With home losses to lottery-bound Sacramento, Orlando and Brooklyn on the résumé, there was a point in the season not too long ago when the Miami Heat’s home record was a bit of an embarrassment.
Miami’s lack of scoring punch was also a problem.
Neither have been issues lately.
With a 119-98 thrashing of the New York Knicks on Wednesday night, the Heat won for the ninth time in its last 10 games at AmericanAirlines Arena, improving to 22-13 at home. In the 14 games since the All-Star break, the Heat, one of the worst offensive teams in the league before the break, is averaging 115.1 points per game, second-most in the league during that stretch.
“Professional win,” coach Erik Spoelstra called it. “All of the best teams, top teams, have great home records. That was our intention. Even early on when we weren't able to do it how we wanted to, but we were growing in a lot of those games and you could see our team getting better. And our team has really taken ownership of that to really come out with a better and more consistent disposition here, in front of our home fans.”
Kelly Olynyk, one of the heroes in Monday’s 149-141 double overtime victory over Denver with 30 points and a career-high four blocks, led the charge in Wednesday’s blowout with 22 points, five rebounds and a career-high 10 assists. Tyler Johnson added 22 points on 9 of 13 shooting including four three-pointers.
Johnson’s back-to-back threes in the third quarter quickly slowed a Knicks run and the Heat eventually stretched its lead to as many as 28 points.
The Heat shot 55.1 percent and finished 15 of 34 from three-point range overall.
“We’re in a great place,” said Goran Dragic, who had 14 points and five assists in a little under 25 minutes of work after playing nearly 42 in Monday’s win. “We’re playing really well offensively and defensively. I think tonight’s game was perfect, finally one of those games we’re not close. We won with a big margin. We need this.”
Olynyk fueled a 29-9 Heat run between the first and second quarters Wednesday that created a comfortable cushion over the lottery-bound Knicks (26-46) early in the game.
After closing the first quarter on a 14-7 run to take a 27-26 lead, the Heat opened the second quarter on a 15-2 run and stretched its lead to as many as 21 points before halftime. Miami took advantage of 10 Knicks turnovers over the first two quarters and turned them into 16 quick points.
The only player the Heat couldn’t stop in the first half was Michael Beasley, who chased a Knicks turnover out of bounds and then took a moment to stop and shake the hand of Heat owner Micky Arison in the first half.
Beasley, the Heat’s highest draft pick ever (No. 2 overall in 2008), made 9 of his first 11 shots and had 20 points by halftime.
“I love Micky,” Beasley said. “Micky was one of my favorite people when I was here. Just saying what’s up to him. He told me too cool off at that point.”
Beasley did. He finished with 22 points on 10 of 15 shooting.
With Wednesday’s win, the Heat improved to 24-13 against lottery teams, maintained its lead over Milwaukee (37-34) for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and inched closer to clinching a playoff spot with 10 games to play.
The Heat begin an important two-game road trip Friday in Oklahoma City (43-30). The Thunder are the only team Miami hasn’t played this season and are seeded fourth in the West. The Heat entered Wednesday’s game 0-10 against the top six seeds in the West (Houston, Golden State, Portland, New Orleans and San Antonio).
Sunday, Miami plays at Indiana, a team its trying to chase down in the East. The Heat, who own the head-to-head edge over the Pacers 2-1, then host the LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be a tough road trip,” Dragic said. “Those teams are playing well, they’re going to be in the playoffs. We need to take care of our business. At least we always play good against good teams. We bring that effort and it’s going to be a great challenge for us especially on the road. I think we’re ready. We can beat anybody as long as we’re focused.”