Early bird tickets for Baltimore’s BEST party on sale now!

Dwyane Wade steps up as Heat push past Celtics 115-99

Ira Winderman
Contact ReporterSouth Florida Sun Sentinel

It was a rollercoaster night, which only makes sense during a rollercoaster season.

So up 26 in the third quarter and then up only eight in that same period.

For the Miami Heat, it seemingly was par for the uneven course these past few months, considering how four days after they found a way to lose to the dreary Atlanta Hawks, the Heat pushed past the Boston Celtics 115-99 Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Celtics' most lopsided loss of the season.

Showing the possibilities of a team that in recent weeks also has had victories over the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets, the Heat survived a 13-0 third-quarter Celtics run to move back to .500 at 20-20.

"We're figuring it out slowly," backup center Bam Adebayo said. "But we've got to get it figured out."

While Kyrie Irving paced the Celtics with 22 points, it was a throwback performance by Dwyane Wade that helped stabilize the Heat, closing with 19 points.

"I've been on this train with him for a long time," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He has a way of making all of us look a lot better, because their defense really started to step up, took us out of our normal actions."

Enter Wade.

"It was just about settling us in," Wade said, "just being a calming factor. I think that's what I'm here for."

The Heat also got 13 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds from Justise Winslow, as well as 18 points from Josh Richardson.

Five degrees of Heat from Thursday's game:

1. Way of Wade: With the Heat continuing to play without a true leading man in their starting lineup, it often comes down to Wade for salvation.

That certainly was the case in the third period, when a Wade 3-pointer ended the 13-0 Celtics run that trimmed that 26-point Heat lead to 13.

"Sometimes this league is just about having great players," Spoelstra said. "It was the timing of all these plays that was so important for us."

With Wade second to Irving among Eastern Conference guards in the latest release of fan balloting for All-Star Game starters, it certainly didn't hurt to have a showcase night in the rare nationally televised Heat game.

As it is, Thursday (as well as Friday) was designated as one of five dates when fan All-Star votes count double.

Wade closed 8 of 12 from the field and 3 of 5 on 3-pointers.

2. Eleven heaven: Spoelstra was asked during Wednesday's practice whether he would consider an 11-man rotation in the wake of Dion Waiters' return, replying, "Whatever's necessary."

While it wasn't essential, the Heat went 11 deep in the first half, with Wade the first guard off the bench, followed by Waiters. Derrick Jones Jr., who was held out of Tuesday's loss to the Nuggets, then entered as the third reserve wing.

After reserve big men Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk entered, Tyler Johnson was the 11th Heat player to enter during the first half, with 6:44 to play in the second period.

"The strength of our roster is our depth," Spoelstra said.

3: Tyler time: Johnson then did not return in the second half until the start of the fourth quarter, with Olynyk becoming an odd man out in the rotation, playing just 5:16.

Johnson converted a pair of 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to help push the Heat lead up 19, energizing the Heat through the early stages of the fourth, on an unusual night when his only action came in the second and fourth quarters. He closed with 11 points in 16 minutes.

"It was reading the game and the speed they had," Spoelstra said of when he utilized Johnson. "Tyler gave us some big minutes. He really competed."

4. Rebounding priority: Spoelstra had not been pleased with the Heat's recent rebounding and made that clear in his pregame comments.

"As we were trending in the right direction in December, we were handling those things, particularly the big-muscle areas and the rebounding, second chance," he said. "We simply got pounded on the glass in our three losses, three and a half games where we got destroyed on the glass -- that has to change."

It did with Hassan Whiteside and Winslow helping fuel board dominance, with the Heat ending with a 51-37 edge.

"You could feel and see the pursuits and rebounds in traffic," Spoelstra said. "It can't just be one game."

5. 26-whoa: When the Heat went up 26 in the third quarter it appeared to be over, to the point that Celtics coach Brad Stevens subbed in Robert Williams III for the first time.

But that's when the Celtics went on their 13-0 lead to cut the Heat lead in half, with Boston's regulars taking their cue from there, further trimming the deficit to eight.

The Heat then went into the fourth quarter up 83-72, before stabilizing the game.

"That's the Dwyane factor," Spoelstra said. "They went on their run, which we expected."

iwinderman@sunsentinel.com. Follow him at twitter.com/iraheatbeat or facebook.com/ira.winderman

For daily Heat mailbag go to sun-sentinel.com/askira

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
39°