MIAMI – Wayne Ellington did not make a 3-point shot in the fourth quarter Sunday. He made only – yes, only – three for the game. But Ellington made one of the biggest plays during the Heat’s 103-102 victory over the Jazz by just standing in the corner.
Ellington, who has become one of the most dangerous 3-point shooters in the NBA, was used as a decoy during Josh Richardson’s drive and layup in the finals seconds of the game.
Ellington sprinted from the left elbow to right corner as Goran Dragic was inbounding the ball with 7.8 seconds remaining. That not only drew his man, Joe Ingles, who was not about to allow Ellington to get free, but the man guarding the inbounds pass was forced to take a step toward the corner, helping to open the passing lane for Dragic.
Additionally, Donovan Mitchell, who was guarding Richardson, became the third player to show an interest in Ellington, taking a couple of steps towards Ellington as the play was developing. That, and a solid pick by Kelly Olynyk, took Mitchell out of the play, forcing Derrick Favors to switch onto Richardson.
Dragic credited coach Erik Spoelstra for the play.
“Spo (drew up) a helluva play for Wayne to go to the corner and everybody kind of go that way,” Dragic said. “J-Rich came wide open at the top and took advantage of it.”
Favors was caught flat-footed and could not keep up with Richardson’s speed. The Heat’s rising star blew by him and easily made the layup with 5.1 seconds to play.
“Whenever you get that type of respect from your opponent obviously that’s what it’s about,” Ellington said. “When you can be a guy on the court and the play is running opposite from you but your man and the rest of the team is concerned about you and where you’re at on the floor it helps, it helps our team.”
That respect comes from Ellington developing into one of the biggest long-distance threats in the league. Ellington is fifth in the league with 113 threes, the most of any player whose primary role is off the bench. He has made 41.7 percent of his 3-point attempts.
On Friday, Ellington established a Heat record with 16 attempts against the Knicks, making six.
Ellington was 3-of-6 on Sunday. He was on the floor for more than eight minutes of the fourth quarter and took just two shots during that time.
And for that final play, his job was to help create space for Richardson to do his thing.
“I feel like I’m doing my job when that happens,” Ellington said. “When I come off somebody hard and they fake it to me and they get a wide-open layup, I’m doing my job.”