Heat need big effort from Dragic at Pacers
“We lost three games straight, so this game was huge for us,” said Dragic, whose team won 120-107 Wednesday night.
“We had a little meeting to just try to get that swag back and everybody was pumped, everybody was cheering for each other and we just followed the recipe that Spo (Coach Erik Spoelstra) and the coaching staff tell us before the game. How we need to defend, how we need to play and when we do that, when we focus enough, it’s a little bit easier.”
The Heat (6-8) will play at the Indiana Pacers (8-6) Friday night.
The visiting Pacers beat the Heat 110-102 a week ago, scoring the final 12 points. However, Dragic was out that game with knee injury. Dragic struggled in his return, going scoreless in a loss to Washington Saturday. He followed that up with 22 points in a loss to Philadelphia Monday and 21 against Brooklyn.
Pacers coach Nate McMillan said having Dragic makes a huge difference.
“It’s a really good team,” McMillan said. “It’s team that scrapes. They get after you. They have length and speed out on the floor. He’s a floor general. He does a good job initiating their offense in transition. He’s a strong point guard who can pretty much get to where he wants to on the floor, does a good job of scoring and setting up his teammates. So a very smart guard, normally does a good job of establishing the tempo for them.”
Pacers guard Victor Oladipo said Dragic has the ability to produce points for himself and his teammates.
“We definitely have to be ready to play and make sure we do a great job of trying to slow him down,” Oladipo said.
Dragic is averaging 17.1 points and 4.8 assists. Josh Richardson leads the team with a 20.1 average.
Defense was the difference for the Heat against the Nets.
“It has to be the way for this team,” Spoelstra said. “It’s hard hat, lunch pail every day and there is no other way.”
Spoelstra said he liked his team’s approach the last few days before the Brooklyn game.
“Those things don’t guarantee anything, but you try to build habits and guys really committed with the efforts, with their voices to make it tough,” he said.
Spoelstra said there was an effort to protect the 3-point line.
“We’ve been trying to do that all season and we’ve struggled sometimes and sometimes we look like this,” Spoelstra said. “I’m sure there is a little emotional feeling of not having (Caris) LeVert (injured Brooklyn guard), we know that as well as anybody, and we’ve gone through that quite a bit. But, they still have dangerous players and the way they play is a tough way to defend. You have to scramble, you have to protect the paint and you have to get out to the 3-point line and in many cases, two or three steps past that. For the most part our focus to do that was adequate.”
Heat guard Tyler Johnson scored 24 points off the bench against the Nets. Johnson hit 9 of 12 shots after shooting below 42 percent in the previous four games.
“We need him to be aggressive, too, off the bench,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve been able to insert him a little earlier in the game since Dwyane (Wade) is away and that’s kind of activated him and gotten him engaged quicker. He’s reading it as well because not every play is just to make to the rim, but the aggressiveness is important for us. It’s good for him to see the ball go in the rim because he’s putting the effort in.”
Wade will miss his seventh consecutive game on paternity leave.