Barry Jackson

No joke: Heat outgunning Big 3 teams; plus Heat nuggets

Miami Heat forward James Johnson and guard Goran Dragic greet Dion Waiters as they lead in the fourth quarter of the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wed., March 8, 2017.
Miami Heat forward James Johnson and guard Goran Dragic greet Dion Waiters as they lead in the fourth quarter of the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wed., March 8, 2017. pportal@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Heat nuggets on a Wednesday:

• There’s no shortage of surprising storylines about this Heat turnaround, and here’s another:

The Big Three era Heat teams had four of the NBA’s top 100 all-time scorers in LeBron James (10th), Ray Allen (27th), Dwyane Wade (39th) and Chris Bosh (91st). And yet this Heat team, without a single All Star, is averaging more points per game than the Big Three Heat teams did.

“That's pretty surprising,” guard Wayne Ellington said. “Truth be told, it shows the way we're sharing the ball. We don't have any dominant scorers that come out every game and dominate the scoring. You look at the roster and see how even it is. That's a credit to us sharing the basketball and enjoying each other's success.”

Over its four seasons, the Big Three era Heat made it to four NBA Finals – and won two – averaged 101.4 points per game, topped by its 102.9 in its third season.

This Heat team is averaging 102.3, better than the four years of LeBron, in total. That ranks only 23rd in the league, but the Heat is averaging 108.6 during this stretch of 21 wins in 26 games, which would rank eighth.

Miami topped 100 points in 16 straight games through Feb. 25, something the Big Three teams never did.

“We've got a lot of firepower on this team and we knew we had it,” guard Tyler Johnson said. “It was a matter of finding a way to make sure everybody is playing to their strengths. Dion [Waiters] can score. Goran [Dragic] can score. Hassan [Whiteside] can score. I can score. James [Johnson], Wayne Ellington can score. It's not surprising we can put up points like that but I am surprised it is more than the Big Three."

Miami and Denver are the only teams with seven players averaging double figures in scoring.

Defensively, those Big Three era Heat teams allowed just 94.9 points per game. This Heat team is yielding 101.7, fifth best in the league.

• Goran Dragic is back tonight, having recovered from his orbital contusion.

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic talks about his plans to play against the New Orleans Pelicans on March 14, 2017.

Amusing moment from shootaround this morning: When Erik Spoelstra was asked what he likes most about how Dragic’s eye looks, Spo cracked: “That he can see.”

Added Spoelstra: “He looked completely different. Black and blue right now, but swelling is almost completely gone.”

• Whereas the Heat has ruled out Justise Winslow for the season because of shoulder surgery, Miami hasn’t done that with Josh McRoberts, who has been out since Dec. 24 with a foot injury.

Asked if he will play again this season, Spoelstra said: “We'll see. He's making progress. He's on the court a little bit. We'll have to see how he progresses. We will continue to invest our time in him and get him right and ready and feeling good about his body. So far, everything has looked good in this part of the rehab.”

McRoberts has played in only 81 of 231 possible games since joining the Heat. He’s on the Heat’s cap for $6 million next season.

• The Heat, which enters Wednesday just .5 out of the eighth spot, 1 out of seventh and 2 out of 6th, plays nine of its final 15 at home.

“Everybody is talking about how far we've come and what we've accomplished,” Spoelstra said. “We're not in the playoffs yet. If we don't reach another level, there won't be enough.”

• While Josh Richardson has been very good defensively (he’s allowing the fifth-lowest shooting percentage against the player he’s guarding among all NBA guards), his offensive game remains uneven during an injury plagued season. After leading the league in three-point percentage after the All-Star break last season, his three-point percentage has dropped from 46.1 last season to 28.8 this season.

He said he has studied tape of his three-point mechanics from last year and this year and “I'm leaving it a little flat right now. I'm shooting a lot of short shots. I've definitely been trying to fix that in practice. My form was a little better [last year].”

And overall offensively, “I know I have to start being more aggressive because I'm seeing holes. I'm seeing shots I could be taking. I've been playing a little passive. It's mindset. I'm getting back to it. There was one I could have dunked against the Pacers and didn't.”

Richardson is shooting 37.8 percent from the field.

• The Heat’s young players are quietly getting respect around the league.

Tyler Johnson believes some opposing players didn’t know his name before but know he hears opposing coaches telling players they must account for “Tyler Johnson.” Draymond Green made a point during All-Star weekend to stop and compliment Okaro White. And Russell Westbrook is among those who have gone out of their way to approach Rodney McGruder with praise.

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