The Miami Heat could do nothing wrong for the first 10 minutes of the third quarter and then could do nothing right.
But after relinquishing a 19-point lead, Miami recovered and put the game in the hands of Tyler Johnson, who took over in the last minute on both ends to will the Heat to a 107-102 victory over the Kings Friday in Sacramento.
Johnson came up with the biggest plays of the game on both ends helping Miami (11-26) snap a six game losing streak and eight straight losses in a row on the road.
“We had to find a way to get this one done,” Johnson said. “We were rolling in the first half and early in the third. They’re a good team, they were going to come back. For this young group of guys to go through this adversity and for as many close games as we have been in and then come out on the short end, it was good to get this one.”
Johnson led the Heat with 23 points, shooting 7-of-11. He scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including Miami’s final eight points. This after Johnson missed Tuesday’s game in Phoenix because of a migraine.
Goran Dragic scored 19 and had seven assists.
The Heat, which received 61 points from the bench, have won six in a row against the Kings (15-20) and 23 of the last 25.
Here are our five takeaways.
Tyler Johnson to the rescue: The Heat were reeling after having surrendered a 19-point lead and one of the league’s top fourth-quarter performers came to the rescue. With the score tied at 102, Johnson hustled back to force Darren Collison to miss a layup. “That really saved the game probably, that play,” Spoelstra said.
After the Heat controlled the loose ball Johnson made a three-point play the old fashioned way, an off-balanced shot in which he was fouled by Matt Barnes, with 27.8 seconds giving Miami a 105-102 lead. Johnson’s basket came after he lost the ball and recovered it twice while looking to get into the paint.
“I thought I had him both times then I went to go to the hoop but the ball wasn’t there,” Johnson said of his three-point play. “I was fortunate enough the ball went in.”
DeMarcus Cousins then missed two shots, one at the rim and a long jumper, and Johnson sealed the win with two free throws.
Nice recovery: The Heat were in total control, leading 87-68 with 2:11 remaining in the third quarter before the game completely turned. The Kings scored the next 19 points to tie the game at 87 before Willie Reed ended the run with a floater. Sacramento forged ahead but Miami recovered and rebuilt its lead to five but needed Tyler Johnson’s heroics in the end.
“We got pushed and we felt all the emotions of building a 19-point league giving it up and having to execute again,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve been talking about it for awhile and particularly on this trip, really wanting to take the next step forward in these clutch games. Finding a way to get over the hump, it’s just great for our team to go through scenarios like this.”
Defending Cousins: The Heat threw three different defenders at the league’s second leading scorer. Reed drew the assignment as he started his third game of the season. James Johnson was next as the Heat went ultra-small with the 6-foot-9 Johnson on the court with four guards and Udonis Haslem then taking a turn.
The trio held Cousins, who had 30 points against Miami in November, to 13 points, 16 below his average. He shot just 4-of-15 and he was on the bench when the Kings went on a 23-2 run. Haslem, especially, frustrated Cousins, drawing two quick fouls on the big man in the second quarter. At one point, when Cousins was taking the ball to the basket against Haslem, James Johnson swatted his ball out of bounds from behind.
“I’m just a competitor,” Haslem said. “I look forward to the opportunity to go out there and complete. He’s a great player. He puts up huge numbers. He looks forward for the opportunity to go out there and compete. You got two alpha males going head to head”
Waiters returns: Dion Waiters wasted little time bringing energy and intensity in his first game in nearly six weeks. Within a minute of entering the game, the Heat guard had a bucket, turnover, foul and stared down an official. He picked up where he left off before missing 20 games because of a torn muscle in his groin, taking the ball to the basket.
In limited minutes (10), Waiters took just four shots and scored four points. More importantly, he returns as the Heat continue to deal with injuries and it will be interesting to see how Spoelstra uses Waiters, especially with a plethora of guards now available. Wednesday marked the first time he has come off the bench since joining the Heat last summer.
“It’s just great to have him out there,” Spoelstra said. “This is a big win just to get him out here. We’ll try to build from here. He got his feet wet and we’ll go from here.”
The hits keep coming: The Miami Heat got more bad news this week when it was discovered second-year forward Justise Winslow will undergo surgery today to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Winslow’s season likely is through after playing just 18 games.
Winslow now joins Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts on the list of those who are expected to miss the rest of the season. Additionally, the Heat now have lost 151 games to injuries with every player have missed at least one game because of injury or illness. Want some good news? Center Hassan Whiteside, who has missed three games because of a retinal contusion will rejoin the team this weekend in Los Angeles. Miami plays the Lakers on Friday and the Clippers on Sunday.
“It was great,” Spoelstra said. “I got confused, I wasn’t used to having so many guys on the bench. I looked down there. I had options, I had to coach and make some decisions.”