Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s thrilling 107-103 overtime victory over the rival New York Knicks, which put the Heat four games over .500 and moved them past Detroit (20-17) and Milwaukee (20-17) for fifth place in the Eastern Conference:
1. The Heat launched a franchise-record 42 three-point attempts, but beat the Knicks with offensive rebounds, second chance points and hustle.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was almost apologetic when he looked at the boxscore: 42 threes?
“What has this organization come to? I’m sure I'm going to have to go upstairs and meet with Pat and talk about getting the ball in the post or something,” Spoelstra quipped. “No, look, we’re not going to be a team that averages 40, but those shots presented themselves tonight. And I thought they were good looks. There weren’t many pull-ups or contested ones. For a stretch there, I thought we had a bunch of opens ones – we just missed ‘em, actually way more open than any of the stuff that we had in the paint. New York, you have to credit them. They did a great job of protecting the paint. It’s not the easiest team when they play big or with [Kristaps] Porzingis in there, to be able get opportunities at the rim, without him disrupting that. So a lot of the plays were to the weakside, move it one more, good to great, and those were the shots.”
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Miami made only 12 of those threes (28.6 percent) and shot 40.4 percent from the field. Where the Heat won the game was on the glass. After being outrebounded by New York by 21 in a Nov. 29 blowout loss in Madison Square Garden, the Heat outrebounded New York 44-39 and outscored them 22-13 in second chance points thanks to 15 offensive rebounds.
2. Wayne Ellington launched a franchise-record 16 three-point attempts, but won the game with rebounds, hustle and a couple big jumpers. Ellington scored a game-high 24 points and made at least six threes in a game for the seventh time this season (only James Harden has hade more with 10). But he had a few big rebounds on both ends of the court down the stretch and two of the 13 loose balls the Heat recovered (New York had 10).
“It was a crazy game, but it was a game for competitors only,” Ellington said. “When I looked at the sheet after the game and saw 16 attempts from out there I was like ‘Wow!’ I mean I didn’t realize it. I was just in the flow of the game.”
At the end of the day, though, Ellington was proud he was able to come up with a few loose balls as well as a couple big shots to lift the Heat over the top.
“I’m considered a shooter, but I’m a basketball player out there as well,” he said. “To be able to do that for our team, get a little dirty sometimes, that’s Miami Heat basketball.”
Said Spoelstra: “We have a great group of young players and young veterans that are eager to absolutely learn what it takes to win. But you also need some veteran stability. And going through that process, Goran Dragic gives you that. Wayne Ellington gives you that, as well, big time. He’s been in the league long enough. He's been in a lot of different situations and when he sees when things can be good, he’s all in. But shows it with his actions. That was an incredibly inspiring play.”
3. Josh Richardson came up clutch from the free throw line.
Few plyers have been more consistent since the start of December than the Heat’s starting small forward. Friday night, he finished with 18 points, one rebound, two assists, three steals, a block and six huge free throws down the stretch. Miami finished 19 of 20 from the line as a team.
“Probably the most significant thing about that, one, he’s one of our best free throw shooters. He loves those clutch moments, like a lot of our guys do,” Spoelstra said. “We have several guys that were just itching to get into that game at the end, for competitors only, they live for those moments.Secondly and the most important thing, J-Rich has that speed and agility to get open in those moments. It looked like we were caught a couple of times and he was able to break free. That’s what you really need in those situations.”
4. Pay no attention to James Johnson’s statline. His presence was important.
Johnson, playing in only his second game back from right ankle buristis which caused him to sit out six of seven games, missed all seven shots he took from the field Friday. But finished with four points, four rebounds, six assists, a steal, a block and a lot of other plays that didn’t show up in the regular boxscore (like a team-high 13 contested shots and three loose balls recovered).
“He was phenomenal. I thought he has some of his best defensive possessions when Michael [Beasley] scored,” Spoelstra said. “That just shows you how gifted he is. There were a couple not many guys in the league can make those contested shots off the dribble on the move. But JJ does so many little things but defensively his versatility, he toughness, his ability to guard different guys allowed us to play that lineup with KO at the 5.”
Like Richardson and Ellington, Johnson played the entire fourth quarter and all five minutes of overtime. He actually played 21 consecutive minutes. And while Beasley finished with 20 points – including 13 after the third quarter – Johnson made him work hard for it, often making him give up a shot and pass it to a teammate.
“On this team it’s not going to be your night every night,” Johnson said. “Sometimes Dragon’s going to have a good game. Sometimes Tyler is going to have a good game. Wayne Ellington. J-Rich. The list goes on on our team. So whoever has it going, you just fed him all the energy you possibly can and try to put your imprint on the game somewhere else.”
5. One person who did not make an imprint on the game after the 4:01 mark in the third quarter: Hassan Whiteside. The Heat’s starting center scored 10 of his 12 points in the third quarter, but didn’t get back on the court as Kelly Olynyk and Johnson manned Miami’s front court.
“I’m not at all hesitant to put him back in there,” Spoelstra said of his decision to not go back to Whiteside, who actually received some chants from the crowd in the fourth quarter to be put back into the game. “I know he wanted to be in there. When they went small we felt that that was probably the best lineup for us so they didn’t necessarily have an advantage with Porzingis. That’s where he’s really good.
“So far this season when he’s been at [center] they’ve been able to put some teams in really compromising situations. I didn’t feel that tonight in the fourth. I felt with his versatility we were able to handle that decently. It was really Michael [Beasley] that was able to create some really tough shots at the end of the clock, end of possessions and create something out of nothing, which he’s very good at. The spread pick and roll and Porzingis playing in space, that was less of an issue.”
Whiteside, while happy about the team’s win, said he has no control over his minutes.
“I can still play,” he said. “But it’s been a crazy year for me. I don't know. You know the decision-making [with minutes] is up to Coach. I just can’t control that. I can just cheer. I can just cheer for the team. That’s who we wanted to go with.”