Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 99-95 victory over the Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, loses control of the ball as he goes up for a shot against Miami Heat guard Rodney McGruder during Thursday's game. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, loses control of the ball as he goes up for a shot against Miami Heat guard Rodney McGruder during Thursday’s game. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI – Winning streaks are hard to come by in this disappointing season for the Miami Heat. So one as modest as two games is something to celebrate.

The Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks, 99-95, Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena, giving Miami its fourth two-game winning streak of the season.

Miami (13-30) blew a seven-point fourth quarter lead, allowing the Mavericks (14-28) to tie the game at 82. Then after pushing the lead back to six, the Heat allowed the Mavericks to make it a one possession game in final seconds after Goran Dragic missed two free throws.

But Tyler Johnson and Dragic each made two from the line in the final seconds to offset five points from future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki.

Dragic and Johnson combined for 55 points on 18-of-28 shooting. Dragic led the Heat with a 32 points (two off his Heat high) and Johnson had 23. Dragic was 11-of-15 from the floor and made all four of his three-point shots.

After losing 5-of-6 on its most recent road trip and returning home to face Houston after dropping 13-of-15, the Heat will be chasing a season-high three-game winning streak Saturday at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.

“This would potentially be translated as the theater of the absurd when I would say we had in some ways a great road trip,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We ended up 1-5 but we were making strides in terms of our work with a purpose, getting more to our identity, fighting through adversity. We felt we were getting better we just were not getting the wins. To come home and have two very good practices that translated into better more consistent play on the court. In our minds this is something that has been building.”

Here are our five takeaways from the  win.

Heat on a winning streak: It had been more than a month since the Heat won two consecutive games, dating back to Dec. 12-14 when Miami defeated Washington and Indiana. After playing its best game of the season against Houston on Tuesday, Miami survived Thursday’s game against the Mavericks. Miami hung on mainly on the strength of Dragic and Johnson. Dragic hit a three pointer with 2:18 to play to stretch the lead to five and after Seth Curry cut the Heat lead to three, Johnson then drained a three pointer to push Miami’s lead to six. The Heat, though, had to sweat out the final seconds until both stepped up to the line and made their free throws. They combined for 21 fourth quarter points.

“Going down the stretch Goran was terrific,” Spoelstra said. “His game has evolved so much not, not just the three ball but his ability to put the ball on the floor and hit mid-range pullups. Those are the kind of shots that keep a defense honest.”

As the Whiteside turns: The final All-Star voting totals were released Thursday and it was not good for the Heat’s $98 million center. Among frontcourt players in the East, Whiteside finished eighth in the media voting, 11th in the fan voting and 14th in the players voting. Whiteside, though, did not do a whole lot to state his case as a reserve. Spoelstra took him out just 3:18 into the game, after Whiteside had taken four shots (he made three) and had a turnover. He was in and out in the first half because of foul trouble and finished with 13 points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes.

Whiteside sat the first 4:47 of the fourth quarter as Willie Reed made a major contribution, scoring five consecutive points to help the Heat take a seven point lead. Reed had eight points in 13 minutes.

Heat defense lacking early: The Mavericks entered the game last in the league in scoring, averaging 95.7 points and 28th in field goal percentage at .434. Yet, the Heat allowed Dallas to jump out to a 53-44 halftime lead by making 52.5 percent (21-of-40) of their shots, including 53.3 percent (8-of-15) on three pointers. The Mavericks starting frontcourt of Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes combined to shoot 10-of-13. Miami’s defense tightened in the second half as it outscored Dallas, 55-42, and held the Mavericks to 38.1 percent (16-of-42) from the floor.

“Coach came in at halftime and challenged us,” Rodney McGruder said. “They were getting everything they wanted. We weren’t really communicating on some screens. We were being a little lazy on switches. Everybody took on the challenge and you could see that in our aggressiveness on defense.”

Okaro White makes his NBA debut: White was brought up from Sioux Falls this week when the Heat was granted a 16th roster spot under the league’s hardship rule. The former FSU star, who did not play Tuesday against Houston, entered with 34 seconds to play in the first quarter and played nine minutes, missing his only field goal attempt, a three pointer. White, who is on a 10-day contract, was used ahead of Derrick Williams, who signed for $5 million during the summer as a free agent.

“It was a good feeling but at the same time it was a little bit of a nervous feeling,” White said about entering the game. On his shot he said, “I was thinking it was going in. During the preseason the first three threes I took went in so I thought it was good.”

How far have they fallen: These two teams have met twice in the Finals in the least 11 seasons, the Heat winning the 2006 title and the Mavericks gaining revenge in 2011, the first year of the Big 3 in Miami. But the two teams entered Thursday at the bottom of their respective divisions and Miami with the second-worst record and the Mavs with the sixth-worst in the league. When a reporter started to ask Dallas coach Rick Carlisle about the fortunes of both teams he interrupted, “We’re both on a winning streak. Don’t go there.” Carlisle, though, went on to praise Spoelstra. “He’s doing some very creative things with this group,” he said.

[Heat center Hassan Whiteside putting up All-Star numbers, but will coaches vote him in as reserve?]

[Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks have met in the NBA Finals twice — now both are rebuilding]

[Okaro White: Briante Weber knows his NBA opportunity is coming]

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