Heat’s James Johnson on win over Celtics
Hassan Whiteside called them brutal.
James Johnson said he would rather have been back in training camp.
But after two days of the most intense practices the Heat has undergone since its season began, the result it produced against the Boston Celtics made the grind well worth it.
“They were tough, nitty-gritty,” Heat tri-captain James Johnson said. “Everybody set a precedent for themselves and it was just full of inspiring moments that you couldn't believe guys got back to guys or closed out to guys that were 20 feet away, things like that. Like I said, we set a bar not only for each other, but ourselves. We found out that once you take our excuses away that we can really do a lot of things."
One of the things the Heat found out it can do when it puts together a complete performance is compete with and even beat the NBA’s best.
Miami did that Wednesday night with a 104-98 victory over the Celtics that snapped their 16-game winning streak.
But sustaining that effort moving forward is the challenge the Heat faces as it embarks on a four-game road trip starting Friday in Minnesota.
"You can see what we can do," said Goran Dragic, who had a team-high 27 points on Wednesday. "Sometimes it’s crazy what kind of game we can have. We can play really well or really bad. But we’re happy with this performance tonight.
"Especially the last three days were really hard for us. We worked hard. Probably the toughest three practices that I was a part of in my career. You can see it’s translating to the games so we still need to practice like that every day, and hopefully we’re going to win a lot of games."
Dion Waiters, who endured his worst offensive game as a member of the Heat on Sunday when he went scoreless and missed all 10 shots he took, followed with one of his most clutch on Wednesday. Waiters finished with 26 points and hit a couple of clutch three-pointers with under three minutes left to help the Heat pull away from the Celtics.
Waiters said the Heat needed to "take a look in the mirror" and try to figure out what was causing their inconsistent play.
He said the intensified practices were necessary.
"I didn’t say nothing to the officials," Waiters said. "I just said I’m just going to play basketball, man, and just lock in. All the other stuff, I get fouled I get fouled. If I don’t I don’t. Forget about it. Just keep playing.
"You got to do it. This is why we did what we did last year. We played hard and then you started to trust it and we were seeing when you trust it, it works. That’s the frustrating part about it. If we had this same attitude, mindset from the beginning who knows what our record would be. I feel like we let a lot of games slip away."
Waiters said the onus on carrying over the momentum from the past three days begins with the starters.
On Wednesday, Dragic took charge early with 20 points in the first half and Waiters finished things off late as the Heat found a way to avoid tailing off in the third quarter as it has several times this season.
"You got to put your hard hats on night in and night out," Waiters said. "You never know it could be anybody’s night, especially on this team but it starts with us, the starting five has to go out there we got to do what we do, follow suit. If we’re doing that and we’re playing at the level I know we can play at, especially with the guard play, like I said, I like my chances against anybody with the guards that we got. And we got Big Fella [Whiteside] setting those screens and getting us in that paint."
Guard Derrick Walton, Jr. rejoined the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Walton Jr., who has appeared in two games with the Heat this season, has been with the team for 12 of the maximum allotment of 45 days allowed as part of his two-way contract.