5 takeaways from the Miami Heat’s win over the Denver Nuggets

The Miami Heat kick off a three-game road trip with a much-needed 106-89 victory over the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night.

1. It started and finished with Whiteside

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Returning to the scene of last season’s triple-double in Denver, Hassan Whiteside dominated the game at both ends of the floor. He started the game in terrific fashion, posting 10 points and five rebounds in the first quarter. He would finish with 25 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks, and altered a great deal of other Denver forays at the rim. Whiteside finished the game in style, his fourth block coming with 43 seconds left and the Heat leading by just five.

2. Ball movement was noticeable

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Besides poor shooting, another area that  the Heat have struggled with this season has been consistent ball movement. Currently, the Heat average 19.6 assists per game, ranking them 25th in the league. In tonight’s game, they recorded 26 assists, which on a per-game basis would rank second in the league. Point guard Goran Dragic and backup guard Tyler Johnson led the way with seven assists apiece.

3. Ellington provides a  spark

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In just his second game of the season, shooting guard Wayne Ellington provided a tremendous boost. Coming off the bench, Ellington scored 22 points including 5-of-9 from downtown in 32 minutes of play. The Heat broadcasters noted that Ellington is probably the team’s best three-point shooter, and they are probably. He looks the most organised and compact when letting them fly, and admitted after the game that he has been given the green light from head coach Erik Spoelstra.

The Heat bench as a whole was outstanding, with James Johnson posting 10 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks, while the aforementioned other Johnson  posted 18 points to go along with his seven assists.

4. Defense was terrific

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Aside from Whiteside down low, the Heat’s perimeter defence was terrific. They forced 19 Denver turnovers, while only committing  six themselves. When interviewed after the game, Ellington noted that the Heat focused on keeping their opponents out of the paint. This stellar defence allowed the Heat to score 28 points from turnovers, compared to just eight from Denver. Ellington complimented his great shooting with four steals of his own for the night. For the night, the Heat restricted Denver to 41 percent shooting and had a defensive rating of 92.

5. Free-throw woes continue

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The Heat were fortunate they had enough breathing space, otherwise this is a game they could’ve coughed up because of their continued free-throw issues. The Heat converted just 15-of-26 from the line, including three out of four missed inside the final 42 seconds of the game. They are currently ranked last, converting at a 67 percent clip.

The Heat have no time for rest, as they travel to Utah to take on the Jazz on Thursday night. Game starts 9pm ET.

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