Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 129-102 rout of the Washington Wizards on Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, which was its largest win of the season.
1. No Hassan Whiteside, no problem…at least for one night. The Heat was able to make up for the absence of its starting center, who sat out the game with a strained hip flexor he suffered during the team’s shootaround earlier in the day.
Whiteside, who dealt with a pair of bone bruises in his left knee earlier this season, missed his 20th game of the season.
“We were doing shootaround and I felt something,” Whiteside said. “I strained my hip flexor. So, any time something happens to me, I always ask the same question, ‘If I play, what will happen.’ And they would say, ‘You are going to make it worse.’ Any time I hear that, the doctors are going to tell me to just relax and take it day by day, take it easy.”
Bam Adebayo started in his absence, but got into foul trouble finishing with six points and eight rebounds in 17 minutes and 42 seconds.
And even that wasn’t enough to slow the Heat down as Miami as Kelly Olynyk picked up the slack with 13 points and 11 rebounds and James Johnson scored 20 points on 8 of 9 shooting.
The Heat settled the outcome with a 43-point third quarter (its highest scoring quarter of this season) and led by as many as 38 points in the fourth. Miami scored over 100 points over the first three quarters for the first time this season.
“Our energy was great, both ends of the court,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Right from the beginning, it looked like we were the more aggressive, faster, quicker team. And they’re coming off a back to back and they had to travel from New Orleans. That was part of what we wanted to do. But again, our depth and multiple guys being able to contribute, that’s the strength of our team. The quicker and the better we’re able to embrace that, that it can be different guys on different nights or it could be a lot of guys in the same night, but not necessarily a 35 or 40-point game. And that’s what you saw tonight.”
The Heat (36-31) had only three wins prior to Saturday by 20 or more points. But those came against the Memphis Grizzlies twice and the Phoenix Suns. Miami’s largest win over a team currently in top eight of either conference before Saturday was an 18-point triumph over the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 14.
The 129 points was the most ever scored against the Wizards.
The Heat did it with a collective offensive output as eight players scored 10 or more points. The Heat entered the game with nine players averaging 10 or more points, which is the most of any NBA team.
Miami’s bench scored a season-high 67 points as well. The Heat’s reserves are averaging 55.2 points in six games this month. Every available Heat player played and every player except Luke Babbitt scored.
“We feel comfortable with anybody,” James Johnson said. “We can start Luke, we can put J-Mick in the first 10 minutes, two minutes of the game. I know everybody on that bench is going to be comfortable with those decisions. We just have to enjoy that. Sometimes in the middle of a game, you’re going to get sideways about something that might not have went your way. As long as whoever went in there is contributing for you and helping out the team, really appreciate it and don’t fake it.”
2. Injuries piling up again as Dwyane Wade leaves the game late with what the Heat said was a mild left hamstring strain. Wade finished with eight points on 3 of 11 shooting in 14 minutes and 55 seconds, but left the game with 11:18 remaining in the fourth quarter and did not return.
“I just felt it when I made a move,” Wade said. “But it feels about the same right now. It feels about what it is unless you tear it or you strain it real bad or you pull it. The strain just felt like a little cramp. The day that happens and the next one you feel if it’s worse or the same so we just have to wait and see.”
With the Heat set to face Portland on Monday night to open a three-game west coast road trip, Wade said it was very unlikely he’d be ready to play in that game.
"I won’t be in the lineup against Portland, I can probably guarantee that. I have time to get treatment and try to take it day to day and see when I get back. Hopefully I’m not out too long. I don’t know how long. I have no timetable right now. All you can do is do your treatment and do your strengthening and whenever you feel like it’s ready to go just get on the floor.”
Wade’s return has played a huge part in the Heat’s offensive surge over its past 11 games. During that span, the Heat is averaging 113.4 points per game after averaging 100.5 points per game prior to his return to the team.
After the Portland game Monday, the Heat travels to play Sacramento on Wednesday and the Lakers in L.A. on Friday. With Wade likely out, Whiteside’s status is also uncertain. Spoelstra said Justise Winslow was ok after he banged his knee during the game.
3. Whiteside’s absence didn’t hurt the Heat in the paint. Miami outscored the Wizards 42-18 in the paint in the first half as the Heat attacked the basket consistently and effectively. The Wizards, who torched the Heat from three-point range in their previous meeting on Tuesday going 14 of 24, were limited to 6 of 18 from that distance and never led in the game.
The 76 points in the paint were the most for the Heat in a game since Feb. 25, 2006 against the Seattle SuperSonics.
“I think it was just how physical we was on defense,” Johnson said. “I think that carried over to the bumps, to finishing with the bumps and just cutting with purpose.”
Olynyk’s double-double was his sixth of the season and the Heat improved to 6-0 when that happens.
“It’s always a great day when [Olynyk] puts a double-double up,” Whiteside said. “Those guys played phenomenal. Bam can out, high-energy guy. I gave the trident to Justise, which is like our player of the game. He played with incredible tempo. It wasn’t his stats or anything. He just played with great focus at point guard. I call him the backup point guard.”
4. The Heat really would love to see more games like this from James Johnson. In only 19 minutes and 46 seconds, Johnson had one of his most impactful games of the season, finishing with 20 points, five assists and two rebounds on 8 of 9 shooting. Johnson’s sixth game of the season with 20 or more points helped the Heat establish its inside game early and eventually break the game open.
“I thought he was aggressive, No. 1, clearly,” Spoelstra said. “To make them have to guard him, but then he read the game really well after that facilitating. It just shows you how versatile he is as a ball handler, facilitator, creator, screener and he can wrap all of that into one position that’s extremely unique. There’s not a lot of guys his size that have all of those qualities.
“Then on the other end, look that’s a very quick, fast mobile team. They go to that small lineup, that gives some challenges when we were in Washington. You watch them on TV, when they go into that small lineup, they’re usually the quicker, faster team. You have to have guys like JJ and Justise and guys that can play multiple positions to be able to match that speed and that just really shows how versatile and valuable JJ is when he’s right.”
5. The Heat kept its hopes of reaching the middle of the pack in the East alive. Miami evened the season series to 2-2 with the Wizards and pulled to within two games of fifth-place Washington, giving itself a chance to win the tiebreaker if it ends up with a better division record at the end of the season. Miami also pulled to within half a game of the Sixers for sixth place and 2 ½ of the Pacers, who hold the fourth seed.
The victory helped the Heat retake sole possession of seventh place in the East over the idle Bucks by half a game. Miami pulled to within also increased its lead over Detroit to 5 ½ games.
James Johnson said he felt it was about time the Heat put together such an effort in a game of this magnitude.
“We’ve been trending in such a right direction for so long, losing so many clutch games,” Johnson said. “All that is just preparing us for nights like this.”