Five takeaways from the Heat’s 91-85 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks that snapped a five-game losing streak and marked Dwyane Wade’s return to Miami.
1. Dwyane Wade’s final stat line was ugly, but his clutch play down the stretch highlighted by a key block on Eric Bledsoe helped the Heat break its five-game losing streak. His three points came on his first field goal attempt with 1:30 left in the first quarter. He’d miss his next five shots. But in his first game in 21 months with the Heat, Wade found other ways to impact the game down the stretch and help steer Miami out of its recent funk.
"It was huge, especially that block with 30 seconds left in the game," Goran Dragic said. "It was a tremendous block in the game. Even the way he sees the floor, those passes. We missed some easy layups and some dunks, but that’s going to change."
With the Bucks hacking away at what was at one point a 19-point Heat lead, Wade made a decisive block with 31.7 seconds left when he chased down Eric Bledsoe on a fast break and rejected his layup attempt that would have pulled the Bucks within two points.
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Instead, Wayne Ellington’s three-pointer with 14.7 seconds left on the subsequent possession put the Heat back up by seven putting the game out of reach.
"It felt like old times," Wade said. "I don’t jump as high as I used to. So I have to use great timing. I’ve always had that."
The positives: Wade finished with two blocks, two steals and a pair of rebounds.
The negatives: Wade turned the ball over four times and shot only 1 of 6 from the field in 22 minutes and two seconds of play.
Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo also couldn’t finish a couple of lobs from Wade, which would have given him two more assists.
Wade wasn’t concerned about the struggles and felt like it would change with time.
"I wasn’t worried about that," Wade said. "I was just worried about getting a win. I definitely will get better. I definitely will score the ball more."
Wade entered the game with 5:19 left in the first quarter after chants of "We want Wade" began in the game’s opening moments after Miami fell behind 9-0.
"The chants kind of started a little too early," Wade said. "I was like not right now, not right now [laughter]. It was a great energy in the building when I went out to warm-up."
2. With so many ‘turd quarters’ this season, the Heat have one of its best of the season in Friday’s win. The Heat outscored the Bucks 30-8 in the third quarter to open up an 18-point lead heading into the fourth. The Heat shot 35 percent in the first half (15 of 43) and committed 10 turnovers that led to 15 Milwaukee points. But in the third, the Heat turned the ball over just twice, forced six Bucks turnovers and limited Milwaukee to 23.5 percent shooting (4 of 17). Miami also outrebounded the Bucks 16-7 and held Giannis Antetokounmpo scoreless in the period. The Heat held Antetokounmpo to only eight points on 3 of 14 shooting through the first three quarters.
"That has to be the identity," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We keep on saying it. We're a lunchpail, hard hat team. That's who we are. That's where we find our most success, when we're able to defend and really buy into that identity. We held them to eight points in the third. That led to a lot of easier baskets going down the other end. But also we didn't feel all the pressure of having to score like you felt in the last five minutes of the game where we had to score because we weren't able to get enough stops."
The Heat swept the season series against a Bucks team that had won seven of their past eight games since firing Jason Kidd and replacing him with Joe Prunty. Miami moved to within one game of the sixth-seeded Pacers and fifth-seeded Bucks, who are tied although Milwaukee is one game ahead of Indiana in the loss column. Miami also moved to within 1 ½ games of the fourth-place Wizards.
3. The alley-oop connection between Wade and Whiteside, and Wade and Adebayo needs a little work. Wade joked in his first press conference back with the Heat on Friday morning that Whiteside was pressuring him to throw him lob passes right away. Wade didn’t waste any time shortly after entering the game with 5:19 left in the first quarter. Wade lobbed one to Whiteside, who missed the dunk, but collected his own miss and jammed it home on the second attempt.
The two successfully connected later in the game, although Bam Adebayo also failed to finish a lob from Wade in the second half.
"He’s a Hall of Fame talent," Whiteside said. "His IQ is amazing. He knows when look at the spots and when to throw it and make the right decisions. I told him, it's been a while since I had one at the top of the key like that. He caught me off guard. But once we got the full of things, it was good."
Wade said one of the easiest things of getting acclimated with this Heat team is playing with Whiteside and Adebayo.
"Those two guys are a force to be reckoned with and it's going to make a lot of our jobs easier to understand how they utilize them," Wade said. "So I'm excited about that and looking to see how to help other guys understand how to utilize them, because they're going to open everything up for both of us."
4. The Heat had Whiteside and Adebayo on the court together in the clutch on Friday. Statistically, it didn’t seem that effective. The Heat’s two centers were on the court together for 10 minutes and scored a combined 11 points during that stretch, shooting a combined 5 of 18 from the field. The intriguing part was the rebounding impact the two made as the Heat outrebounded the Bucks 51-37 overall. For the game, Whiteside and Adebayo combined for 27 points and 26 rebounds.
"I like those minutes," Spoelstra said. "We've done it before against this team. They were both effective. Hassan was more effective in the first half. Bam was terrific in the second half on both ends of the court. When he caught that one -- now we have two players who not only can block shots, but can keep them inbounds and they've both shown the ability to catch them legally which is even better. Keeping it inbounds you keep the possession and it turns into an outlet pass. But offensively, a subtle nuance on the other end we were able to run offense through Bam for that stretch, end of the third quarter, beginning of the fourth quarter. He settled us. He got a couple actions that broke Wayne free, just the ability to run offense through him."
5. Tyler Johnson needed a bounce back game having struggled since his ankle injury nearly a month ago.
Johnson had his best game since returning from his ankle injury finishing with a team-best 19 points on 7 of 16 shooting in 36 minutes and 22 seconds. It was Johnson’s best offensive output in the eight games since returning to the Heat’s lineup.
"Tyler will always break out of it," Spoelstra said. "We were never concerned about it. He's going to put in time. He's pure. He wants to do right for the team. He's always feeling like he's letting guys down when he doesn't play well. That's how you wish everybody acted all season long and wore that competitiveness. You want all the guys guys to wear that competitiveness on their sleeves all the time. I'm sure he feels good about it, but I wasn't concerned."