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Dragic scores 23 in Heat’s victory

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Updated 10 months ago on
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MIAMI — It took Goran Dragic until his second game with his new team, but the point guard is now adjusted to the Miami Heat.

Dragic had 23 points and a game-high 10 assists to lead the Miami Heat past the Philadelphia 76ers 119-108 Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“He’s got a battery on him,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Dragic. “Once he gets the ball in his hands, he is taking off. That pulls everybody with him.

“Guys see they are going to get easy opportunities if they run with him. And even in half-court, he has an uncanny ability to collapse the defense.”

Dragic, who made third-team All-NBA last year, struggled mightily in his Heat debut on Saturday night against New Orleans. He had no points and no assists in the first half of that game.

But he was much better on Monday, and his play was a big reason why Heat forward Luol Deng had a game-high 29 points.

“I think (Dragic) is going to help us a lot,” said Deng, who made 11 of 14 shots, including four of five on 3-pointers. “He’s a very smart player — he sees things. We got maybe 10 (extra) points by just what he saw on the floor and us communicating.”

Helped by Dragic and Deng, Miami (24-31) posted a season high in points in an unexpectedly high-scoring game.

Philadelphia (12-44) scored more than 100 points for just the third time in 33 games. Entering Monday, they were two of the three lowest-scoring teams in the NBA — Miami 28th at 93.1 per game and Philadelphia last at 90.1.

Neither team struggled for points against each other, especially in the first half, when they combined to score 123.

Miami shot 55.4 percent from the floor, while Philadelphia hit 47.6 percent of its field-goal attempts.

Heat guard Dwyane Wade had 18 points, and center Hassan Whiteside contributed 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Philadelphia, which lost its 10th consecutive road game, was led by reserve shooting guard Hollis Thompson (season-high 22 points).

However, 76ers Coach Brett Brown was angry with his defense.

“That’s not even close to who we are,” he said of the effort. “You are not beating anyone giving up (119) points.”

Besides Thompson, a 76ers bright spot was the play of center Nerlens Noel, who had 18 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.

Noel said he thought all the trades the 76ers have made this season — they have started 16 different players and used 24 different starting lineups — have taken a toll on defensive communication.

“I see a lot of new guys,” he said. “I think some of our new guys have to get into better shape.”

At the half, the Heat led 61-60. Miami shot 60 percent for the first half; Philadelphia shot 52.2 percent. There were 14 lead changes and eight tie scores in the first half.

Miami finally extended its advantage in the third quarter, taking a 91-79 lead. Dragic scored 11 points in the quarter to spark the Heat, and Miami was never seriously challenged in the fourth.

Miami led early, gaining a 32-31 advantage after the first quarter. Small forward Henry Walker, who went by Bill Walker when he last played in the NBA three years ago, made a sparkling debut for the Heat.

Walker, the first player off the Miami bench, had eight points in the first quarter, hitting two 3-pointers and faking a shot before driving in for a one-handed dunk. Walker finished the game with 11 points, but he sat out the second half after he was elbowed above his right eye, requiring nine stitches.

Spoelstra said the fact that Walker had played for the Heat’s D-League team in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the past two years helped. Spoelstra also said he is in touch with the coaches at Sioux Falls on a daily basis.

“He’s a shooter,” Spoelstra said of Walker, who made three of four 3-point attempts. “I’m not saying he’s going to knock down those threes all the time.

“You are seeing the benefit of a true minor-league system now. We’ve gotten to know (Walker) very well, the scouting reports, what type of player he is and how he would fit.”

NOTES: Miami is 8-0 when F Luol Deng scores 20 or more points. … Philadelphia SF Jerami Grant (back) did not play after getting hurt Sunday at Orlando. … 76ers SG Jason Richardson (left knee contusion) also did not play. … PG Goran Dragic is expected to re-sign with Miami after this season because the Heat can offer as much as five years and $100 million. However, reports have surfaced that the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, who can each offer $80 million over four years, will get serious consideration from Dragic. … F Henry Sims is the only 76ers player to appear in every game this season. … Philadelphia is 0-35 this season when the opponent has a higher shooting percentage. … Up next, Philadelphia plays at Milwaukee on Wednesday. … Miami is at Orlando on Wednesday.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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