Heat SG Waiters on a roll entering tilt with Nets (Jan 25, 2017)

BY AP • January 24, 2017

NEW YORK -- For Dion Waiters, his last two games resulted in the best scoring nights of his career.

For the Miami Heat, those productive nights led to something more important -- wins.

And because of Waiters, the Heat take a season-high four-game winning streak into their visit to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

Waiters is third on the team in points per game at 14.6 and is shooting 40.3 percent after finishing under 40 percent in the previous two games. Despite his low shooting percentage, Waiters is rolling recently.

Since returning from a groin injury earlier this month, Waiters is averaging 15.2 points and shooting 43.9 percent and it includes a 41.0 percent mark on 3-pointers.

The Heat dropped 15 of the 20 games he missed but are 5-4 since he returned. They start a stretch of five games in seven nights after Waiters scored 33 points and hit the game-winning 3-pointer from the top of the key with six-tenths of a second remaining against the Golden State Warriors on Monday night.

Waiters' shot over Klay Thompson gave Miami a stunning 105-102 home win. It capped a night when he made 13 of 20 shots, including six 3-pointers.

"These are the moments you want to live for, especially against a great team like that," Waiters said. "I'm in a zone right now."

Waiters has recorded two of his five career 30-point games in the last week. Before Monday, he helped the Heat knock off Milwaukee on Saturday by shooting 12-of-19 and hitting five 3-pointers.

"He's not scared," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He wants those moments as much as anybody. He's been pestering me on those kind of deals, wanting those opportunities in the fourth quarter. He and I go at it all the time."

Waiters does not have a 30-point game against the Nets but two of his 20 games with at least 25 points occurred in Brooklyn. On Dec. 8, 2014 while still playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he scored 26 on 11-of-21 shooting in a 110-88 rout and that occurred after he also scored 26 points in an 89-82 loss on Jan. 4, 2014.

The Heat still have a ways to go to get closer to the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference but are gaining more confidence after sweeping a four-game homestand and doing so with three wins by six points or less.

Injuries are a major storyline in Miami's first season without Dwyane Wade since 2002-03 and Tyler Johnson will miss at least the next two games with a strained left shoulder. Johnson missed the last two games and the timing is even worse since he scored 23 against Dallas last Thursday, is averaging 16.7 points in his last seven games and a career-best 14.2 this season after the Heat matched Brooklyn's offer sheet in free agency last summer.

The Heat are on the modest roll the Nets have been seeking all year. Brooklyn snapped an 11-game losing streak by scoring 143 points Friday in New Orleans but the follow ups were a seven-point loss at Charlotte Saturday and a 112-86 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.

Brooklyn's last home win occurred Dec. 26 when Randy Foye's buzzer-beater knocked off Charlotte. Since then, the Nets are 1-13 and have dropped eight straight at home.

The loss occurred hours after the team announced Jeremy Lin experienced a setback in his recovery from a strained left hamstring. Lin will be out for three to five weeks and the deflating news seemed to carry over to the court as the Nets set a season low in points, tied a season-worst by making five 3-pointers and finished with 14 assists, their second-lowest total of the year.

It resulted in Brooklyn's 22nd double-digit loss of the season and also kept them winless in 15 games when scoring under 100 points.

"For whatever reason, we didn't come up with the energy," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. "We usually bring that. (On Monday), we didn't bring it, and I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed for the fans. Our fans are unbelievable, the way they support us. I just ask for patience, and we'll keep working at it, and we'll try to get better."

One player who may getting better is Isaiah Whitehead, who scored a career-high 19 points. He is getting more playing time than expected due to Lin's lengthy absence as is point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who scored 13 in his sixth straight start.

Still, improved offense from young players wasn't enough when the Nets fall short in many other components.

"We just didn't come out with a lot of energy like we did playing the last two games," Whitehead said. "So we've just got to refocus and get ready for the next game."

The Nets played without rookie Caris LeVert on Monday as he rested after playing 23 straight games following his return from foot injuries Dec. 7. He is averaging 9.4 points and shooting 52.9 percent in his last 11 games and will return Wednesday.

Since the Nets swept the four-game regular season series in 2013-14, Miami is 7-1 in the eight regular-season meetings. Including its victory in the 2014 Eastern Conference semifinals, Miami 11-2 in the last 13 meetings.



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