Had this been the NBA’s regular season, the replays would be splattered across every cable outlet dealing in the nightly sports highlights.
Alas, this is summer league, so the reaction to Tyler Johnson’s catch-and-shoot as time expired Sunday was limited to maybe 100 people ringing the practice court in the bowels of Amway Center.
NBA TV has the highlight, which you can probably find with a minimal Internet search.
Not that it makes the final 0.4 seconds of the Heat’s 71-70 win over Brooklyn’s hopefuls any less rousing.
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“I was just fortunate,” said Johnson, who reached over Brooklyn’s Ryan Boatright to grab Justise Winslow’s inbound pass and redirect it toward the basket. “They usually don’t run a play at the basket like that for a guard, so I think I kind of caught them off-guard.”
Johnson, though, has a little extra spring in his step.
Though listed at just 6-4, he’d already put his leaping ability on display with a handful of high-flying trips to the rim.
“He’s dunked on a couple of people already in two [summer] games,” Winslow said. “His legs were a little tired, but you’ve got to give him a chance to make a play.”
Not bad for a squad that had just three days of practice together before Saturday’s summer opener.
It was a moment to play to Johnson’s strengths, something that isn’t the focus this summer as he continues to grow in the nuances of running an offense.
With Shabazz Napier slowed in his comeback from sports-hernia surgery, Johnson has been given primary duties at point guard for the time. Consider it a work in progress, though he managed four assists Sunday to go with his 12 points.
“With Shabazz being out, he’s done a tremendous job of just getting us in our sets,” said Dan Craig, the Heat’s summer coach. “Picking up the point guard for 90 feet, really defending them and being disruptive.”
Said Johnson: “Obviously, there’s a lot I can improve on. The point-guard position is probably the hardest position that you’re going to play in basketball. You’ve got to find the balance between when to be aggressive [for yourself] and when to get people in the offense.”
Craig noted that Johnson’s own health was a question mark before the game, after taking a knock on one knee during Saturday’s opening win over Indiana.
“He woke up, got some treatment and was better [Sunday],” Craig said. “I knew he wasn’t 100 percent. But he was a guy that really stayed with it [Sunday].”
You could say that for pretty much the entire first unit, which pushed the Heat to an 11-point lead late in the first half but endured sloppy stretches and cold shooting after the break.
The Heat scored just six points in the first 81/2 minutes of the final 10-minute quarter, seeing a seven-point advantage turn to a four-point deficit.
Willie Reed (17 points) finally broke the spell with a dunk off Zoran Dragic’s assist with 1:21 left, fueling a five-point burst that moved the Heat back in front 69-68 when Winslow hit a free throw with 7.5 seconds left.
When Brooklyn was slow to get into its set on the return trip, Jonathon Simmons took matters into his own hands and drew a foul on a slash to the basket. After studying replays, officials put 0.4 seconds back on the clock, and Simmons hit both free throws.
The Heat then took advantage of an experimental rule this summer, advancing the throw-in to midcourt without having to take a timeout. That gave Winslow a chance to hoist his perfect lob and Johnson to convert.