Heat’s Justise Winslow continues ascent and this time without Dwyane Wade in uniform


Miami’s Justise Winslow shoots against the Washington Wizards in a March 6 game in Washington, (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Justise Winslow continued to trend in a positive direction Monday, and Dwyane Wade wasn’t on the court.

Winslow has played his best basketball of his three-year career since Wade arrived in a Feb. 8 trade deadline deal, but Monday Winslow showed the reason is not all Wade.

Winslow was the Heat’s second-best player in their 115-99 loss at Portland. Winslow picked up where Goran Dragic left off in the fourth quarter and finished with 15 points and equaling his career high of 13 rebounds.

All this while coming off the bench and playing some backup point guard and power forward … and with Wade out because of a mild hamstring strain. Winslow has acknowledged he values his relationship with the Heat’s most iconic player and was inspired by Wade’s return.

“He was facilitating, getting us organized into offense and then when it was time to be aggressive, he dropped his shoulder and got to the rim a few times,” coach Erik Spoelstra said about Winslow’s performance Monday. “He probably could have drawn a couple of fouls. … a lot of contact on those drives. But he’s been doing that, he’s been trending that way recently.

“The 13 rebounds were notable and defensively he was in the right spots in the second half, but then you also noticed him when he had to take on the challenge with their two main guys.”

Winslow’s effort on the boards helped offset the absence of Hassan Winslow, who missed his second consecutive game with a hip injury.

“Defensively we try to end each possession with a rebound,” Winslow said. “So, guys were out there battling. Early on I just had a mentality of trying to get as many rebounds as possible and get out and run. Goran was doing a good job of running with that first unit. So, I knew it would be open if we could get some stops and get some rebounds. No matter who is on the floor for us I’m going to try and do my job and get as many rebounds as possible. They were just falling my way.”

Winslow was the central figure as the Heat sliced a 19-point third quarter deficit to three points midway through the fourth quarter. At one point he had seven consecutive Heat points, reducing the Blazers lead from 15 points to eight. Dragic led the Heat through three quarters with 23 points. He was scoreless in the fourth.

Winslow has pushed his averages to 7.2 points and 5.5 rebounds. He has scored in double figures in seven of his last nine games, matching his double figure scoring for his first 45 games. He is averaging 12.2 points in his last nine games.

And it’s his versatility that allows Spoelstra to use him at basically every position except center. Winslow added three assists on Monday with time at point guard for the first time since Wade arrived.

“It’s something I feel comfortable with,” he said. “The guys believe in me and trust me to get them in the right spots. We got into a pretty good flow in the second half, just came up a little too short.”

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