DALLAS - Five takeaways from the Heat’s 95-88 win against Dallas on Monday at AmericanAirlines Center:
• After two underwhelming games against Sacramento and Charlotte, Hassan Whiteside was at his impactful best Monday.
And he credited a lengthy Sunday conversation with Erik Spoelstra as one reason for that.
With Dirk Nowitzki defending him, Whiteside came out aggressive, attempting nine shots in the first seven minutes and collecting eight points and six rebounds in the first quarter.
He closed with 25 points, 14 rebounds and a block, finishing 10 for 15 from the field and 6 for 7 from the line in 26 highly efficient minutes.
"He was great for us," Goran Dragic said. "He was defensively awesome, rebounding, scoring points. He was dominating within. We like it when he’s doing that."
"They couldn’t do anything tonight with the big fella in the paint," Josh Richardson said.
Whiteside was in a good frame of mind after his Sunday chat with Spoelstra.
"It was good, man," he said. "Me and coach Spo spoke for a real long time. It was like an hour talk. I think it was great. It was a really great talk between us. We both came better out of it."
He said they discussed "different things, different challenges he has for me, both of what we've seen out there."
He said Spoelstra wants more "communication" from him, "me being more vocal. Talking to my teammates more, just being more of a leader. I have never been much of a rah-rah guy. I’m trying to be more of a leader for the team and talk to guys more because they respect what I say."
How much of that talk fueled him Monday?
"It did a lot," he said. "I slept on it. I thought about it a whole lot."
Whiteside was pleased that Spoelstra reinserted him with 4:22 left after the Mavericks closed an 18 point deficit to 11. Dallas drew to within three before Miami scored the game’s final four points.
"It says a lot," he said. "I want to be that guy. I know the numbers are better on the court when I'm on the court defensively. I want to be that guy."
Spoelstra didn’t discuss the meeting but said:
"He's had some games like this where he really put his fingerprints on the competition. We felt his presence from the very get go. It's all about consistency night in, night out. On both ends of the court, we felt him. The offensive rebounding. Those were extra possessions. Those were multiple effort plays to get the ball. There were several of them that you didn’t didn't think he had a chance to get to…. It’s that kind of mentality. We have to build on that. His preparation – the guys even mentioned it – his mindset coming into shootaround was very good."
• The Heat’s starters played their best collectively. Miami’s opening lineup of James Johnson, Richardson, Whiteside, Dragic and Tyler Johnson had been outscored by 36 in 54 minutes coming into the game.
But the starters were a plus 11 on Monday, outscoring Dallas, 40-29.
Miami’s first unit outscored Dallas 15-10 to start the game, then 7-2 when paired together again late in the first half, and then 15-9 to open the third quarter.
The group played nearly three minutes late in the fourth quarter and were outscored 8-3.
Overall, Spoelstra was pleased with that unit.
"They really came out with a great disposition in the third quarter," he said. "A real commitment to defend, and that has to be the identity of that group. The offense will come."
• The Heat nearly squandered a huge lead. Ahead 86-68 with 6:10 left, the Heat then didn’t score another field goal until Dragic’s layup off a James Johnson pass pushed Miami’s lead to five with 25 seconds left.
In the interim, the Heat committed six turnovers, including two by Justise Winslow, one by Bam Adebayo, one by Tyler Johnson and one by Richardson.
But the Heat executed well on the Dragic basket and escaped.
"They came back and then we have to find a way," Spoelstra said. "Finally, we ended up getting two or three stops at the end to hold the fort when they really stepped up their pressure and got us a little bit out of our normal actions.
"They were real aggressive on the ball and kind of got us sideways a little bit. So you have to credit them for that. But it’s going to be a great opportunity for us to learn from that and how to execute under those kinds of circumstances. So I think it was good for us to go through this. Dallas is a good offensive team. To hold them under 40 percent and under 90 points – regardless of how harrowing it got at the end – that’s the kind of game plan we had in mind coming into this game."
• The Heat dispatched a bad team – something that had given Miami problems in recent weeks.
Miami entered having lost three of its last five against teams with losing records. Miami this season has lost twice to Brooklyn, once to Sacramento, once to Orlando, once to New York and once to Atlanta.
But the Heat (29-21) swept Dallas (16-35) and stayed in fourth in the East, 1.5 games ahead of No. 5 Milwaukee, No. 6 Washington and No. 7 Indiana, with all three of those teams standing five games above .500.
Miami is one game behind No. 3 Cleveland, which is 29-19 and plays at Detroit on Tuesday before hosting Miami on Wednesday.
• Josh Richardson had a nice night with his parents looking on.
Richardson had four blocks, giving him 47 on the season. That’s fourth among all NBA small forwards, behind Kevin Durant (88), LeBron James (52) and Wesley Johnson (49).
"They were opportunistic blocks," he said. "The opportunity was there and I took advantage."
Richardson added 14 points, hitting four of seven threes. He had 19 points on 6 for 13 shooting on Saturday against Charlotte.
He had made just 28 of 83 shots in a six-game stretch before the Hornets game.
Richardson, who grew up in Edmund, Oklahoma, was pleased to do it Monday in front of his parents.
"It’s dope to see them in the crowd," he said. "It doesn’t really happen much in the NBA."
The Heat plays at Cleveland on Wednesday in the second game of this four-game road trip.