In the month since Dwyane Wade put on a Heat uniform again, the team’s offense has been on a noticeable upswing.
In the 11 games since Wade was traded back to Miami from the Cavaliers, the Heat is averaging 109.9 points per game and 111.8 points per game if you don’t include his first game back Feb. 9 against the Bucks — a 91-85 win.
That’s over 10 points more than the 100.5 points per game the Heat was averaging over its first 55 games this season. The only teams in the East scoring more during that span are the conference’s top two teams — the Boston Celtics (114.9) and Toronto Raptors (114.5).
For perspective, that’s more than the 105.6 points per game that the Heat averaged during its season-long seven-game winning streak from Dec. 30 to Jan. 14.
Wade, who averaged 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists over his past 10 games entering Saturday night’s tilt against the Washington Wizards, credited the Heat’s roster getting healthier and the versatility of its group.
“Once you had all the ingredients together, it’s a good mix,” Wade said. “I think we just have a great mix here. It’s like Justise [Winslow] playing better last few games giving the offense a spark. So many guys that can come in and give you more and then you have me, that brings attention to the defense that they didn’t have before and all these different things.”
The Heat’s overall scoring average is up to 102 points per game but still ranked 28th in the NBA, where it was before the surge.
While defense is always stressed first and foremost, the Heat has not slipped in that department during its offensive uptick.
The Heat’s defensive rating during the 11 games Wade played prior to Saturday is 104.1 slightly better than the team’s 104.5 rating before that span. The Heat entered its game against the Wizards with a 104.3 defensive rating that ranked eighth in the NBA.
“It’s a lot of different elements for sure, and coach [Spoelstra] will continue, as he should, to preach to us that no matter how many points you score or shots you shoot, as he already said much about once the ball is moving and everyone is sharing, but it’s defensively where we’re gonna make our mark and where we’re gonna get better.”
Hassan Whiteside did not play Saturday night against the Wizards due to left hip pain. The Heat made the announcement less than an hour before tip-off. Whiteside missed his 20th game of the season after dealing with two separate bone bruises in his left knee that forced him to miss 18 games. He also missed the Heat’s game in Detroit on Feb. 3 with a stomach virus.
Whiteside is averaging 14.3 points and 11.8 rebounds in 47 games this season.
Winslow, who shot 52 percent over his seven games prior to Saturday, entered the game with a plus-26 for the season but a plus-33 in 105 minutes alongside Wade.
Wade said he hasn’t given Winslow any advice that’s led to his improvement but noted his growth in terms of communicating on the floor and understanding the game as big factors.
“He’s taken charge of his game,” Wade said. “He’s playing his game the way he wants to play it, and it’s working for our team and definitely working for him, so all credit goes to him and glad he’s playing his best basketball because that’s my rook and I get to see it up close and personal. Hopefully, he continues to sustain confidence because we need it.”
Wade praised Josh Richardson’s growth on the defensive end since the last time he played with him during his rookie season.
Richardson has a team-leading 98 steals this season while also blocking 60 shots, the second-most on the team. He is just one of three players in the NBA to record at least that many steals and blocks this season, joining LeBron James (98 steals and 60 blocks) and Andre Drummond (103 steals, 101 blocks).
“A lot of it comes with just being a little bit more physical,” Wade said. “Your body has gotten adjusted to the NBA game, so he’s definitely been a little bit more physical defensively. When I was here the first time, it was probably Justise was guarding the other team’s best player. Now it goes back and forth. J-Rich has stepped up to that billing. But his shot-blocking ability is special.”
▪ Guard Derrick Walton Jr. rejoined the Heat’s G League team as part of his two-way contract.