Pat Riley built the Heat into champions and won 454 games in his 11 seasons as coach. Erik Spoelstra, who replaced Riley, is now a win away from matching him for the franchise record.
On a night when Spoelstra got some revenge for former Heat assistant David Fizdale, who was fired by the Grizzlies two weeks ago only 101 games into the job, Miami’s coach picked up his 453rd career regular season victory with another gritty defensive effort by his team.
Led by Goran Dragic’s 19 points, five rebounds and five assists — through only three quarters of work — and 14 points and lots of hustle from rookie Bam Adebayo, Miami got back to .500 with a 107-82 thumping of the slumping Grizzlies at the FedEx Forum.
The Heat (13-13) held Memphis, losers of 15 of its last 16 games and now 8-19, to 33.3 percent shooting in the second half (12 of 36) and 38.9 shooting for the game. Miami is 10-3 this season when opponents shoot 45 percent or less.
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“It’s good to see [the defense traveled from Mexico City],” Spoelstra said. “It has to be a commitment. It’s not easy, first of all to make that commitment defensively and then to do it consistently, every single game and then to be able to close out teams in the second half.
“Hopefully that’s something we can build on. I liked how we got stronger, tougher more resilient in both second halves, different guys in each game, and took a lot of pressure off ourselves by getting multiple stops and then the offense becomes a little easier going down the other end. Even on that side of the floor, after we got to 10 turnovers in the first half, we had much better ball control, were much more coherent getting to actions where everybody felt comfortable and staying within themselves.”
Seven players scored in double figures for the Heat. The others: Josh Richardson (17 points, five rebounds and two assists), Tyler Johnson (14 points, 5 rebounds). James Johnson (10 points, three rebounds and three assists), Dion Waiters (10 points, two rebounds and four assists), Wayne Ellington (12 points).
Miami led 59-58 with 4:11 left in the third quarter before it opened a 9-0 run with a beautiful Dragic lob for Adebayo dunk amid a sea of arms. Dragic scored nine points in the quarter.
Adebayo was pressed into duty early after Kelly Olynyk picked up two quick fouls trying to guard Grizzlies All-Star center Marc Gasol and exited with 9:01 left in the opening quarter. The Heat’s first round pick not only did an excellent job defending Gasol, but he provided offense too, scoring eight points while collecting a rebound, an assist, a steal and a block in the opening quarter.
“You can’t just come out here like a wild man against somebody that’s so savvy, knows how to draw fouls, can take you in the post and also play pick-and-pop basketball out beyond the three-point line,” Spoelstra said of Gasol. “There’s a lot of things you have to negotiate and manage mentally. Usually for a young player, you would short-circuit. But Bam kept his head, even after some tough calls but really used his technique, his energy, multiple efforts and his mentality stability to be in a lot of places that were pretty disruptive.”
Waiters, who had black elastic therapeutic tape on his elbow to treat nerve pain after hyperextending his right arm against the Spurs to start the road trip, made his four shots after going 1 for 10 in Saturday’s win over the Nets. All four shots were within five feet of the basket. When Waiters launched a three pointer midway through the third quarter he airballed it badly.
He played just over 24 minutes total.
“His aggressiveness was very good tonight,” Spoelstra said. “He got some switches and when the bigs were one him he just drove those right into the paint. That’s part of him learning. Before, that turns into a long three. But he made them pay for whatever coverage they were in. So I liked his minutes.”