A Heat team that simply cannot stay healthy was again a walking MASH unit on Saturday, with four starters sidelined and only nine available.
But the Heat has learned to play short-handed, a quality that served it well Saturday in the face of considerable adversity.
What was left of the roster staged a furious second-half rally for the second night in a row, overcoming a 16-point, third-quarter deficit and then taking control late in overtime to beat Sacramento 114-109 in an inspiring effort at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Dwyane Wade scored 10 of his 28 points in overtime, including two jumpers and six free throws.
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“That’s a time I get more aggressive,” Wade said of overtime. “The guys did a great job of keeping us close enough until I… was able to string good plays together. There have been a lot of nights this season that don’t make sense. We’ve been unlucky with injuries but guys continue to fight.”
A night after erasing all but one point of a 35-point, second-half deficit against Washington, Miami completed the comeback against the Kings, beating Sacramento for the 13th consecutive time at home.
Tyler Johnson, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers initially spearheaded the rally from 16 down with four minutes left in the third quarter, and Wade put the Heat ahead for the first time since the first quarter with a turnaround jumper with 2:37 left in the fourth.
With the game tied, Henry Walker missed a corner three with 26 seconds left in regulation and Rudy Gay’s driving layup rimmed out in the closing seconds, sending the game to overtime.
After Chris Andersen missed the second of two free throws, Andre Miller’s layup put the Kings ahead 104-103 with two minutes left in overtime. DeMarcus Cousins (27 points, 17 rebounds) then fouled out with 1:41 left in OT, and Andersen hit both free throws to put the Heat up one.
Miller badly missed a jumper, and Johnson’s three pushed the Heat ahead 108-104 with 50 seconds left, capping a fabulous night for the undrafted rookie from Fresno State.
Johnson injected energy and offense, delivering 24 points, six rebounds and six assists off the bench.
“If you look up the word grit, you would probably see Tyler’s picture along with a few other guys on that team,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He has earned everything he has gotten in his life. He has put in a tremendous amount of time behind the scenes in our development program.”
Beasley contributed 18 points and seven rebounds off the bench and did yeoman work defending Cousins despite a 35-pound weight deficit, before fouling out with 1:07 left in regulation. And Chalmers gave the Heat a lift with 12 points.
“Tonight [Beasley] stepped out of his comfort zone and really was an anchor for us as a linebacker behind the defense in that zone,” Spoelstra said. “He was fantastic in that zone.”
Beasley said he played “a little” center at Kansas State and “it was cool.” But playing against Cousins took a toll physically. “I got elbowed in my face three times,” he said. “It hurt. I was stuck at the five [center]. I couldn’t let my teammates down.”
The Heat moved to 28-34, remaining tied with Indiana for eighth in the East. The Pacers own the tiebreaker.
The Heat’s health issues have reached a level of absurdity, to the point that Erik Spoelstra began his pregame news conference by announcing he had no idea who was playing, with seven players nursing injuries.
Ultimately, three sat out beyond Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts: Luol Deng (who missed his second in a row with a calf injury), Hassan Whiteside (ankle) and Goran Dragic (tailbone).
Dragic, who sustained his injury when he fell hard to the floor Friday against Washington, said Saturday that when he moves laterally, “it’s like somebody put a knife in me.”
Four players who had been questionable an hour before the game — Wade, Udonis Haslem, Chalmers and Johnson — were able to play, with Johnson playing valiantly through shoulder discomfort, and Chalmers playing through a knee injury.
Haslem, Chris Andersen, Shabazz Napier and Walker started alongside Wade, Miami’s 25th different starting unit in 66 games. But Spoelstra tinkered at halftime, replacing Walker and Haslem with Johnson and Beasley.
Napier struggled, shooting 2 for 7, with three turnovers and two assists. And the Heat’s first-half defense remained problematic, just as it was during Friday’s first half in Washington. The Kings shot 56 percent in a 61-point first half.
Miami couldn’t slow the Kings’ Gay (27 points) and Ben McLemore (20).
Sacramento closed the first half with a 13-4 run to surge ahead 61-47 at the break.
In the first half, the Heat couldn’t take advantage of foul trouble to Sacramento’s best player, Cousins, who sat out the final 8:18 of the second quarter after picking up his third foul. But the Kings stretched a six-point lead to 14 in his absence.
The Heat mounted its fourth-quarter rally with a small lineup, including three players who weren’t on the team to start the year (Beasley, Walker and Johnson). The Heat played some zone defense in the second half, which helped.
▪ Beasley’s 10-day contract expired after Saturday’s game, and he said Saturday evening that the Heat hasn’t told him whether it will sign him to another one. But he’s fully expected to remain with the Heat, even though Spoelstra was also noncommittal.
“We like Mike,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve spent a lot of time developing him.”