Five takeaways from the Heat’s 113-108 win against the Washington Wizards on Saturday at Capital One Arena, ending a successful 3-1 road trip:
▪ Bam Adebayo continues to blossom and Saturday was the signature moment of his career.
With his team seeming listless early in the game on the second night of a back to back, Adebayo served up both energy and tangible production, spearheading a comeback from a 13-point deficit.
He finished two assists short of what would have been his first triple double, filling the box score with 16 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks.
Do you know how many other NBA players have achieved those exact thresholds, at minimum, this season?
One: Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. Ben Simmons and DeMarcus Cousins are the only other NBA players to do it since the start of last season.
And Dwyane Wade is the only other Heat player to ever do it; he had 39 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and five blocks in a win against the 76ers in March 2011.
So it was no surprise that Adebayo called this the best game of his career in a winning effort.
“For sure, no question,” he said. “I always said I want a triple double. I was this close.”
With the Heat down 44-31 Saturday, Adebayo began the comeback with a dunk, then made a sweet move under the basket for a layup.
He carried over that impactful play to start the second half. He began the third quarter with a layup and free throw, then blocked Bobby Portis on the other end (leading to a Dion Waiters basket and free throw) and then dunked off a Derrick Jones Jr. assist.
“Bam did it in so many different ways,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He was inspiring guys with his defense. If a couple guys had made a couple more open shots, he would have had a triple double.”
Every night, we’re seeing improvement in his mid-range game, and that continued with a couple of jump shots Friday in Milwaukee and another Saturday.
His passing gives the Heat an element it lacked from its starting center when Hassan Whiteside opened games. Consider that Adebayo had more assists in 35 minutes on Saturday than Whiteside had in the entire 2014-15 season (six).
(Incidentally, Whiteside played only five minutes in a game for the second time in the past week and said afterward: “We won. That’s it,” declining further comment.)
As for Adebayo’s play-making and passing, “I got doubled a lot in college,” he noted. “You learn the ropes, you learn to find open people, you learn how to see through second defenders. This organization, player development wise, they do a great job and I give it all to them.”
What’s more, players defended by Adebayo are shooting 44 percent, compared with the 47.1 percent they shoot overall this season.
▪ The Wade farewell tour continued with great fanfare, and this night was particularly special.
Not only did Wade get the customary standing ovation when he was introduced, but his baskets were cheered loudly – even more loudly that the reaction to some baskets by Washington’s Bradley Beal.
He was serenaded with MVP chants when he shot free throws. And a large contingent stood and cheered after he hit a three-pointer late in the first half.
And Wade again delivered, scoring 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to spearhead the Heat win. On the second night of a back-to-back, he played all 12 fourth quarter minutes and added nine rebounds and five assists.
He shot 5 for 7 in the fourth and 9 for 16 for the game. And he helped seal the game with a nice pass to a cutting Olynyk for a dunk with 16.8 seconds left, putting the Heat up five.
Did Wade ever think he would again be the Heat’s closer at 37?
“I’m playing the way I’ve always played in moments,” he said. “I’m not going to deliver every night but it damn sure feels good when you can deliver, especially on the road, and we need it. Glad that I can be what I once was in moments and situations when the team needs.”
And of the adoring crowd – who several times chanted “Let’s Go Heat” – Wade said: “That’s just love. Just seeing the reaction, I appreciate it. I gave everything to the game that I wanted to give and that’s what I’m getting back. It warms my heart for sure.”
And there was this from Wizards coach Scott Brooks afterward:
“I said it before the game, I’m not so sure why he’s retiring. The NBA needs to just fine the Miami Heat for allowing him to retire, just fine them, just flat-out fine the whole team. They should not allow him to retire. He’s too good. He’s too fun to watch.
”Just look at the crowd. He draws a crowd wherever he goes. He’s a winner. The guy competes. His spirit is always in the right spot. You can see all the joy that he plays with. I didn’t like the ‘Let’s go Heat’ chant. But other than that, it was pretty cool.”
▪ Josh Richardson broke out of a shooting slump and Dion Waiters also played well.
Richardson entered 10 for 59 in his past four games, including 5 for 27 on threes.
But he regained the touch on his jump shot, hitting 6 of 12 shots on an 18-point night and adding two steals, a block and five assists.
“Bam and J-Rich with the energy really set the tone,” Spoelstra said.
Waiters was pretty sick before the game but scored eight points early and closed with 19, despite not playing in the fourth quarter.
“He was big because he wasn’t feeling well,” Spoelstra said. “He was a late commitment to the game. He had an IV before the game, was really feeling under the weather. Dion really helped us put points on the board.”
▪ The Heat completed a successful road trip and has been better recently dispatching the league’s bottom feeders.
“I don’t think a lot of people thought we would go 3-1,” Wade said of a trip that included wins at Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Washington and a loss at Milwaukee. “This team is playing well, playing with a lot of confidence.”
What’s more, the Heat is doing a better job of winning games it should win.
Miami has lost eight games to teams that are at least 10 games below .500, but only two of those have come since Jan. 7 (Chicago on Jan. 30 and Phoenix Feb. 25).
One of the confounding aspects of this season has been this: While Miami is 9-7 against Western Conference playoff teams – including sweeps of Portland and San Antonio and splits with Golden State and Houston – Miami entered Saturday just 9-12 against teams ranked eighth through 12th in the East.
That includes a 1-2 mark against Orlando and 1-3 against Atlanta.
Washington, which fell to 30-44, was playing without John Wall, Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza.
▪ Tuesday’s home game against Orlando suddenly becomes the most important of the season to date.
The Heat leads No. 9 Orlando by one game, but the Magic leads the season series 2-1 and would win the tiebreaker by winning Tuesday. And even if the Heat wins, it’s possible Orlando could still win a tiebreaker by virtue of a slightly better division record, a tiebreaker that still must play out.
Meanwhile, the Heat (36-37) stands 1 1/2 games behind No. 7 Brooklyn, whose next seven games are against teams at least 10 games over .500.
No. 6 Detroit led the Heat by two games going into its late game at Portland on Saturday night.
“Every day we’re fighting for our playoff lives,” Spoelstra said. “That’s how I want our locker-room to approach this.”