Miami Heat

Five takeaways: The Heat lost, but final matchup between LeBron and Wade did not disappoint

Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 108-105 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers (17-10) on Monday at Staples Center. The loss dropped the Heat to 11-15 this season and 2-1 on its season-long six-game trip.

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1. The final matchup between Dwyane Wade and LeBron James did not disappoint.

No, Wade and James did go for 40 points. There was no game-winner. But the night still had so much to offer.

“It’s the end of a storybook, like one of the best movies you’ve ever seen,” James said.

It started with Wade and James getting in a pregame lift together at Staples Center. It continued with a tribute video for Wade from the Lakers’ organization in the first quarter. It ended with an on-court embrace and the much-anticipated jersey exchange between Wade and James at the buzzer.

“Thanks for pushing me to be greater than I knew I was,” Wade wrote on the jersey he gave to his close friend and former Heat teammate following the game.

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LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat pose for a photo after exchanging jerseys, as Wade plans to retire at the end of the season, after a 108-105 Laker win at Staples Center on December 10, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Harry How Getty Images

The back-and-forth on-court action only added to the already memorable night. In a game that included 13 lead changes and 12 ties, Wade and James each had their moments.

After a scoreless first half, Wade found a rhythm in the second half to finish with 15 points, five rebounds and 10 assists in 32 minutes. But he was 0 of 7 on three-pointers, including two missed threes in the final seconds (one that would have put the Heat ahead 108-106 with 22.5 seconds to play and another that would tied the game at 108 with 7.2 seconds to play).

Meanwhile, James was his usual dominant self with 28 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists in 38 minutes. He scored 11 in the final quarter.

At the end of the night, James escaped with the win in his final matchup against Wade.

“The only thing I knew, I knew the environment was going to be great,” said Wade, who has announced he will retire at the end of the season. “I knew that at some point after the game, it was going to hit me that this is the last time we were competing against each other. It hit me right away. Once that buzzer sounded, we got the opportunity on the court just to look at each other and be like, ‘This has been fun. This has been one hell of a ride.’”

It’s fitting that Monday served as the tiebreaker, with Wade and James entering with a 15-15 all-time record against each other over their careers. The friendly rivalry ended with a slight 16-15 edge for James.

“This is storybook,” James said of his relationship with Wade. “We’ve got great writers here in Hollywood and I don’t even know if they’d be able to write this one.”

2. The most encouraging aspect of the Heat’s trip has been the play of Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow. As two important pieces of Miami’s young core, their growth is critical to the organization’s long-term plan. And their growth has been on display over the first three games of this trip.

Adebayo continued to flash his potential as the anchor of the Heat’s defense and a reliable offensive threat with starting center Hassan Whiteside away from the team for the birth of his son, finishing Monday’s loss with 12 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks in 29 minutes. The 21-year-old big man is now averaging 16 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 blocks while playing as the Heat’s starting center over the first three games of the trip.

As for Winslow, he’s in the middle of the best stretch of his NBA career. He recorded career-highs in points (28), shots made (11) and threes made (6) on Monday to continue his string of impressive performances.

“The kid is playing amazing basketball. His confidence is where it needs to be,” Wade said of Winslow. “You love to see it, he’s a great kid. I told him, ‘Don’t take all my moves while I’m still here. Wait until I leave.’ He’s a student of the game and you can see it when he plays, he’s really figuring out his game and figuring out what he needs to do for this team.”

The 22-year-old Winslow is averaging 23 points on 56.8 percent shooting from the field and 52.4 percent shooting from three-point range, to go with seven rebounds and 5.7 assists over the first three games of the trip. For a player who has averaged 7.8 points on 40.7 percent shooting from the field and 32.3 percent shooting from behind the arc over his four-year NBA career, his recent numbers are eye-opening.

“His confidence is growing,” Spoelstra said of Winslow. “He’s not hunting for 30-point games, it’s all in the context of who he’s supposed to be. He’s finishing well. He’s making the right reads. He’s not making mistakes. These are all positive plays and sometimes you forget that he’s been in the league four years. But he’s only 22.”

With Winslow and Adebayo representing the Heat’s last two first-round picks, it’s important they develop into building blocks for this organization. The last few games have definitely been encouraging.

3. Derrick Jones Jr. has made the most of his minutes lately.

The athletic 21-year-old forward played 29 minutes in Monday’s loss to the Lakers after logging 25 minutes of playing time in Saturday’s win over the Clippers, and he’s made the most of the opportunity.

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Miami Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr. (5) dunks against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

After finishing with seven points, 11 rebounds and two blocks Saturday, Jones recorded eight points and a career-high 14 rebounds to go with three steals and three blocks Monday. Of Jones’ 25 rebounds over the last two games, 10 have been offensive boards.

The Heat has outscored its opponent by a combined 27 points with Jones on the court during this two-game stretch.

Jones is averaging 15.4 minutes of playing time and has received six DNP-coach’s decisions this season. But if he keeps giving Miami this type of energy and spark, it’s going to be hard to keep him out of the rotation.

“Derrick makes you watch him and then he makes you play him,” Spoelstra said. “That’s what you want with young players. When they get their opportunity, nothing is guaranteed. Tonight, we all had an impression from the last game. But we have guys back and so I thought it would half the minutes, if that, maybe 10 minutes in this game. But it got to a point where we couldn’t afford to take him out.”

4. Turnovers hurt the Heat once again. Miami finished with 17 turnovers, its highest total since committing 20 turnovers in a loss to the Hawks on Nov. 27.

The Heat is now 3-8 when committing 17 or more turnovers this season.

Miami is averaging the eighth-most turnovers in the league at 15.5 per game.

5. The Heat has played with a shorthanded roster for most of the season, and even went through most of Saturday’s win over the Clippers with just eight available players. But Miami was as healthy as it’s been all season Monday. The Heat had 12 players available against the Lakers. The only two missing were Dion Waiters, who has yet to play this season as he continues to recover from January ankle surgery, and Hassan Whiteside, who has missed the first three games of the trip because of the birth of his son.

Even with 12 players available, the Heat went with nine Monday. Wayne Ellington, Tyler Johnson and Udonis Haslem were the three who did not get in against the Lakers. Ellington and Johnson are usually in the rotation, but there could be some non-basketball reasons connected to their DNP-coach’s decisions. Ellington was away from the team for each of the previous two games due to the death of his grandmother and Johnson suffered a left hip contusion in Saturday’s win over the Clippers. Both were available against the Lakers, but did not play.

With Whiteside expected back soon and Waiters eventually returning this season, Spoelstra will have some tough decisions to make when and if he has all 14 players to choose from.

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