Miami Heat – Thrive When They Play the Worst Team in the NBA

Goran Dragic

Barely hanging on to their playoff seeding, the Miami Heat made the most of playing the Philadelphia 76ers, the second or third worst team in the NBA, beating them 119-108, led by Goran Dragic, having his first big game for his new team.

It’s not quite clear if Dragic is here to stay for the long run or just making a short pit stop before getting lured elsewhere in free agency. It doesn’t matter looking it with the short term glasses. The Heat need all the help they can get to make the playoffs, especially now that Chris Bosh is out for the season. Dragic wasn’t too impressive the first time he went out on the floor in a 14-point loss to the Pelicans, but scored 23¬†points against the Sixers, adding 10 assists and giving the Heat a dominant, scoring and dangerous point guard for the first time in a while.

Luol Deng enjoyed the presence of Dragic which took some attention off of him and gave him a lot more open looks than usual. The Heat finished with 27 assists (10-2 this season when they have 25 assists or more). It might be because of the bad defense the 76ers showed throughout the game, carrying on with the trend of losing whenever they give up more than 99 points (one win in 32 games), or simply because adding someone like Dragic creates a lot more open looks for everyone else.

Deng scored 29 points, his best scoring game since the second week of November when he had 30 points in a win over the Mavericks. He shot 11-of-14 from the field and didn’t take any tough shots, making also 4 of his 5 3-point attempts. Dwyane Wade seemed very comfortable in playing like a shooting guard again and not having to share the duties of point-guarding next to Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers, scoring 18 points on 7-of-13 from the field.

Hassan Whiteside had another double double (12 points, 14 rebounds) and is getting closer to the double double average, improving to 10.2 points and 9 rebounds this season along with 2.36 blocks per game. Henry Walker scored 11 points off the bench, but the Heat don’t have too much faith or expectations from their second unit, knowing that if something fails in their starting lineup, there’s not really anything in the backup plan that can help them.

The Sixers? They try to make the most of little victories and moments. They scored 31 points in the first quarter, passing the 30-mark in the first quarter for only the sixth time this season. Isaiah Canaan carried on with his tradition of hitting wild 3-pointers, Robert Convington finished with 5 steals in the first quarter alone, the most in a first quarter since 2008 and the most in any quarter since 2012, but this team is still heading nowhere, led by a general manager who seems to have a plan but isn’t getting any closer to completing it.

The Heat are acting a little bit differently; they’re about winning now, or at least as much as possible with a mostly aging roster that’s very limited in where it can get and what it can achieve. The arrival of Dragic should pulsate some enthusiasm and especially some creativity on offense to a team that has grown too stagnant at times this season, but looking at what they have top to bottom, there’s not a whole lot for them to look forward to.

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