MIAMI – Tyler Johnson remembered that feeling of missing two free throws in the final two minutes of Miami’s close loss to the Knicks two weeks ago.
He wasn’t about to experience it again.
So in the final 29 seconds of Monday’s dramatic 124-121 overtime win over Cleveland, Johnson stepped to the line and drilled four game-saving free throws with Miami’s playoff hopes teetering.
“I wasn’t even thinking,” said Johnson, who led Miami with 24 points. “Just shoot them. Everything was quiet. I felt like I was in my zone.”
Johnson said he shot 200-300 free throws that night Miami lost to an undermanned Knicks team. He later said he needed to get it out of his system and it would have been unfair to his family to take home that frustration.
On Monday, the Johnsons were greeted by Tyler’s toothless/bearded grin when he walked through the door.
“I didn’t want to feel that feeling again,” he said. “Not to say those were why I got them but I feel like I got all that out of my system.”
Ironically, it was the Heat reverting back to the team that remains last in the league in free throw shooting that was partially responsible for being in this situation against a Cavaliers team playing without LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson.
Through three quarters Miami was shooting 63 percent from the line (the Heat entered the game shooting 70.5 percent as a team). But Miami made its last seven, six of those in overtime including two big ones from Hassan Whiteside with two minutes remaining to give the Heat a three-point lead.
“We knew what the circumstances were and we knew what the consequences were if we don’t finish that game out,” Johnson said. “We weren’t going to leave any doubt. Knowing my guys were behind me no matter what was going to happen it makes it that much easier, you just step to the line and knock them down.”