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Heat’s Delon Wright embraces being on the right side of meaningful basketball

PORTLAND, Ore. — This was more than getting the start in his first game with the Miami Heat.

For Delon Wright, Monday night in Sacramento was about living the complete Heat experience, the one that had left him envious as an outsider.

In closing with 13 points, five assists, two rebounds, two steals, a blocked shot and no turnovers in going 35:20 in Monday night’s 121-110 victory over the Kings at Golden 1 Center, Wright in many ways found himself in the envious position of Miami Heat next man up.

“Going against the Heat over the years, I already knew what to expect,” the 31-year-old veteran guard said. “It’s always the next man up. Whenever we played the Heat and they had guys out, the next person stepped up, and they still played the same brand of basketball.

“I just knew that me, coming in, I was just going to try to continue doing that and just play good team basketball.”

He did.

When needed most.

With Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, Terry Rozier, Nikola Jovic and Josh Richardson among those unavailable for the Heat in Sacramento.

Having been dropped from the rotation of the lottery-bound, rebuilding Washington Wizards, Wright found the most meaningful of minutes in his Heat debut.

Exhausting minutes.

But also gratifying minutes.

“My first game that I really got real minutes in about a month,” he said, with the Heat turning their attention to Tuesday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center, the third stop on the four-game trip that concludes Thursday night against the Denver Nuggets. “So I just wanted to come in and play how I know how to play — take care of the ball, play good defense, get deflections, and then I knew the rest was going to take care of itself.

“My teammates found me for some open threes. That kind of opened up the game for me once I saw a few go in.”

Along the way, the 6-foot-5 combo guard developed a better sense of where the ball needed to go, particularly as the Kings trimmed a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit down to two with 3:42 to play.

“The player of the game for us in the locker room was Delon,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I don’t think his stat line was spectacular (to) people probably on the outside. But, man, he plays winning basketball.

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“He guards. Offensively, he just has a great knack for knowing how to make the right play — 35 minutes, didn’t turn the ball over, and made some big plays. The threes, but also the playmaking and the free throws down the stretch were really important.”

After leading the Heat with 28 points in the victory in Sacramento, center Bam Adebayo found it the perfect night for Wright’s first with the team.

“We really welcomed D-Wright to Heat Culture,” Adebayo said.

“I was being in his ear, telling him to be aggressive, make plays, ‘We didn’t bring you here for nothing. And take advantage of your opportunity.’ I told him from the get-go, ‘Take advantage of your responsibility.’ ”

The flip side

On one hand, Duncan Robinson endured a miserable 1-of-11 night from the field in Sacramento that included 0-for-6 3-point shooting (the rest of his teammates were 11 of 24).

On the other hand, the Heat guard passed for a career-best 11 assists against the Kings, matching the most by a Heat player this season, with Butler and Adebayo also having had 11-assist games.

“Having an increased responsibility just being in actions and stuff,” Robinson said of the assist output. “So 1 for 11 is nasty work, but just try to find a way to impact the game. A lot of it was guys making shots, as well, which a lot of guys stepped up.”

Respects paid

Kings coach Mike Brown paid tribute to the Heat’s culture, while also acknowledging it is not as simple as asking his own team to replicate.

“No, you can’t. You can’t replicate it,” he said. “You got to have your own culture. In my opinion, it’s hard to do the same thing that somebody else is doing. But the reality of it is, from top to bottom, they believe in toughness, and they believe in playing hard and playing the right way.

“They’re not looking at offensive numbers. They’re looking at defensive numbers, how you compete and how tough you are and then they’re trying to develop those type of players and put them on the floor.”

He then credited Heat President Pat Riley and Spoelstra.

“They don’t care what they shoot from the 3, they don’t care how many points they score,” Brown said. “It’s all about playing the right way, playing with toughness, support your teammates, and that’s what, in my opinion, from outside looking in, that’s what that’s built on.”