WASHINGTON — The Heat kept an optimistic attitude through their recent six-game losing streak.
It seems like Miami’s optimism was warranted. The Heat began their four-game road trip with a 114-111 win over the Wizards (3-9) at the Verizon Center on Saturday night.
Miami (4-8) has now won two straight. It marks the first time the Heat have strung together back-to-back wins this season.
Six Heat players finished with double-digit points led by a team-high 22 points from Goran Dragic. Miami also made 13-of-27 from three-point range in the win.
“It’s a unique team,” center Hassan Whiteside said. “A lot of guys can score. With guys getting in the paint, a lot of great things are going to happen. A lot of teams been jamming up the paint so we can make sprays and guys have been knocking down threes.”
However, the Heat didn’t escape Washington unscathed.
Center Willie Reed left Saturday’s game with 10:09 remaining in the second quarter due to a hyperextended right knee and did not return. Coach Erik Spoelstra said Reed is day-to-day.
Here are our five takeaways from the game …
1. There will be games like this for Hassan Whiteside: After the Heat decided to give Hassan Whiteside a max contract this past summer to keep him in Miami, there were some who questioned the center’s consistency. Why? Take a look at Saturday’s win over the Wizards. Whiteside, who entered the game as the NBA’s leading rebounder, had six points, zero rebounds and zero blocks through the first 20 minutes of the game. He grabbed his first rebound of the contest with 3:38 remaining in the first half. But the slow start didn’t matter, as Whiteside finished 18 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks for his 11th double-double of the season. Consistency from game-to-game is not really the question anymore with Whiteside. He’s going to put up his numbers. It’s the consistency within games that Whiteside now needs to work on.
“He was able just to keep his focus on how he can impact the game and help us win,” Spoelstra said of Whiteside. “He can put those rebounding numbers up in a hurry. We’ve seen that already a couple times this year where he may not have had an impact due to foul trouble or just not having gotten going, then all of a sudden the last two and a half quarters he can get after it.”
2. Goran Dragic’s ankle looks good: A sprained left ankle forced Goran Dragic to miss three games. The Heat’s starting point guard returned from the injury Thursday against the Bucks and looked shaky at times, recording two points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half but coming on strong to finish the game with 16 points and four assists. Dragic turned in a more complete performance and looked more like himself Saturday against the Wizards. The 30-year-old finished with 22 points and six assists. The Heat have outscored opponents by three points with Dragic on the court this season.
3. Josh Richardson is getting close: Josh Richardson has been working to return to form since returning from a partially torn MCL in his right knee that forced him to miss training camp and the first four games of the season. But it looks like Richardson is starting to feel like his normal self. After shooting 28.6 percent from three in his first six games back, Richardson has made 8-of-17 shots from three-point range over the past two games. That better resembles the Richardson that made a league-best 53.3 percent of his 3-point shots after the All-Star break last season. He finished Saturday’s win with 15 points and seven rebounds.
4. This James Johnson thing is real: When the Heat signed the 6-foot-9, 250-pound James Johnson this past summer, it looked like it would help bolster Miami’s defense. And it has. But it’s also helped the Heat’s offense. Johnson has emerged as one of Miami’s top scorers off the bench this season and he didn’t disappoint Saturday. The 29-year-old finished with 17 points and three rebounds. Entering this season, Johnson was averaging 6.5 points per game over his NBA career. But you wouldn’t know that this season, as Johnson has finished with double-digit points in six of the Heat’s 12 games.
5. Power forward position still in flux: Yes, Derrick Williams made his fourth consecutive start at power forward on Saturday. But Erik Spoelstra is still tinkering at this spot. Williams played the first 7 minutes and 57 seconds of the game and did not play in the rest of the first half. Instead, James Johnson and Luke Babbitt played in his spot. Williams finished with 16 minutes of playing time. And don’t be surprised to see it change again when Justise Winslow returns from his wrist injury. Winslow can also be plugged in at power forward, especially with Josh Richardson proving he can play as a small forward over the past few games in Winslow’s absence.