For about 24 minutes, the Miami Heat played some of its most complete basketball of the season. For the next 24 minutes, the Heat reverted to all its worst habits.
A terrible third quarter was almost enough to derail Miami on Friday, but the strong start gave the Heat enough of a cushion to survive for a 106-101 win against the New Orleans Pelicans at AmericanAirlines Arena. The victory snapped a six-game home losing streak for Miami and gave the Heat just its third win in its last 11 games.
The Heat (8-13) had to change plenty to get back on track and start strong in Miami. The Heat shot 48.9 percent from the floor in the first half. It got a solid performance from center Hassan Whiteside, who finished with 12 points and eight, and went toe to toe with Anthony Davis for a half. Dwyane Wade and combo guard Josh Richardson took turns shouldering the scoring burden. Miami even ditched the Vice Nights jerseys at the last minute in favor of the standard red and black look after losing its first six games in the alternates.
Three days after scoring 38 points in the first quarter of a loss to the Atlanta Hawks for its highest scoring quarter of the season, the Heat nearly matched the number Friday. Miami closed the first quarter on an 18-2 run to take a 37-17 lead into the second. The margin quickly climbed to 52-21, giving the Heat its largest lead of the season at 31 points.
Richardson, Wade and Whiteside led the way for Miami. Richardson, who finished with a team-high 20 points, managed 17 alone in the first half. Wade, who finished with 18, came off the bench and scored 11 points in 13 minutes before halftime. And Whiteside, who matched up against Davis, went into the break with 10 points and five blocks, and kept Davis off the boards entirely until midway through the third quarter.
The All-Star post player got hot with 28 points in the second half — including 21 in the third quarter alone — to finish with a game-high 41. Almost singlehandedly, the MVP hopeful nearly dealt Miami a seventh straight loss at AmericanAirlines. The Pelicans (11-12) cut the Heat’s second-half lead all the way down to four points in the third quarter, then down to three in the final minute, but a left-handed runner by Richardson with 26.1 seconds left stretched the lead back to five, giving Miami the cushion it needed to win at home for the first time since Nov. 7.