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Digging deeper on Goran Dragic after win vs. Rockets

Manny Navarro wrote the recap of the Heat's remarkable turnaround Sunday night against Houston, trailing by 21 and winning by 20.

The win was closed out by a rather unusual combination, with Mario Chalmers and Tyler Johnson in the backcourt, Dwyane Wade at small forward, Justise Winslow at power and Hassan Whiteside -- who was exceptional on both ends -- and then Chris Bosh handling the center spot against the undermanned, undersized Rockets. 

It wasn't a surprise to see Luol Deng sitting. That may happen fairly often down the stretch this season, if the Heat need younger legs (Winslow) or more long-range shooting (Gerald Green).

It was notable, however, not to see Goran Dragic on the floor for the final 15:47.

Dragic played 24 minutes before coming out for good, with 8 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 fouls, 1 turnover, and a minus-6. He shot 3-of-7 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line. For the season, he's averaging 9.5 points, 6.0 assists and just 1.0 turnovers, and shooting 42.2 percent from the field. On their own, those numbers wouldn't be especially concerning, but they follow a preseason in which he didn't shoot especially well, and frequently looked uncomfortable in the Heat's halfcourt offense. 

Dragic said he was encouraged that, on Friday against Cleveland, he got into the paint 12 times, and felt that continued Sunday. "I penetrated a couple of times and got good looks for other guys," he said. "And yeah, when you get inside the paint, it opens up for everybody, to get open shots."

When asked what changed, Dragic had a revealing answer: "No, it's just, I think the system is like that. You cannot go that many times. You need to be patient.... Even in pick-and-rolls, it's kind of hard, because I don't have so many possessions. But, you know, that's all good. I mean, we're winning. D-Wade and Hassan (Whiteside), they have great chemistry, so make those two guys make decisions." 

For the record, Dragic led the team in touches Sunday, one more than Whiteside and two more than Wade, though some of those came on inbounds plays, not deep into a possession.

Dragic is right about this: Wade and Whiteside do have outstanding pick-and-roll chemistry, largely because Wade is comfortable feeding a big man after so much experience playing with Shaquille O'Neal. 

Dragic's chemistry with everyone remains a work-in-progress, especially with the Heat's two holdover stars. According to SportVU, he came into Sunday's game with more assists to Luol Deng (4) than either Wade (3) or Chris Bosh (2), though he'd actually made more passes to Bosh (40) and Wade (37), as compared to Deng (14). It just hasn't led to as much production... at least so far. 

It's clear that he's still figuring things out, trying to find a niche in the context of what Miami's doing offensively -- and some of that overthinking may be leading to missed layups (quite unusual for him) and clanked jumpers (a little more common).

And while he's in that uneasy state, it's OK if Erik Spoelstra figures out some alternatives.




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