Five takeaways from the Heat’s 112-101 win on Wednesday night in Dallas, ending a three-game losing streak and sending Miami to the break at 26-30 and on a positive note:
▪ During stretches of this road trip, including much of Wednesday’s game, we saw how good this group can be collectively when a handful of Heat players are at the top of their game.
And that, of course, is what it will take with a roster with no in-his-prime star.
It wasn’t a coincidence that every Heat player who appeared in Wednesday’s game contributed something meaningful.
Dwyane Wade (22 points) was immaculate. Josh Richardson scored nine of his 14 during a 32-16 third quarter run. Kelly Olynyk was hitting his jumper (4 for 6 from the field). Dion Waiters (20 points) was swishing his threes again and driving to the basket with verve, converting three of those forays to the hoop in the second half.
Justise Winslow filled the box score (11 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, two steals). Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo combined for 16 points and 14 rebounds and outplayed Dallas’ bigs.
James Johnson continued his renaissance off the bench (12 points, four rebounds). Rodney McGruder hit a big three in the second half.
Erik Spoelstra likes that his group treated “this game like a playoff game. For us, it’s hard to even feel that we only got two wins out of this road trip because we played much better basketball than that. Our ball club got better over this stretch of road games.”
Despite the 26-30 record, which has Miami ninth in the Eastern standings, Heat players emerged encouraged.
“I think we should have been 4-1 on this road trip,” Waiters said. “Throughout these five games we had, we got better each game. We’ve moved the needle in the right direction playing great basketball.”
Said Winslow: “This whole road trip was encouraging.”
▪ Thirteen years after carrying the Heat to a championship in this arena, Wade treated Mavericks fans to the vintage version.
He had everything working, including the turnaround fadeaway, in route to scoring 14 in the first half and 22 points for the game, on 9 for 14 shooting.
He said he appreciated that Spoelstra allowed him to miss shootaround Wednesday morning because he was feeling “depleted.” He said he felt energized Wednesday.
“With everything that’s going on, some days I don’t have it, obviously with the schedule and things I have away from it to kind of make this one last dance what it is,” Wade said. “A lot of tug and pull, sometimes I’m depleted. Coach is allowing me to stay in bed, rest, do everything I need to do. I just felt good. Talking to Dirk at the end, he was like, ‘Man, you look good.’ So you know you have those days, right? And those are the scary days. Those are the days where you mess around and you’re like, ‘Oh, I can keep playing.’ Then it could be a day where you’re like ‘Nah, there’s a reason why I’m retiring.“
“He is always able to rise to the occasion no matter how he’s feeling,” Spoelstra said. “His level of play was infectious to the team.”
Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki said Wade “was great. He was comfortable and hit his first couple of shots. He was in attack. He made runners and made a three, so he was great tonight.”
▪ There were more neat Wade moments.
Wade and Dirk Nowitzki entered the game at the same time, exchanging laughs and handshakes courtside before a stoppage in play. Because they entered the game at the same time, it was difficult to tell how much of the loud standing ovation was for Wade.
“He got on my case a little bit about recreating the ’06, throwing the ball up before the game, so we just had a little laugh about it,” Wade said. “It’s fun, man. It’s moments where you go through this, for me, this ‘Last Dance,’ and there’s certain games where they are games and there’s certain ones that are a little bit more special. To be able to play against Dirk and to be able to come here where there are a lot of memories [was great]. This is different than a lot of games where I’ve played and I will play.”
Wade was booed most times he had the ball but received some loud cheers after scoring. And a vocal contingent of fans loudly shouted, “We want Wade” when he was on the bench late in the game.
The Mavericks, curiously, were the only Heat opponent so far this season that did not acknowledge Wade’s final game with either a verbal or video tribute.
“I just enjoyed the environment a lot of support from the fans,” he said.
Afterward, Wade and Nowitzki – two superstars playing their final NBA seasons – exchanged jerseys.
“One of my best jersey swaps of the year,” Wade said. “To be able to have that, he’s a Hall of Famer, somebody that I’ve grown to have a lot of respect for. So I was just thankful that he didn’t turn me down and say no.”
Said Nowitzki: “It’s been a long time coming, obviously knowing that he has been doing that. I’ll cherish that jersey knowing the great competition we had for such a long time. He is a great, great player – one of the greatest scorers we’ve had in our league.
“There were some rocky times in our relationship after ’06 both ways. There was some stuff said that we both didn’t like but at the end of the day, we are both competitors. You don’t love most of your competition but we are in this together. We are all family and I’m happy for him. He had a heck of a career.”
▪ Dion Waiters played perhaps his best game since returning from ankle surgery.
In his 17th game back, Waiters continued his good work from three-point range, going 3 for 8, making him 19 for 41 on threes during this road trip.
What was just as encouraging – if not more so – was seeing Waiters drive to the basket for two layups in a third quarter Heat run, displaying explosion that has been lacking, at times, since returning from ankle surgery.
And then a Waiters drive set up a Wade basket. And then Waiters weaved through Mavericks for another basket late in the game.
“That will get better once he gets in better shape and gets his legs under him,” Spoelstra said.”That’s his game and it is already happening. You can see he’s starting to get his step back to get into the paint and make plays. He makes our offense more dynamic for sure. He gives us something that we need.”
Waiters indicated he appreciates that Spoelstra is starting him again and allows him to play his game. “When you’re in that starting lineup, you have a chance to feel the game out, figure when to get your shots,” he said. “A lot of people probably think I’m crazy, but I’m not crazy. It’s confidence. I was able to get that chance I wanted [to start].”
▪ Justise Winslow ended a breakout first half of the season with an exclamation point, with the double double and good work, at times, defending Mavericks rookie star Luka Doncic, who shot 5 for 17 on an 18-point night.
Winslow inexplicably was called for a foul when Maxi Kleber drove to the basket and kneed Winslow in a sensitive area. But Winslow, angry about being charged with that foul, then hit a three and fueled a Heat rally that turned a one-point halftime deficit into a 13-point lead.
“That’s who I am,” he said. “I want to use my versatility to my advantage.”
Said Spoelstra: “He took the initial cover with Doncic. He was all over the place, the backside of our defense, really making plays, rebounding, coming up with those tough winning plays. After the first four or five minutes of the game, he really orchestrated our offense efficiently. It’s not an easy task for him but he’s gotten much better at it.”
Here’s what Wade said before the game about his interest in being a part of Heat ownership at some point.