MIAMI — At halftime, the Heat honored Shaquille O’Neal by retiring his No. 32 jersey. After halftime, the Heat finally started to play inspired basketball.
Los Angeles controlled the first half to enter halftime with a seven-point lead.
But the Heat (10-20) dominated the second half to defeat the Lakers 115-107 at AmericanAirlines Arena on Thursday night. Miami outscored Los Angeles 62-47 over the final two quarters to earn the win and end its six-game homestand with a 3-3 record.
“I think it was (an energy boost),” coach Erik Spoelstra said of the halftime ceremony. “Our young players were sitting there eyes wide open and they saw a vision of what we’re trying to build and what the arena is like when you have a legitimate championship contending team and a feel of championship players. It definitely had an effect on our players.”
Justise Winslow put together the best performance of his NBA career, leading the Heat with a career-high 23 points, 13 rebounds and four steals. Hassan Whiteside helped out with 23 points of his own and 13 rebounds.
The Lakers (11-21) led by as much as 19 points in the first half before the Heat began their comeback. Lou Williams led Los Angeles with a game-high 27 points.
Here are our five takeaways from the game …
1. Heat avoid disastrous homestand: The Heat’s season-long six-game homestand didn’t go exactly like they wanted it to. Miami would have preferred a 6-0, 5-1 or even a 4-2 record. But with Thursday’s win over the Lakers, the Heat salvaged a 3-3 record on the homestand. Miami began the six-game stretch with a 7-17 record and ended it with a 10-20 record. The Heat wanted to use the homestand to improve their record, but they couldn’t do it. Instead, they remain at 10 games under .500. Miami now goes on the road for nine of its next 11 games. It wasn’t the best homestand, but a loss to the Lakers would have made it a disastrous one.
“Every chance we have to win, we have to take advantage of it,” Udonis Haslem said after Thursday’s victory. “Some of these guys showed a lot of character. For us, that was a stepping stone right there for us to get to where we want to go. We’ve got to put it together. We’ve got to be disciplined. We’ve got to go through every game and bring the energy every night. Detail oriented teams, it’s no coincidence they’re successful in this league. These guys, I’m going to harp on paying attention to the details.”
2. Second-half team: The Heat have been a second-half team this season. That trend continued against the Lakers. Miami got off to another slow start Thursday, as Los Angeles began the game on an 11-0 run. The Heat missed their first six shots and ended the first quarter in an eight-point hole. Miami managed to play a little better in the second quarter, entering halftime down by seven points after trailing by as much as 19 in the period. But the second half belonged to Miami. The Heat made 52.5 percent of their shots after halftime to win the second half by 15 points. The Heat have now been outscored by a combined 101 points in the first half this season. Miami has been 112 points better in the second half, as its outscored teams by a combined 11 points over the final two quarters this season.
3. Justise Winslow finding his game: In a radio interview Wednesday, Pat Riley said Justise Winslow is “going to have to find his game.” The 20-year-old flashed what his offensive game could come to look like Thursday. Winslow has struggled to score efficiently this season, but he was efficient against the Lakers. He finished with a career-high 23 points, 13 rebounds and four steals. More importantly, he did it on 10-of-16 shooting. The Heat outscored the Lakers by 22 points with Winslow on the court. For a player that entered Thursday’s game shooting 35.2 percent, that’s a step forward.
“He was just dominating down there at that four spot,” Hassan Whiteside said of Winslow. “He was down there rebounding, getting to the basket, letting the game to come him, throwing lobs. He played great.
When he brings that, it really helps us a lot. He’s really dynamic. I feel like this is probably the first game since his injury he was comfortable out there. So, I’m glad that guy is back, getting used to the game.”
4. Lack of guard depth: With Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington and Rodney McGruder out with injuries, it left the Heat thin at the guard position for the second consecutive game. Miami was left with three healthy guards Thursday — Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson. The trio combined to play 127 minutes in Tuesday’s double-overtime loss to Orlando. And on Thursday, the workload didn’t get much lighter. Dragic, Johnson and Richardson combined to log 107 minutes against the Lakers. With the Heat set to play the Pelicans on the second night of a back-to-back Friday, it will be interesting to see how many minutes Erik Spoelstra gives the three guards in New Orleans. Miami could be left with just three healthy guards Friday, too. Waiters and Ellington will miss the contest, and McGruder is questionable.
5. Heat defense not reliable: Defense used to be the thing the Heat could count on. Through the first 11 games of the season, Miami ranked third in defensive rating with 97.4 points allowed per 100 possessions. The Heat also featured the second-best field-goal percentage defense in the NBA, holding opponents to 41.6 percent shooting during that stretch. Since then, Miami’s defense has been inconsistent and unreliable. Just take a look at the Heat’s six-game homestand. Miami held three of its six opponents under 45 percent shooting, with the other three shooting better than 45 percent. That’s not good enough for a Heat team that entered Thursday’s game with the NBA’s fifth-worst offense, scoring 100.7 points per 100 possessions.