Miami Heat

As NBA playoffs draw near, Miami Heat begins scoreboard watching

Heat guard Dwyane Wade, left, drives around the Nuggets’ Randy Foye during the first half of Friday’s game at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade, left, drives around the Nuggets’ Randy Foye during the first half of Friday’s game at AmericanAirlines Arena. AP

Minutes after Miami’s third consecutive victory, the Heat locker room was silent.

The camera lights shone on Dwyane Wade, but he looked past the cameras and the people behind them, who were turned around and focused on something other than Wade.

And when the game on the TV they were watching finally ended — after three overtimes — chants of “Brooklyn!” rang out from corners of the room.

It’s that time of year. ‘Tis the season to scoreboard watch.

“We look at it all,” Wade said as the Heat celebrated its 108-91 win over Denver by watching the Nets outlast Milwaukee 129-127 on Friday night. The combination of events pushed the Heat — looking in on a playoff spot a week ago — just 1 1/2 games behind the Bucks for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference.

Now with less than a month left in a regular season full of things gone wrong, the Heat appears to be clicking and could actually be catching some breaks.

The Oklahoma City Thunder stand in the way of Miami’s first four-game winning streak of the season, but the Thunder will be without reigning league MVP Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka.

After that, look who it is: those Bucks, with Miami maybe having the chance to leapfrog with a win. Next, Boston, which sits in eighth place two games behind the Heat.

Miami holds the opportunity to separate itself in its own hands.

“We know who we’re playing. These are tough opponents and opponents who are in direct correlation of what we’re trying to do,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Hopefully this is something we can build on.”

What Spoelstra meant by “this” is the type of play that has allowed the Heat to go 7-1 in March, register impressive wins over Cleveland and Portland and shoot better than 50 percent in each of its past three games for the first time all season.

The Heat has scored 100 points or more in nine of 15 games since acquiring Goran Dragic, and won eight of its past 10 at home.

Friday provided a baseline snapshot of what Heat fans expected when Miami traded for Dragic — big nights from him, Wade and Hassan Whiteside in support of a win. Wade had 22 points, Whiteside produced a double-double and Dragic added 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Dragic and Whiteside couldn’t complete an alley-oop during the game but could joke around with each other after it.

“We’re learning how to win together,” Wade said. “ The biggest thing for us after getting these wins is understanding that, yes, we can win games.”

Added Wade: “There is still room for us to grow. But you never know how things are going to go. Other teams have to play games too.”

They will also be watching the Heat intensely.

WHITESIDE INSPIRES

Whiteside said it’s easier now for him to think twice before losing his temper during games after a humbling exchange he had with a stranger recently.

“I had a guy come up to me in a restaurant eating breakfast,” Whiteside said. “He said to me, ‘My 17-year-old son is 6-11, and I’m going to use your story, I’m going to use your life as an inspiration for perseverance.’ I never thought of myself as an example for kids.

“I really thought it over. Would I really want my kids to see somebody [get ejected]? I have to start thinking of myself as a role model, and I never thought of myself like that. And I never thought of my story being an inspiration for anybody. I was just trying to live out a dream.”

Now that his role has increased, Whiteside also wants to be there for his teammates.

“I never want to disappoint them guys,” he said. “And I really felt like I disappointed those guys. It was a terrible feeling.”

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