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Five takeaways: Heat blow past Magic to get back to .500

Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 115-91 win over the Orlando Magic (14-18) on Sunday at Amway Center. It marked the Heat’s ninth victory over its past 12 games.

1. This is what happens when the Heat (16-16) pairs an efficient offense with its usually standout defense. A blowout win that extended Miami’s season-long winning streak to five.

Miami held its opponent under 100 points for the fifth consecutive game, with Orlando finishing with 91 points on 41.4 percent shooting. The Heat is now 10-1 this season when holding its opponent under 100 points.

Over this 9-3 stretch, the Heat has posted the fifth-best defensive rating in the league (allowing 102.8 points per 100 possessions) since Nov. 30. The defense has been there throughout this winning stretch.

“I think this was what we had expected early on,” guard Tyler Johnson said of the Heat’s defense. “So I think that was where a little bit of the frustration was coming because we knew how good a defensive team we could be with our length and how many guys we had who you could consider athletes. That’s what we were trying to build on first and foremost, and then now it’s just starting to click.”

The Heat’s offense hasn’t been as reliable, though. But Sunday was a good night for Miami, as it finished with its second-best single-game shooting percentage (50.6 percent) and three-point shooting percentage (51.6 percent) of the season.

The Heat actually posted its best single-game offensive rating of the season Sunday, scoring at a pace of 123.7 points per 100 possessions. The only other game Miami finished with an offensive rating in the 120s was its 120-111 home win over Portland on Oct. 27.

In other words, Sunday marked the Heat’s best offensive performance during this 12-game span of success.

Miami’s offense doesn’t need to play this well every night to win, but it would make things a lot easier if it could become a bit more efficient. The Heat still owns the league’s worst team shooting percentage at 43.2 percent and sixth-worst offensive rating, and has had to win games behind its defense and in spite of its offense at times.

On Sunday, Miami won because of its defense AND offense. That’s something the Heat needs more of.

2. It was a milestone night for the Heat.

First, Miami reached .500 for the first time since starting the season 5-5. This is an accomplishment, considering the Heat stood at 7-13 less than a month ago. Nine wins over the past 12 games dug Miami out of that hole.

By climbing to .500, the Heat stands at seventh in the Eastern Conference. Miami is one-half game ahead of No. 8 Detroit, and has the same record as No. 6 Charlotte but is behind the Hornets based on the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Heat is three games behind the fifth-place Celtics.

Second, the Heat found a way to defeat the Magic. This is also quite the accomplishment because it ended Miami’s three-game losing skid to Orlando. The Heat also entered with seven losses to the Magic in the teams’ previous nine meetings.

And finally, Sunday marked Erik Spoelstra’s 500th victory as a head coach (all with the Heat).

“It just lets me know that this was meant to be — the fact that we got to .500 the same day that coach Spo got to 500 wins,” Heat forward Justise Winslow said. “You can’t make that type of stuff up. The higher powers, the basketball gods, they were looking out for us today.”

Spoelstra became just the 13th head coach in NBA history to reach 500 wins with a single team and the eighth-fastest to achieve the feat with one team. According to Elias, the only other coaches to do so faster are Phil Jackson (twice), Pat Riley, Gregg Popovich, Jerry Sloan, Red Auerbach and Don Nelson.

“I’m humbled by that,” Spoelstra said of recording his 500th win. “It doesn’t even register as real to me right now. That’s why I’m just always so grateful for the Arison family and Pat [Riley] for giving me this opportunity. Pat has been a great mentor to me all these years.

“There have been a lot of low points, a lot of really incredible moments. But you don’t get to survive those low points if you don’t have great stability and belief of people above you. We’ve been able to weather a couple tough seasons and live to fight another day. So I’m always forever grateful for them.”

Three milestones in one win. That’s the way to enter a short Christmas break, with the Heat’s next game coming Wednesday against the Raptors at AmericanAirlines Arena.

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3. Tyler Johnson was on fire in the third quarter, and it was just a continuation of his best stretch of the season. Johnson scored 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field and 5-of-6 shooting from three-point range in the third period to help the Heat outscore the Magic 37-27 in the quarter. It marked Johnson’s second-highest scoring quarter in his career behind a 22-point third period that also came in Orlando on Dec. 30, 2017.

“He started out doing it all within the context of what we’re looking for, and then he just caught fire,” Spoelstra said of Johnson’s 20-point quarter. “At that point, we ran a couple things for him and he shot three or four that maybe he normally he wouldn’t.

“But when you got it going like that, you got to keep on striking while the iron is hot. He’s been staying with it and he’s been playing good basketball for close to a month now, and we’re just different when he’s aggressive, assertive, playing within himself. He’s so ignitable that it adds a much-needed element to our offense.”

Johnson finished Sunday’s win with a season-high in points (25) and a career-high in threes made (six), as he started in Rodney McGruder’s (stomach illness) place. After a slow start to the season, Johnson is averaging 16.6 points on 46.4 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent shooting on threes over his past five games.

4. Justise Winslow’s stat line was one of the most impressive of his season, and career. The Heat’s 22-year-old forward finished with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, six rebounds, five assists and four steals. Oh, and Winslow also ended the night with a team-best plus minus of plus-28.

“Extremely efficient,” Spoelstra said of Winslow’s stat line. “I just like the pace that he’s playing at right now. We’re giving him a lot of responsibility and he has that kind of personality. When he has more responsibility, he gets stimulated more and ends up playing at a higher level because of that. But he organizes us so well.

“It’s so needed with Goran [Dragic] out. It allows us to play [Josh Richardson] a little bit off the ball, as well. But the efficiency, only 12 shots and 20-plus points and five assists, six rebounds. That’s the type of floor game that he can bring.”

Spoelstra has made it clear that Winslow is the Heat’s starting point guard with Goran Dragic out, and he’s flashed his point guard potential with Dragic injured.

The assist-to-turnover ratio still needs to improve, as Winslow has totaled 37 assists to 20 turnovers over his past nine games. But he’s learning the appropriate pace to play with, and he’s finding his spots to score without hunting for shots.

On Sunday, Winslow scored at every level. He finished 5 of 7 in the paint, 1 of 1 in the mid-range and 3 of 4 on threes.

“That’s just the player that I know I’m capable of being and that our coaching staff and our teammates expect me to be every night,” Winslow said. “Whether my shot falls, I’m going to rebound, I’m going to make the right plays. Defensively, I’m going to be here every night.”

5. After finishing with more offensive rebounds than its opponent in 12 of the past 13 games entering Sunday, the Heat lost that battle 12-9 against the Magic. With Miami coming in as the league’s top offensive rebounding team over the previous 11 games, it’s been a key part to its winning formula.

But the Heat didn’t need the offensive rebounds Sunday, as Miami still finished with 15 more shot attempts than Orlando because of the Magic’s turnover issues. Orlando finished with 19 turnovers to help negate its second-chance opportunities, with Miami actually ending the night with a 12-11 edge in second-chance points.

It’s not like the Magic is a good offensive rebounding team, though. Orlando entered as the fourth-worst offensive rebounding team in the NBA (nine per game). But the Magic has turned in two of its best performances of the year on the offensive glass against the Heat, with a season-high 14 in a season-opening on Oct. 17 and 12 on Sunday.

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