Chicago Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Joe Johnson seemed to “fit in seamlessly” in his debut with the Miami Heat on Sunday night against the New York Knicks.
A perfect fit might be closer to reality.
Playing in his first home game with the Heat, the 34-year-old, seven-time All-Star made 10 of his 13 shots, helped open driving lanes for teammates, and led an offensive barrage against the league’s No. 1 field-goal-percentage defense.
Johnson scored 24 points as the Heat shot a franchise-record 67.5 percent from the field in a 129-111 blowout of the Bulls on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“I just can’t believe one of Coach [Ron] Rothstein’s teams didn’t score more than this and shoot better than this,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said with a grin.
How good of a night was it for the Heat?
No team in the NBA has shot better in a game since the Los Angeles Clippers shot 69.3 percent in a 152-120 victory against the Toronto Raptors on March 13, 1998.
The previous best by an NBA team this season? The Spurs shot 61.8 percent in a win over the 76ers.
Johnson was hardly the only Heat player who couldn’t miss.
Hassan Whiteside recorded his sixth consecutive double-double off the bench with a career-high 26 points (8-of-11 shooting), plus 14 rebounds and four blocks. Whiteside started 8 for 8 from the free-throw line and finished 10 of 11 for the game. He has now made 23 of his past 25 attempts.
“It was a tough night,” Whiteside joked of his one miss from the line.
Five players scored in double figures for the Heat (34-26). Luol Deng had 20 points, Dwyane Wade finished with 18 points and seven assists and Goran Dragic added 17 points and a season-high 11 assists.
The Heat had 28 assists on a franchise-record 52 baskets. Only six were three-pointers.
“I don’t know what to say. We moved the ball,” Deng said. “I saw we only made six threes. It’s kind of impressive to score 129 with only making six threes.
“Joe just did a great job of just fitting right in — and we’re getting our rotation down.”
Johnson’s presence, Dragic said, has been felt in the Heat’s two wins since he joined the team Sunday.
“It is noticeable,” Dragic said of the difference in spacing on the floor with a proven three-point weapon such as Johnson.
“When he’s on the floor nobody wants to [leave him open to play help defense]. Or, they’re really scared to. That opens up a lot of opportunities for driving and making a play. He’s such a great player. You saw that tonight. He can shoot threes. You can put him in the pick-and-roll, put him in the post. That’s going to be huge for us.”
The Bulls (30-29) trailed only 65-62 at the half, but fell behind by as many as 19 early in the fourth quarter.
The 65 points in the first half matched a Heat season high for points in a half.
Derrick Rose, playing for the first time after missing three consecutive games, finished with 17 points and three assists to lead seven Bulls who scored in double figures.
Whiteside, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow — Miami’s young trio off the bench — combined for 25 points in the first half and finished with 43. They were the only three players off the bench for the Heat.
Gerald Green, Udonis Haslem and Josh McRoberts did not play.
But the shortened rotation, Deng said, is helping Johnson get into a rhythm with his teammates.
“Gerald and J-Mac are still right there,” Spoelstra said.
“Right now, when you add a player that’s playing significant minutes as Joe, I’m just trying to eliminate the moving parts. Those minutes those guys are giving us will really show their value later on. This is not necessarily the way we’re going to go every single game. It certainly could change.”