The Heat came out with authority on Monday night and asserted dominance over the Brooklyn Nets in Miami with a 110-99 victory. With the win, the Heat improved their record to 43-30, just one game behind Atlanta for the 3-seed in the Eastern Conference.
Dwyane Wade led the charge with 30 points on a very efficient 14-19 shooting. Wade took advantage of the Nets’ weak defenders by getting to the free throw line consistently while also shooting lights-out from midrange.
The Whiteside Factor:
Hassan Whiteside came off the bench and provided the defensive anchor that kept the Nets under 100 points. Whiteside was also a force offensively, as he scored 27 points on 12-16 shooting and eight rebounds. Over his last 10 games, Whiteside has averaged almost 19 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks per game. Without his improved and vital play off the bench, the Heat would not be in good position as the 4-seed in the Eastern Conference.
Rook Coming Through:
On a night where starting point guard Goran Dragic was out with a cold, Rookie guard Josh Richardson filled in spectacularly. Richardson scored 16 points on 9 shots, and went 3 of 4 from three-point range. For Richardson, an increase in playing time in the absence of Beno Udrih and Tyler Johnson has opened the door for the Rookie. Over his last 10 games, Richardson has averaged over 15 points a game in just over 30 minutes played per game. Richardson is also shooting an incredible 50% from three-point range this season, highest among all qualifying rookies.
Wade and Whiteside:
Overall, the Wade-Whiteside duo was too much to handle for the Nets. The tandem was a force both offensively and defensively, and connected for plenty of Whiteside slams.
If they can stay healthy and continue to lead the Heat through the final stretch run of the season, the Heat have real hopes of earning the 3-seed and making some real noise in the postseason.
On the Brooklyn side, Brook Lopez led them offensively with 26 points on a 12-20 shooting night. Thaddeus Young also added 20 points on 10-12 shooting, while leading the Nets in rebounds with nine. The Nets fell to 21-52 with the loss as they continue their abysmal season.
Hassan Whiteside, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, and Tyler Johnson create an exciting new core for the Heat moving forward. If the Heat are able to resign Whiteside this offseason,this core will only help the Heat recruit more high-profile free agents in the future. For this offseason, the Heat are known to be targeting Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant in free agency. Only time will tell is Pat Riley and company will be able to lure another one of the game’s great players to Miami.