Goran Dragic spent the fourth quarter Sunday “walking in circles” inside the Heat locker room.
He was so angry referee James Williams ejected him with 1 minute 37 seconds left in the third quarter, that Dragic said he couldn’t sit down and watch the rest of the game until after he had showered.
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“After they threw me out, it was a lot of emotions,” said Dragic, who until Sunday had never been ejected from an NBA game. “Thankfully, the team got my back. I'm happy for that.”
Somehow, even after the Heat drew four technical fouls in a 4 1/2minute span and lost its starting point guard, Miami found a way to compose itself and rally past the Portland Trail Blazers 116-109 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
And two of the biggest reasons were the Heat’s two big men.
Behind 29 points and six rebounds from Chris Bosh — including 11 of Miami’s first 13 points in the fourth quarter — and 22 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots from Hassan Whiteside in 37 minutes, Miami (16-10) bounced back after Friday’s disappointing loss to the Raptors and another slow start on Sunday.
Whiteside, usually a spectator in the final period on most nights, scored 10 points (most on lobs from Dwyane Wade, which ended with dunks) and grabbed six rebounds in 11-plus fourth quarter minutes. He also deterred the Blazers (11-18) from intentionally fouling him after he hit a pair of free throws with 2:40 remaining.
“It was harrowing in the second half, but I liked us showing some mental stability and competitive toughness while things weren’t necessarily going our way,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Instead of getting caught up in the officiating in the fourth quarter, we just competed and played basketball.”
For only the second time this season, Miami, the worst three-point shooting team in the league heading into Sunday (31.3 percent) made at least 10 three-pointers. Miami finished 12 of 23 from three-point range and shot 57.3 percent from the field.
Luol Deng made his first five three-point attempts and finished with 17 points. Gerald Green went 4 of 6 from beyond the arc and finished with 17 points off the bench. And Wade finished with 18 points and seven assists.
After Bosh’s jumper with 7:11 in the fourth quarter put the Heat ahead 95-94, Damian Lillard, who led all scorers with 32 points, came down the floor on the ensuing possession and swished a three-pointer to put Portland back in front. Portland, though, wouldn’t lead again.
Gerald Green tied the score for the 10th time on a drive with 6:27 left, and then hit a three-pointer on pass from Wade to put Miami ahead 100-97 with 5:28 left. After a Blazers turnover, Green connected on another three with the shot clock expiring to make it a 103-97 with 4:47 remaining.
“I feel like when I get going, can nobody stop me,” said Green, who is averaging 15.7 points over his last seven games. He’s also made 11 of his last 21 three-point attempts over the last three games. “That's just how I feel. I feel like if I hit a couple shots, it’s over. You’ve got to deal with me. Houston, they’ve got a problem.”
Portland led 62-52 at the half behind 16 points from Al-Farouq Aminu, who didn’t score after the break.
Miami was outrebounded 26-13 and turned the ball over nine times in the first half. Bosh had five of those turnovers including a few late in the second quarter, whcih helped the Blazers close the last four minutes of the half on a 16-7 run.
Portland outrebounded Miami 18-6 in the first quarter and closed the quarter on a 10-1 run to take a 32-23 lead into the second period.
Heat assistant Damon Fizdale ripped into the team at halftime, according to Bosh.
“When we’re mad or upset or playing like crap I know how we’re going to respond,” Bosh said. “But we’ve got to get to the point where we start off like that. If a team beats us we’re playing the way we’re supposed to play — and it won’t happen often — then we tip our hats to them. It’s the league. It will happen sometimes. But we can’t keep saying to ourselves ‘Oh maybe next time.’ Or, let’s learn from this lesson. We can learn lessons and win the game.”
The only thing Dragic learned Sunday was not get on the bad side of Williams.
Dragic admitted after the game that he said “something bad” to Williams that earned him his first technical after he fouled Lillard with 4:48 left in the third quarter. Still, he was surprised when he got the second one.
“All I said to him [on the second technical] was ‘What,’” said Dragic, who had assists on Miami’s first five baskets and finished with eight points and eight assists in 27 minutes. “Everybody was saying I got ejected because of the first one. But I don’t know."
Said Bosh, the only other Heat player to get ejected this season for drawing two technical fouls in the same game: “It’s Goran Dragic. I've seen guys do way worse and not get ejected.”