Five takeaways: Heat use balanced attack to defeat Pacers and keep winning streak alive

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) drives around Indiana Pacers center Domantas Sabonis, right, and guard Cory Joseph (6) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS — Balanced is the word the Heat like to use to describe their offensive attack.

That balanced attack was on display Wednesday with seven Miami players finishing with double-digit points, as the Heat (24-17) defeated the Pacers 114-106 at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse to complete a perfect 2-0 back-to-back set. Miami beat Toronto on Tuesday.

“It’s great because no one person has too much pressure on him,” Josh Richardson said of Miami’s offensive approach. “It’s like every night, somebody else is going to be playing great. So if it’s not your night, then there’s five other guys who could pick up the slack for you, so it’s always very relaxing to be able to play like that.”

The Heat have now won six straight games, all of them coming by single-digits. Miami owns the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference, one full game ahead of the No. 5 Washington Wizards (23-18)

Miami led by as many as 16 points, but Indiana made it interesting late and even tied the game at 97 with 5:09 to go in the fourth quarter. But the Heat closed the game on a 17-9 run to keep their winning streak alive.

Wayne Ellington hit the biggest shot of the game, using a friendly roll to sink a 31-foot 3-pointer to extend Miami’s lead to six points with 23.2 seconds to go. The Heat never looked back from there.

“It was very friendly, that’s why I said, ‘I must be living good,'” Ellington said of the shooter’s bounce he got. “But that goes with how we’re playing right now. Togetherness. It’s like a karma to it. That’s how I feel.”

Goran Dragic led Miami’s balanced attack with a team-high 20 points and nine assists. Hassan Whiteside also played a big role with 16 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks.

Victor Oladipo led Indiana (21-20) with 26 points.

The Pacers played without center Myles Turner, who was out with an elbow injury. The Heat were without forward James Johnson, who served a one-game suspension for Tuesday’s on-court altercation, Dion Waiters (sprained left ankle), Justise Winslow (strained left knee), Rodney McGruder (left tibia surgery) and Okaro White (left foot surgery).

The Heat will have some time to enjoy their winning streak, with their next game coming Sunday at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Hear are our five takeaways …

What a difference a year makes: After 41 games last season, the Heat stood at 11-30. After 41 games this season, the Heat stand at 24-17. That’s a big difference considering Miami’s core has pretty much remained the same through it all. Another impressive fact? The Heat are 54-28 over their past 82 games. It looks like like Miami won’t need another 30-11 finish to enter the playoff conversation this season. If the playoffs began today, the Heat would have home-court advantage in the first round as the fourth seed in the East.

“We’re not satisfied,” Whiteside said. “We’re looking at No. 1 [in the East]. We’re going to keep trying to push and we’re going to keep pushing the rock. That’s what we call it. We call it, pushing the rock.”

Heat beat another team with threes: There are a lot of different factors that went into Wednesday’s Heat win. But threes played a huge part. Miami outscored Indiana 39-3 on 3-pointers. The Heat shot 13-of-30 from 3-point range, while the Pacers made just 1-of-18. This is become a trend for Miami, which has used the 3-pointer more than ever this season. The Heat shattered their record for 3-point shot attempts in a single season with 2,213 last year, which easily surpassed the previous mark of 1,865 set in 1996-97. But Miami is on its way to setting a new record, as it is on pace to attempt 2,566 3-pointers this season.

Tyler Johnson is tough: In Erik Spoelstra’s pregame session with the media, he said Tyler Johnson would miss his second consecutive game Wednesday with a strained left shoulder. But just minutes before tip-off, the Heat announced that Johnson would try to play against the Pacers. And he did play. Johnson finished with 15 points, five rebounds and two assists. Considering Johnson’s past issues with his left shoulder — rotator cuff surgery in February 2016 — it’s a good sign that Johnson was able to make a fast return after sitting out just one game. With three days off before the Heat’s next game on Sunday, he will have time to rest the shoulder after playing through the pain in Indianapolis.

“I still can’t really turn my head,” Johnson said. “It’s still hard to turn my head. But we got it to somewhere where it was manageable, the pain, the movement and being able to at least lift my shoulder up, which to me was the most important part.

“Luckily we have a few days here to try and figure it out. All I can do to get that, the muscles or whatever it is, to calm down. But these three days are going to be critical.”

Goran Dragic is leading the way: Just one night after a masterful 24-point performance against the Raptors that also included 12 rebounds and four assists, Goran Dragic turned in another shining stat line against the Pacers. The Heat’s starting point guard controlled Wednesday’s game with 20 points and nine assists. With backcourt mate Dion Waiters still out with an ankle injury, Dragic has been able to turn his game up a notch. During the Heat’s six-game winning streak, they have outscored opponents by 42 points with Dragic on the court. It’s not a surprise that Miami is playing its best basketball while Dragic is playing his best basketball. He’s that important to the Heat’s success.

The angry Erik Spoelstra: We’ve seen a lot of it lately. Spoelstra entered Wednesday leading NBA coaches with six technical fouls this season, and he extended that lead when he was called for a seventh technical for arguing that an inbounding violation was ignored in the first quarter of Miami’s win over Indiana. Entering Wednesday, only six players in the league had at least seven technical fouls: Draymond Green (11), Kevin Durant (8), DeMarcus Cousins (8), Dwight Howard (7), Markieff Morris (7) and Russell Westbrook (7). Goran Dragic leads Heat players with two technicals this season.

“You appreciate that,” Ellington said of Spoelstra’s recent fiery sideline demeanor. “That let’s you know your coach is out there with you. He wants those guys to get the right call for us. We appreciate it.”

[James Johnson apologizes for his suspension: ‘I have let my Heat family down and that truly troubles me’]

[Heat rookie Bam Adebayo continues to impress teammates, coaches. Wayne Ellington: ‘He’s a beast’]

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