NEW YORK – For more than three quarters, the Miami Heat mostly resembled the team that was 11-30 about a week ago.
Then, for most of the final 12 minutes, Miami turned back into the team that beat the Rockets and Warriors and won four straight in a seven-day stretch.
The Heat rallied from an 18-point deficit Wednesday and pulled out one of their most improbable wins of the season, 109-106 victory over the reeling Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center.
Miami trailed 89-71 at the end of the third quarter and outscored the Nets 38-17 in the final 12 minutes to stretch its season-long winning streak to five games.
“It was just a tough gritty fourth quarter,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The Heat (16-30) tied the score on a three-pointer by Wayne Ellington with 2:17 to play and then took the lead for good on a Okaro White’s three with just under a minute to play.
Dion Waiters led the Heat in scoring for the third consecutive game, with 24, including another clutch three pointer. Waiters’ shot with 6.8 seconds to play to give the Heat a 103-107 lead. He scored 14 points in the fourth quarter.
“I feel very comfortable with putting the ball in his hands especially in key clutch moments,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll continue to try to make him more efficient and be able to make plays all night long. He really stepped up in the fourth quarter, making all the right reads, getting to the basket. And then the last one is what he did the other night, just created something out of nothing and be able to rise above.”
White, who is entering the final day of his 10-day contract on Thursday, finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. He played the entire fourth quarter. Goran Dragic had 17 points, nine assists and nine rebounds.
The Nets (9-36) have lost 14-of-15 and continue to have the worst record in the NBA.
Here are our five takeaways.
Rally monkey: With Miami entering having won four in a row, including victories over two of the league’s better teams in Houston and Golden State many must have figured a game against the team with the worst record in the league would be a gimme. But after falling behind by 18-points at the end of the third quarter it appeared Miami’s winning streak was over. Big shots by Dragic, Ellington, White and Waiters in the final minutes capped the improbable comeback. By the end of the game, chants of “Lets go Heat” could be heard in the crowd.
“This was an important challenge for us coming off four home wins to be able to handle success we haven’t had the opportunity to deal with something like this” Spoelstra said. “We didn’t handle it well in the first quarter. We did not come in prepared with the right mindset. We got down and but we had to scrap and show some grit and toughness to get back into it.”
Whiteside ailing: Although Spoelstra never mentioned Hassan Whiteside was suffering from a sore ankle, the Heat’s center offered that up after his seven point, one rebound effort in which he played 21 minutes. “My ankle was bothering me before the game,” he said. “I shouldn’t have played. I tried to play through it. Coach tried to call me back in the fourth quarter I told him I couldn’t go.”
Whiteside started the game by watching his man, Brook Lopez, score 16 of the Nets first 17 points. He ended it on the bench, not playing the entire fourth quarter after being pulled twice in the third quarter. Whiteside looked lost all night. He missed all but two of his first eight shots, most of them from within five feet of the basket. He came out, along with Luke Babbitt, Rodney McGruder and Waiters, just 1:45 into the second half. Whiteside sat for about eight minutes, returned and then was removed again after Quincy Acy scored five quick points on him. Miami was outscored by 30 points with Whiteside in the game.
Waiters to the rescue again: The Heat guard picked up where he left off the last two games, scoring eight first quarter points and making four of his first six shots. He then cooled off but once again made the biggest shot of the night. He finished with 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field. This after scoring 33 points in each of his last two games, matching his career high, on 25-of-39 shooting, including the game winner against the Warriors on Monday with just under a second remaining. Waiters, though, was tough on himself saying Spoelstra did the right thing by taking him out early in the third quarter.
“Coach did a great job taking us out, we were playing like (crap),” he said. “We didn’t have any energy. I’m glad he did that, It gave the guys and myself a chance to sit back, reflect and figure out what the hell we were doing out there. I got my mind right and just came back in there. I told them guys even when I was on the bench I said ‘We’re going to win this game.”‘
The firm of Reed & White shines: The got big-time performances from reserves Willie Reed and Okaro White, especially in the fourth quarter. Reed scored 14 points and had four rebounds while playing 24 minutes. The Heat outscored the Nets by an astounding 34 points when Reed was on the floor. White, who is at the end of a 10-day contract, had 1o points, five of those in the final minute, seven rebounds and four blocks. White was raised 15 minutes from the Barclays Center.
“You love seeing guys have an opportunity to make plays like that in front of friends and family,” Spoelstra said. “It doesn’t always turn out that way but it is special. His life has changed pretty dramatically in a week. Nothing is guaranteed but you’re happy for him to have that opportunity.”
You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him: Not the words you hear to describe Lopez often but it applied on Wednesday. The Nets center was unstoppable early, hitting all but one of his first seven shots, including four three-pointers, and scoring 16 points in the first 6:12 of the game, all but one of the Nets’ total. After a six minute break he came back and scored 10 second quarter points. Lopez finished with 33 points on 11-of-23 shooting (including 7-of-14 on threes). He finally cooled off missing all five of his shots in the fourth quarter.
“Brook came out hot in the first half,” Waiters said. “In the second half we did a better job of getting him out there, making him run off the three point line. He was Steph Curry tonight.”