When a plan comes together: Heat reap benefit of strong bench play

MIAMI — Dwyane Wade had to be, well, Dwyane Wade on Wednesday to lead the Miami Heat to a thrilling victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

In Friday’s 108-91 win against the Denver Nuggets, however, he was more ringleader than one-man show, as the each player did his part to secure Miami’s third straight win and seventh in the past 10.

The Heat’s starting five of Wade, Goran Dragic, Luol Deng, Udonis Haslem and Hassan Whiteside combined to score 75 of the team’s 108 points. Wade led all scorers with 22, and Whiteside recorded his team-leading 18th double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Even better, the team didn’t skip a beat when the reserves hit the court, with the bench contributing 33 points, 23 rebounds and 12 assists. Mario Chalmers had 10 points, four rebounds and three assists, and Chris Andersen grabbed seven rebounds and added in five points. Henry Walker knocked down three 3-pointers, and Michael Beasley filled up the stat sheet with nine points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

"What I liked was the energy (the bench) brought into the game," head coach Erik Spoelstra said. "In both halves, as soon as we went to the bench, it sparked us. Michael Beasley played a very good defensive game. He was very active not only on the glass but with all the pick-and-roll coverage. I thought Henry Walker’s 20 minutes were important. He had two big blocks and some hustle plays. Your bench can really impact you in many different ways and they really gave us a spark tonight."

Faced with a difficult four-game stretch on the road during which they will play the Oklahoma City Thunder, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks, the performance from the bench couldn’t have come at a better time.

"They played exceptionally well today," Wade said of the bench. "They did an unbelievable job. We’re going to need that, especially as we go on the road. We are going to need different lineups coming in with different waves for us to win those games. We will need to get multiple people playing well at the same time."

That formula worked perfectly on a night when the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics all lost to further boost Miami’s chances of reaching the postseason for a seventh straight season. Milwaukee’s triple-overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets — their fifth defeat in a row — leaves them 1.5 games ahead of the Heat for the sixth spot.

Heat vs. Nuggets

As Wade spoke to reporters after the game, he was keeping a watchful eye on the Bucks-Nets game that was playing in the background.

"We are looking at it all," he said. "We want to keep playing well. There is still room for us to grow. Our mentality has to be to continue to play well and continue to keep winning. You just never know how things are going to go. Other teams have to play games too and you are not the only one playing games."

All of it led to a positive night when the team finally appeared to be in a groove, and it’s coming together when the Heat need it the most, with just 14 games left in the regular season.

"It’s a basketball team with 15 guys," Spoelstra said. "Some nights it is going to work where your main players are doing a lot of the pulling but tonight is a perfect example of where everyone had to contribute. Dwyane Wade was able to be productive in his minutes and Hassan Whiteside was rebounding, but everybody was chipping in."

You can follow Surya Fernandez on Twitter @SuryaHeatNBA or email him at SuryaFoxSports@gmail.com.