Five takeaways: Heat rally behind Tyler Johnson’s season high 31 to stun Magic

Miami Heat center Kelly Olynyk goes up for a shot in front of Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon during Saturday’s game. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

ORLANDO – When coach Erik Spoelstra asked about the Heat’s ability to bounce back from Friday’s disheartening loss to the Nets, he insisted “there’s character in that locker room.”

That character showed Saturday at the Amway Center.

Trailing by 18 points early in the third quarter, the Heat rallied, first behind Tyler Johnson and then Goran Dragic, to pull out a 117-111 victory over the Magic on Saturday night.

After Johnson scored 22 points in the third quarter, Dragic scored nine points in the final 3:36 to help Miami complete the comeback.

The Heat (19-17) bounced back after being embarrassed 111-87 by Brooklyn at home Friday.

“Basically, the halftime, it was them,” Spoelstra said. “I just stepped back and let them talk and figure it out. Much different disposition in the second half. I was speechless (Friday) night after that game. I feel like that a little bit right now. It was a tale clearly of two halves competitively.

“After a disappointing game last night, it’s good to show some grit, some character.

The Heat took their first lead since 9-7 with 2:04 to play on a Dragic floater. That came early in a 9-0 run that helped Miami seal the game.

Miami was led by Johnson’s season-high 31 points, 27 in the second half. Dragic had 25, his second-highest point total of the season. Dragic was averaging 12.7 points since returning after missing two games because of a sore elbow.

“It’s great,” Dragic said. “But the most important thing is that we won that game. Especially how we started was crazy, they were running and our transition defense was really bad. They got a lot of layups and open 3-pointers and in the second half, we completely changed the game and we kind of defended them in the half court and that was the ball game.”

Aaron Gordon led all scorers with 39 points.

Here are our five takeaways:

Bouncing back: Miami was embarrassed Friday, another humiliating home loss to an Eastern Conference bottom-feeder. And it looked like a repeat when the Magic built their lead to 18 points early in the third quarter. But  Miami outscored Orlando, 36-24, the rest of the quarter – 22 of those coming from Johnson – to cut the deficit to six entering the fourth quarter. Miami then had a 31-19 advantage in the fourth quarter.

“We gave up a lot of stuff in transition in the first half and lots of easy stuff that was easily solvable and stuff that if we just talk to each other and communicate with each other and know that it was gonna be a whirlwind out there,” said Kelly Olynyk, who scored 17 points. “They play super fast up tempo. They get it and go and kind of pitch ahead and throw it to anybody. You know you won’t guard the same guy you’re matched up against the whole game so just kind of locked in on that. And offensively just sticking to making stuff happen for others, setting good screens and playing with a high motor and movement and going from good to great.”

Tyler to the rescue: The Heat were on the verge of another ugly, disheartening loss when Johnson took over. After taking just four shots (making one) in the first half, Johnson scored 22 points in the third quarter, making his first 10 shots before missing a forced running jumper at the buzzer. Johnson, who had 26 points after three quarters, was keeping up with Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, who had 34 after three.

“I just wanted to be aggressive,” Johnson said. “I felt like in that first half I wasn’t very assertive. I was just kind of running to the corner, kind of what I was doing early in the season, where I wasn’t putting my fingerprints on the game. So it was definitely something that I was thinking, maybe not to score, but to get into the paint and at least make plays. But it just so happened I made shots.”

Digging another hole: Once again, the Heat’s defense was dormant for a long stretch, this time resulting in the Magic building 66-50 halftime by shooting 67.5 percent (27 of 40) and 58.3 percent (7 of 12) on threes. This comes 24 hours after Miami allowed the Nets to shoot 51.2 percent in the first half while building a 59-39 lead. A big reason for the Magic’s high shooting percentage in the first half: 36 points in the paint and 24 fast-break points.

“That was as ugly as it can get in the first half, again,” Spoelstra said. “It started looking like it was going in the same direction as last night. Defensively, it was just as poor as we can be. You do have to credit their team speed. They just fly at you. It looked like a misprint in the first half, 24 in transition. But our guys gathered themselves.”

Wounded knee: Hassan Whiteside, playing his third game since returning from a bruised bone in his left knee, was not happy when he left the court with 4:36 to play in the first quarter. Whiteside, who had a solid start with six points and seven rebounds in seven minutes, removed his knee brace and tossed it aside when he sat on the bench. Whiteside has worn the brace since he missed 13 games. Minutes before coming out, Spoelstra screamed at Whiteside to “pay attention.” Bam Adebayo was coming into the game and Whiteside assumed it was for him and started walking off the court. Adebayo replaced Kelly Olynyk. Whiteside finished with nine points, 13 rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes.

 “It always looks better when the guys are making shots,” Whiteside said. “Passing always looks way better. So it’s fun to see them guys out there scoring like that.”

Time to start feasting on home cookin’: The Heat return home to start the New Year with three consecutive games at AmericanAirlines Arena; Wednesday against Detroit, Friday vs. the Knicks and Sunday against Utah. Miami, though, must start taking advantage of playing at home. The Heat are just 8-9 on their home court and are the only team in the Eastern Conference with a losing record at home and a winning record (11-8) on the road.

[What do you say after 24-point home loss to the Nets? Heat describe their play in loss as ‘perplexing’ and ‘unexplainable’]

[Five takeaways: Heat embarrassed by Nets, falling behind by 38 before losing, 111-87]

[Heat rookie Derrick Walton Jr. is running out of NBA days on his two-way contract]

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