After only playing two games this past week (December 31-January 6), the schedule makers gave Miami three games in seven days for the second week of the new year. The Heat continue to be one of the league’s hottest teams in recent weeks – as winners of seven of their last eight and sitting atop the Southeast Division. However, the team was dealt a huge injury blow this week that could end up having huge long-term ramifications.
Jan. 7 – Heat 103, Utah Jazz 102
After trailing by eight (93-85) midway through the fourth quarter, Miami finished the game on an 18-9 run – including the game-winning layup by Josh Richardson with five seconds remaining – as the Heat topped the visiting Jazz for their fourth straight win.
Six players scored in double figures for Miami, led by Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson – who each finished with 16 points. The game’s hero, Richardson, added 14 points – as did Hassan Whiteside, who recorded his 10th double-double of the season by also pulling down 10 boards.
Utah’s sensational rookie Donovan Mitchell led the team in scoring with 27. , but couldn’t put his team back on top after Richardson’s layup – missing a contested jumper at the final buzzer.
Jan. 9 – Heat 90, Toronto Raptors 89
Thanks to Wayne Ellington’s go-ahead layup with less than a second remaining, Miami snapped Toronto’s 12-game home winning streak and captured its fifth straight victory Tuesday.
Ellington poured in 15 points off the bench, rookie Bam Adebayo recorded a career-high 16 points while also pulling down 15 rebounds, and Goran Dragic led with a team-high 24 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.
The Raptors, who were without All-Star guard Kyle Lowry due to injury, got a game-high 25 points from DeMar DeRozan.
Things got heated in the third quarter when Miami forward James Johnson and Toronto forward Serge Ibaka traded punches and were both ejected. Tempers flared again after the game when DeRozan took a swipe at Dragic before the two were separated as the teams were leaving the floor.
Jan. 10 – Heat 114, Indiana Pacers 106
Goran Dragic led six Miami players that scored in double figures Wednesday as the Heat topped the host Pacers for their sixth straight win.
Dragic dropped 20 points on a much-improved Indiana team, while Bam Adebayo; Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington each added 15 points off the bench to lift the Heat to a victory on the second night of a back-to-back.
Record: 24-17; 1st Southeast Division
Week’s Best: Goran Dragic – “The Dragon” recorded 60 points, 19 assists and 18 rebounds in Miami’s three wins this week. The 31-year-old guard continues to be the Heat’s top scorer (17.0) and distributer (4.9) this season.
High: Back to back one-digit wins thanks to late go-ahead baskets. One thing that hurt the Heat and kept them out of the playoffs this past season was the inability to pull out close games. Miami was 7-10 in games decided by four points or less last season. The Heat are already 4-2 in such games this season.
Low: Getting the news that Dion Waiters will have season-ending surgery on his injured left ankle. Waiters first suffered the left ankle injury last season, causing him to miss the final 13 games of the season. He opted not to have surgery last summer but instead elected to rehab and treat the injury. The 26-year-old Waiters signed a four-year, $52 million deal with Miami in July and has rubbed some fans the wrong way given his decision to have the season-ending surgery now. According to league sources, Waiters’ recovery time is said to be between four and six months.
Injury Report: Aside from Waiters, both Justise Winslow (knee) and Rodney McGruder (leg) remained sidelined with injuries.
Winslow injured his knee on December 13 and remains questionable as to when he’ll return while McGruder is targeting a return to the court shortly after the NBA All-Star break since his October surgery to repair the stress fracture in his left tibia.
This & That: Heat forward James Johnson will return from his one-game – without pay – suspension Sunday. Johnson and Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka each received one-game bans following their on-court fisticuffs Tuesday.
Given that it is well-known that Johnson is well-trained in mixed martial arts, it was weird to see any player – even the 6-foot-10 Ibaka – want engage in any hand-to-hand combat with Johnson.
Next Week: The Heat have their work cut out for them, with five games in seven coming up between January 14 through January 20. Worse yet, after Jan. 14’s home game against Milwaukee, Miami will hit the road for four straight – including a pair of back-to-backs, against the Bucks and Bulls (Jan. 15) and then Brooklyn (Jan. 19) and Charlotte (Jan. 20)