Barry Jackson

Dion Waiters makes remarkable change; Heat nuggets

Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters (11) hits a three pointer in the fourth quarter as the Miami Heat host the Boston Celtics at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Wed., Nov. 22, 2017.
Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters (11) hits a three pointer in the fourth quarter as the Miami Heat host the Boston Celtics at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Wed., Nov. 22, 2017.

A six-pack of Heat notes on Thanksgiving in the wake of Wednesday’s invigorating win against Boston, which snapped the Celtics’ 16-game winning streak:

• One of the fun parts of watching Dion Waiters has been his evolution as a clutch player.

Keep in mind that the brilliant-late-game Waiters is something new.

In the 2015-16 season with Oklahoma City, Waiters shot 7 for 23 in the clutch, which is defined by the NBA as the final five minutes of games with a margin of five points or fewer.

Last season, before the All-Star break, he was 7 for 22 in the clutch.

But after the All-Streak break last season, he shot 5 for 12 in the clutch.

And he’s 16 for 27 in the clutch this season, including 6 for 11 on threes (two of which were delivered in Wednesday’s game).

So let’s recap: In the full season and a half before early February last season, Waiters shot 14 for 45 in the clutch, which is 31 percent.

In the nine months since, he’s 21 for 39, which is 53.8 percent.

Among players who have attempted at least 12 clutch shots this season, Waiters ranks fourth in percentage at 59.3 percent, behind LeBron James (21 for 32, 65.6 percent), Kyrie Irving (24 for 39, 61.5) and Anthony Davis (9 for 15, 60 percent).

•The Celtics gave the Heat tons of credit after Wednesday’s game.

Irving repeatedly said Miami deserved to win. So did Al Horford.

Asked about Waiters’ three-pointer that bounced off the top of the backboard, Irving said: “What do you want me to say? It was lucky? If it hit the top of the backboard on my shot, I’m not calling it lucky. It went in. Ball out and next possession.”

Said coach Brad Stevens: “No question they deserved to win the game. Maybe that’s why they got the big bounce. I’ve told you, we’re not as good as the 16-game winning streak.”

• It’s fair to wonder why Hassan Whiteside, the Heat’s highest paid player, isn’t a more central part of the offense some nights, especially on nights the Heat takes too many threes. Whiteside is averaging 10.9 shots per game, compared with 12.6 last season.

Whiteside is third on the team in field goal attempts per game and 10th among all centers.

That said, Whiteside took only five shots in Wednesday’s win and his contributions were far greater than his tangible stats (eight points, 10 rebounds), as Erik Spoelstra noted.

• Wednesday marked only the third time all season that Tyler Johnson made at least half his shots in a game this season (5 for 9). Last season, Miami was 15-12 when he did that.

• Good to see Kelly Olynyk be involved and contributing in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s win. Beyond the six points, six rebounds, two assists and a block, the Heat outscored the Celtics by 20 when he was on the court. He was an asset.

The Heat prefered Olynyk to Rudy Gay for several reasons last summer - including the desire to add another big and the belief Olynyk would be the best Heat culture fit and the belief that Miami had enough on the wings (obviously long before Rodney McGruder was injured).

Gay, incidentally, is averaging 11.8 points on 46.5 percent shooting after signing a two-year, $17 million deal with the Spurs.

Olynyk, who got four years and $50 million from the Heat, is averaging 8.7 points and 5.3 points in a career-low 18.5 minutes per game while shooting 53.5 percent from the field.

• Here’s a nuggets from Elias: “Dragic scored 27 points and Waiters added 26 as the Heat ended the Celtics’ 16-game winning streak with a 104–98 win at Miami. Over the last 20 years, the only other pairs of teammates to each score 25+ points in a win that snapped an opponent’s winning streak of 15+ games were the Wizards’ Gilbert Arenas (54) and Caron Butler (34) at Phoenix (which had won 15 games in a row) on Dec. 22, 2006, and the Thunder’s Kevin Durant (28) and Russell Westbrook (27) against the Spurs (19) on April 3, 2014.”

This is the third of three Thanksgiving posts. Here’s a look at how the Dolphins’ young veterans have stalled. Here’s a six-pack of UM personnel nuggets.... Happy Thanksgiving to all... Twitter@ flasportsbuzz

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