a career 56.9 percent shooter from the free throw line after tying the game at 100, Spoelstra and Dragic were discussing what to do if Wade missed a free throw.
“Really what happened was I didn’t know necessarily at first whether Dwyane got fouled on a three,” Spoelstra said. “So we started to talk about that, if it’s a two then we were going to trap and try to foul Simmons if he caught the ball. Then it was for three, so Goran was trying to get my attention and say ‘Are we doing this at three?’ I was trying to communicate with Goran without Dwyane seeing it that I didn’t have a lack of trust in Dwyane making all three, so I was trying to communicate if he misses one [then foul]. If he makes all three, good. But I was trying to do that without Dwyane seeing it.
“So the miscommunication, we bungled all that, so Dwyane fouled. I’ll tell you what, he’s got guts. If you’d ask him right now he would do that again so he could get the ball back and win the game. That’s what makes him who he is.”
Dragic said he and Wade wanted to foul Simmons no matter what.
“I wanted to foul,” Wade said. “I had confidence in myself that I was going to make all three. I’m not the best free throw shooter on the team, but I definitely had confidence in myself. They kept running that 2-5 pick-and-roll and it was killing us. I just felt playing the numbers, the young fella, to see him in this environment, what he’s going to do [in that situation]. If he would have gone up there and made both we would have called time out and tried to figure it out. But he got one and missed and that’s what we needed. But I like the percentages better than what we were seeing in New Orleans. We lost to the same play over and over again. Tonight we switched it up. It was one of those moments where I saw him and I was just going to [foul him]. If we would have lost I would have taken it on the chin.”
3. So much for being a healthy team again. Just as Kelly Olynyk and Rodney McGruder were welcomed back from the injured list, Wayne Ellington left Tuesday’s game with a left thigh bruise in the first half and Tyler Johnson hurt his left knee midway through the third quarter.
“They both got crushed on screens,” Spoelstra said. “You know, it is what it is. Those guys were working hard to get over screens, they do a great job of freeing their guys. It probably was a little bit tough with two officials monitoring the legality of those. Both of them were wearing pads so we’ll just have to see how they feel [Wednesday]. Wayne was wearing a really big football pad and it went right through his pads.”
Johnson, 25, was playing well (16 points on 6 of 10 shooting) when he went down in a heap near the Heat bench fighting through a screen. Moments later, he went to the locker room grabbing his left knee and thigh area. Although he returned to the bench, Johnson didn’t return to the court.
Johnson, who struggled last month after returning from an ankle injury, appeared to be turning the corner after the All-Star break. This could be a problematic setback for Johnson, who spent the rest of the game Tuesday trying to stretch his leg out on the Heat bench.
Ellington, meanwhile, who has made 174 three-pointers this season (fifth-most in the league), missed the first 16 games of last season with a bad bruise in his right thigh – one of the worst bruises he said doctors had ever seen.
Losing Ellignton for an extended time would be painful for the Heat. The Heat is plus-6.0 in offensive rating with Ellington on the floor (106.1) this season. The only regular rotation player who makes a bigger impact on the offensive end is Olynyk (107.8 rating, 8.0 differential).
But it doesn’t appear to be as serious as last year’s injury.
“He said right now it’s nowhere near [last year’s bruise],” Spoelstra said. “But there’s no way to tell. When he did that last year he wasn’t wearing pads.”
4. Olynyk provided 25 solid minutes off the bench – including nine points, three rebounds and three assists – in his first action since he hurt his left shoulder on Feb. 5. It turned out to be a lot more work for Olynyk than Spoelstra initially had planned for him.
“It’s pretty clear to see he really adds to the dimension of your offense because of his skillset, his versatility, his shooting ability, his IQ, his ability to pass,” Spoelstra said. “But you can just do more things, your offense looks more fluid, your players look better usually when KO is on the court. Defensively, I know he’s kicking himself for giving that three to [Dario] Saric, but he does a lot of little things. He’s in the right spot so many times. He really helps you rebounding, too, because he’s one of our best block out guys. I did play him way more than I anticipated. It was tough to get him out of the game.”
Olynyk didn’t mind the labor though.
“I think he said maybe I’d get 15 [minutes] or so. I had 25 of the last 32 or something,” he said. “It was good. He said he was going to get my feet wet and they’re soaked. It was just good to be out there and back in the swing of things and most importantly just to get a win. That’s the most important thing and something we really needed that right now. Hopefully we can carry that momentum into Thursday and start an upward trend from here.”
5. Spoelstra went from wanting to choke Whiteside over the first four minutes of the game to loving his effort the rest of the way. The Heat’s starting center finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocks in 34 minutes. He finished plus-19 for the game (second to Dragic who was plus-20) and at times did a fine job defending Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid (23 points, eight rebounds, four assists, five turnovers in 30 minutes) while diving for loose balls on the floor left and right.
“Dropkick those four minutes out of this building [when Embiid scored seven early points], he was terrific,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the vision of the guy we want. He was very inspiring, and all game. He was able to sustain it, even throughout the fourth quarter.”
Whiteside bruised his right elbow diving for a loose ball, but said after the game he’s not going to miss any playing time.
“I was just trying to make as many winning plays I could,” Whiteside said. “I feel like I was scrambling all over the court. If I seen the ball on the floor, I tried to dive. I was just trying to make every play that I possibly could down the stretch and throughout the game. I wasn’t trying to do anything else besides get the win.”