There are a lot of quality individual achievements to choose from when it comes to identifying what the best stories of the regular season were for the Miami Heat:
▪ Coach Erik Spoelstra surpassed Pat Riley for the most wins in franchise history.
▪ Goran Dragic earned his first career All-Star selection at age 31.
▪ Dwyane Wade, the best player in Heat history, was reacquired in a surprising move at the trade deadline.
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▪ Wayne Ellington set a new NBA single-season record for three-pointers made by a player off the bench.
What stood out for Spoelstra? The fact Miami overcame so many injuries, qualified for the playoffs and survived so many close battles.
“I absolutely love the way this group has handled adversity. I really do,” Spoelstra said Wednesday afternoon. “I respect the heck out of this group to have a determination to come back, work on things, get better, overcome challenges, all these things that are needed in the second season. The second season becomes about capturing moments. We’ve got guys that have experience and that have an illustrious history of catching those moments. And, we have guys that are coming into this new, with an opportunity to make some new moments. That’s fun and I’m really looking forward to this weekend when we get there.”
Entering Wednesday’s regular season finale against the Raptors the Heat had played in an NBA-leading 52 clutch games this season, one off the franchise record of 53 clutch games achieved twice. Miami went 33-20 in 53 clutch games in 2000-01 and 25-28 in clutch games a season later in 2001-02.
Miami’s 28 clutch victories this season ranked fourth in the league entering Wednesday’s games. Only Cleveland (30), New Orleans (30) and Boston (29) had more.
What did the players see as the biggest accomplishment of the regular season?
“I think Coach, his achievement has been awesome,” Josh Richardson said. “I think Wayne breaking the record for most threes by a reserve has been awesome. I think how consistent Justise [Winslow] has been this year just from a basketball standpoint has been great, watching the work he’s put in and him being able to be healthy. Myself being able to be healthy has been very encouraging. Hassan, how resilient he’s been through his injury. I could go down the list. So there’s a lot of things to be happy about.”
Said Dragic: “The one I like to remember is Spo is a father now. This is kind of the most important thing in our life. [Video coordinator/director of player development Eric Glass] is having a son too. It’s the year of the baby so. So I like to remember that kind of stuff. At the end of the day basketball is important, but it’s not the most important thing.”
▪ Dragic missed Wednesday’s game with pain his right knee after he collided with Thunder center Steven Adams fighting through a screen on Monday night. It was only the seventh game he’s missed all season.
Still, Dragic, who has been battling pain in his right knee for the last month of the season, expects to be ready for the start of the playoffs this weekend.