Tyler Johnson leads resurgent Heat offense to win over Grizzlies
MIAMI (AP) — After three consecutive narrow defeats and 17 close games in a row, the Miami Heat were in the market for a laugher.
Bring on the Memphis Grizzlies.
Tyler Johnson scored 23 points to lead six players in double figures, and the Heat beat the reeling Grizzlies 115-89 on Saturday night.
The Grizzlies lost their ninth game in a row, the longest active streak in the NBA, and their second in as many nights.
Miami snapped a three-game losing streak, with the defeats coming by a total of six points. The Heat had a single-digit margin in their past 17 games, three shy of the NBA record, and lost 12 of those.
“We were actually talking about it today — being the team with the most clutch games,” forward Justise Winslow said. “The bottom line is we got a win, which we really needed to get this thing going in the right direction.”
The victory was the Heat’s most lopsided of the season. Their biggest margin previously was 25 points on Dec. 11 — also against Memphis.
Winslow scored a season-high 17 points. Reserve Wayne Ellington went 5 for 10 from 3-point range and scored 15.
Miami’s Dwyane Wade was limited to 18 minutes by foul trouble and scored six points. But the Heat, scrambling for a playoff berth, still managed to win for only the second time in the past 10 games.
“We didn’t start off the game great, but once we got into it we played a great game,” Wade said.
Andrew Harrison scored 17 points for the Grizzlies, who played without leading scorer Tyreke Evans and center Marc Gasol.
Evans will undergo a precautionary MRI Sunday on his injured right ribs. Gasol was rested and missed only his second game.
The Grizzlies fell behind for good at 28-26. By the end of the third quarter they trailed 92-70.
“We didn’t stick together again, started getting frustrated, started trying to come back all on one play, started trying to come back on our own,” Harrison said. “It was everybody.”
Miami outscored Memphis 50-30 in the paint, 13-2 on fast breaks and 26-8 off turnovers.
“We’ve been in so many close games,” Johnson said. “It’s good to finally be able to exhale a little bit.”
Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff praised the Heat’s effort.
“They compete for 48 minutes, and they can smell blood,” he said. “They just decide they’re going to out-work you for a five-minute period of time, and then they continue it. And if you don’t match that energy, you end up getting beat the way we got beat.”
Heat: Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) missed his sixth consecutive game.
Grizzlies: F Chandler Parsons (illness) sat out, and his availability against Boston is uncertain. … Gasol will be back in the lineup Monday at Boston, Bickerstaff said.
Heat: Johnson, who had been averaging only 9.7 points since returning from an ankle injury, said he regrouped mentally during the All-Star break. “I had to take a long look at myself over the break — what was working, what wasn’t working,” he said. “I was just settling for too many jumpers, trying to shoot my way out of a funk instead of doing what I do best, which is being an attacker.”
Grizzlies: Fell to 0-9 on the road since Jan. 1, and 0-9 on the road against the Eastern Conference this season. They are 3-18 against the East overall. … They fell to 3-35 when trailing to start the fourth quarter.
The Heat paid tribute to the victims of the Florida school shooting with a scoreboard video, and Wade praised the students campaigning for gun safety. “You are our nation’s inspiration,” he said. “We salute you and we support you.”
Heat: Host Philadelphia on Tuesday in the second game of a five-game homestand.
Grizzlies: Visit Boston on Monday.