The parting between Goran Dragic and the Phoenix Suns wasn’t very cordial, and his Miami Heat teammates got behind him in an aggressive, foul and violence filled game that saw Markieff Morris, Hassan Whiteside and Alex Len ejected.
Dragic needed only 15 minutes to score 21 points but surprisingly it was Tyler Johnson with a career high 26 points off the bench that led the Miami Heat in their 115-98 win that gets them closer to making the NBA playoffs, while makes it more and more difficult for the crumbling Suns to envision themselves somehow making the postseason, led by 20 points from both P.J. Tucker and Eric Bledsoe, but getting close to nothing from their bench.
The first ejection in the game came when Morris fouled Dragic hard as the Slovenian went for the layup. Morris later called it a basketball foul, but the referees didn’t see it that way, as Dragic landed hard and was slow to get up after Morris’ hit, leaving the game with a flagrant 2. Later on in that quarter came the other pair ejections. Whiteside didn’t like Alex Len hitting him in the face after dunking on him, so he tackled Len to the floor which resulted in a brawl between the two teams and both centers tossed out of the game.
Dwyane Wade wasn’t as efficient as both Dragic and Johnson, but he did end up scoring 16 points and adding 9 assists, letting Dragic be the more aggressive and selfish of the two, in a duo that seems to be able to mix it up quite well in terms of roles. Whiteside finished with another double double despite his ejection, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in 27 minutes. Both Wade and Johnson had four steals each.
So without Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat are moving forward nicely. They’re still below .500 and frankly, they’re likely to remain that way until the end of the season. But that isn’t stopping them from getting a little bit closer to the playoffs, which seemed to be the goal all along. Dragic has brought an offensive dimension that was missing up until now, and one might even find surprising unpolished gems on this bench, although it’s not likely to take them very far in the postseason once they get there.
At least they will make it, unlike the Suns, who have fallen to 31-30, and seem to be going through something very bad that has nothing to do with basketball. All the good energy and optimism from last season has run its course, replaced by some sort of carried grudge that is translating into negative emotions among players and a lot of bad basketball too many times.