If the Miami Heat do end up playing in the postseason, their 93-86 win over the Boston Celtics will be remembered as one of their biggest moments late in the season. Why? Goran Dragic had to steer the team to victory without Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside and Chris Andersen in the latest string of injuries.
We’re not even mentioning Chris Bosh or the fact that Josh McRoberts has been absent for almost the entire season. The Heat keep battling through injuries and are hanging on, barely, to one of the remaining, open playoff slots. Right now? They have a two game lead over the ninth spot, holding up at 7th, hoping they get their players back soon enough.
Dragic, a trade-deadline arrival from the Phoenix Suns, scored 22 points and added 7 assists, playing next to Mario Chalmers, Luol Deng, Henry Walker and Udonis Haslem. The Heat aren’t just playing without a center, but they also had to go through the game with just one power forward in Haslem, forced to spend 38 minutes on the court and actually surprising with 12 points and 12 rebounds. It’s only his second double double in the last three years and his first since April 2013.
Luckily for the Heat, the Celtics aren’t a big team. Sure, they have two 7-footers in Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller; Brandon Bass and Jonas Jerebko aren’t small either. But they don’t play like dominant big men, and without Jared Sullinger, it seemed like their huge advantage down low kinda fizzled away, allowing the Heat to turn this into a backcourt vs backcourt kind of game, where they have a huge advantage even without Wade.
Acquiring Dragic might still not pay off for Miami if the Slovenian guard decides to go elsewhere in the offseason. However, in order to make the playoffs, and there’s no other option for the Heat, acquiring someone of his caliber was the only way to go for Pat Riley, who is still in some sort of denial as to why LeBron James had to leave and break up a group that made four consecutive NBA finals.
Chance, fate and luck might create a rendezvous between James and his former team in the postseason (if the season ends to day it will), but the Heat aren’t thinking about championships. It’s about keeping up the tradition of making the playoffs, nothing more. This is a team with an overachieving owner and team president, who preferred keeping old pieces together to remain competitive than blow everything up and start with a clean slate. It might take him some time to build a championship team again, but anything is better than the depression, vegetative state of tanking for an entire season or more.