Heat 118, Warriors 96
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—The Miami Heat are nearly “15 Strong” once again.
That was a scary number for the rest of the NBA last season, when they rode coach Pat Riley’s mantra of togetherness and tenacity to their first championship.
It’s proving tough to beat again this season—particularly when their opponents only have eight healthy players in uniform.
Dwyane Wade had 22 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and the Heat earned their first three-game winning streak of the season with a 118-96 victory over the injury-riddled Golden State Warriors on Friday night.
Jason Kapono scored 20 points and Alonzo Mourning had 19 for the defending champs, who dominated the third quarter on the way to their third straight victory in Oakland and their highest-scoring performance of the season.
The Heat are finding their stride in the middle of a tough road trip, and Wade believes it’s partly because all 15 players are together—traveling, working out and laughing—for the first time in months.
“It’s good to see guys coming back,” said Wade, who lacked explosiveness after turning his ankle early in Wednesday’s win over Seattle. “It’s good to see Shaq working out again. It’s good to see ‘Toine and Pose back. It’s way too early to tell, but it feels like some games of last season where we had that confidence. We’re getting that swagger back.”
With forwards Antoine Walker and James Posey back in uniform, Miami had more than enough offensive talent to overwhelm their third straight West Coast opponent. Jason Williams added 11 points and 12 assists as the Heat made nearly 53 percent of their shots and outrebounded Golden State 56-40.
Before the game, Miami confirmed Riley underwent hip replacement surgery Thursday. The Heat don’t know when he’ll return, or when Shaquille O’Neal will be back from torn cartilage in his left knee—but Walker and Posey returned against the Warriors after an embarrassing four-game deactivation for failing to meet the team’s fitness standards.
“It definitely felt good to be back,” Walker said. “We worked out pretty hard, so we had some consistency in our shots. … Hopefully we can get the ball rolling before the All-Star break here. Everybody is just trying to get back to the rhythm from last year.”
Baron Davis had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the beleaguered Warriors, who lost two more players to injuries in their fourth defeat in five games.
Starting forward Mickael Pietrus sprained his left ankle on the opening possession while guarding Wade, and seldom-used center Adonal Foyle sprained his right ankle in the second quarter, leaving Golden State with eight healthy players in uniform.
Davis made an unusual statement after the game, saying his mind wasn’t totally focused on basketball. He missed a practice last week to travel home to Los Angeles to deal with unspecified “personal issues.”
“I take full responsibility for where we’ve been headed as a ballclub, and a large part is mostly going through stuff I’d rather not talk about,” Davis said. “I’m not able to separate that from the court. It’s up to me to come back and work through things. … I have a job, and I have to give my teammates 100 percent of me, and I haven’t been doing that.”
Wade was effortlessly brilliant against the Warriors, delighting an otherwise unhappy crowd with a handful of impressive baskets, including 10 points in the third quarter. After jumping to a 10-point lead shortly after halftime, Miami made a 21-9 run and went ahead 93-71 on Walker’s 3-pointer with 52 seconds left in the third.
Wade got his ninth assist on Mourning’s basket with 1:15 left, but was pulled from the game before he got one last chance at his fourth career triple-double.
“I was not aware of that,” interim coach Ron Rothstein said. “(I) have far greater concerns than that.”
Rothstein sees a simple reason for the Heat’s surge in the five games since Riley left the bench.
“I think they probably got fed up and said, ‘Enough of this,”’ he said. “We haven’t changed hardly anything. It’s just doing what we do better.”
“I’m seeing the same things you’re seeing, and I agree with (the booing fans): It’s uuuuugly,” Warriors coach Don Nelson said. “Why? You can blame it on injuries, but the people who are getting opportunities aren’t producing as much as they should.”
Miami, 27th in the NBA in points per game, scored 113 in a win at New Jersey in November. … The Warriors must be grateful they’re done facing Miami this season. Ellis injured his shoulder during Oakland’s loss at Miami on Dec. 23, and guard Anthony Roberson sprained his ankle. … O’Neal has missed 29 straight games, and probably won’t return on this road trip.