Before his run of 15 consecutive starts came to an end Wednesday night against the Spurs when coach Erik Spoelstra swapped him and rookie Bam Adebayo out of the lineup for veterans James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk, Justise Winslow said the message he was given by the Heat’s coaching staff after some intense film study was to “just keep making plays.”
“For me, it’s just about staying aggressive, being aggressive, shooting the open looks with confidence and trying to get to the hole and finish and make plays for others,” Winslow said prior to the Heat’s 117-105 loss to San Antonio. “When we’re shooting open shots — making or missing — it’s the right shot. We all have faith in each other. The game, when they’re falling, it makes Goran’s and Dion’s job a lot easier. We’ve just got to keep the defense honest.”
For Winslow that’s often been his biggest challenge throughout his career. A career 40.3 percent shooter from the field and 26.9 percent shooter from beyond the arc, Winslow hardly commands respect from opposing defenses who often sag off him defensively and crowd the paint to slow down the Heat’s penetrating guards in Dragic and Waiters.
Wednesday’s starting lineup change, though, did little to change that, Dragic said afterward.
“You can run different situations. Kelly can shoot that pick-and-pop and JJ gives us that guy that can do multiple stuff, get us into offense, score, a Swiss Army knife,” Dragic said. “But nothing really changed versus the Spurs as far as opening the floor.”
Winslow, meanwhile, back in a role off the bench, still struggled to hit shots. He was 2 of 9 from the field and 1 of 4 from three-point range and finished with five points, four rebounds, three assists and two turnovers. He was 1 of 4 shooting in the restricted area and 1 of 5 from everywhere else on the floor with a made three-pointer from above the arc, an area he’s now 6 of 11 from the floor this season.
Outside of that and the restricted area (where Winslow is shooting 55.4 percent), the shots simply aren’t falling for the 6-7, 225-pound former 10th overall pick. He’s 10 of 30 in the paint (33.3 percent), 3 of 18 on midrange shots (16.7 percent) and 5 of 22 on corner threes (22.7 percent).
That’s why as much as the Heat wants Winslow to take open shots when they come to him — so he can get his jump shot into a rhythm — they also want him to pick the right spots to cut to the basket and get to the rim for layups because he makes more of those shots. That’s something Waiters said earlier this week injured former starter Rodney McGruder provided with ease and helped open up the floor.
“I think they would like everybody to do a better job cutting to the basket, but especially me,” Winslow said. “If the shot is not falling, try to get some easy ones — especially early. It’s tricky sometimes. You don’t want to mess up the spacing when somebody is driving. I’ve gotten yelled at for cutting at the wrong time. Sometimes it’s a hard balance to find when to do it and how to do it and that kind of thing.”
Defensively, while Winslow has done a good job slowing down opposing three-point shooters, holding the players he defends beyond the arc to 32.8 percent on threes, 4.5 percent below their average, his defense inside the three-point line hasn’t been very good. Opponents are shooting 55.2 percent against him from two-point range, 4.8 percent better than their average.
▪ The Heat’s starting lineup on Wednesday finished plus-3 in seven minutes of work together and shot 61.5 percent from the floor while going 4 of 7 from three-point range. James Johnson’s foul trouble ultimately prevented Spoelstra from putting them on the floor together beyond the first quarter.
▪ Winslow, 21, hosted his second annual D.R.E.A.M Showcase, a holiday-themed talent show for South Florida youth, at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in Miami’s Wynwood district.
“It was great,” Winslow said of the event, which raised money his foundation, Robin’s House. “It just gave the kids a platform for them to showcase their talents. It was a lot of fun. Kelly [Olynyk] came through. My whole family was there. We all wore ugly sweaters. It was a fun event. I love any event with kids.
“We had a young artist, this guy, who had some crazy, long hair. He was cool describing his art. We had one girl pick a member of the audience out and draw him backstage. That was cool. Some dancing acts were good. There was a guy who sang John Legend. It’s hard for me to pick just one favorite act.”