Heat

The Dragon Catching Fire at the Right Time

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Ahead of the rematch with the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, Miami’s Goran Dragic has found his form as of late.

After a rollercoaster of a season, Dragic is flashing his potential that we saw in 2020’s playoffs. After the news of Victor Oladipo having season-ending surgery, Dragic is going to be leaned on more than expected for the Heat’s playoff run. How has the Dragon’s season gone, and what is expected of him in this year’s postseason?

A Hot Start (Games 1-14)

When The Dragon went down in Game 1 of last year’s Finals, he suffered a torn plantar fascia that would require offseason surgery. He was able to recover in time for this season, and started it relatively well for his role as the sixth man. Over the first 14 games, Dragic seemed to pick up where he left off.

Obviously, as a 35-year-old veteran coming off an injury, it was expected that he would have a backseat role. Clearly this wasn’t true, and Dragic lit it up. The Slovenian point guard was averaging 15.9 points (48% FG, 37% 3PT) and 5.3 assists per game.

https://twitter.com/ESPNNBA/status/1342531652031934464?s=20

Before his two-month slump that was filled with injuries and lesser play than what was expected of him, Dragic still showed us that he had gas in the tank and that his foot wasn’t going to bother him.

The Slump (Games 15-35)

From February 1 to April 13, Dragic played 21 games but missed 14 due to a myriad of ankle and back injuries. He played three games in a row, then sat out nine. He played 11 straight, then sat out fourt. During this time, the Heat were struggling mightily with injuries and health-and-safety protocols, so Dragic may have been playing at less than 100%, as reflected in his averages.

  • 11.1 points
  • 3.9 assists
  • 3.7 rebounds
  • 39.7% FG
  • 30.5% 3PT

As seen by this tweet below, Dragic was ranked under Max Strus and just above Precious Achiuwa. While 11.1 points per game isn’t terrible, these aren’t good numbers for someone of Dragic’s consistency, and someone who just came off one of the great playoff runs in Heat history.

We knew this wouldn’t last for long, but it took a season-ending injury to his teammate for his production to increase.

Returning to Form When The Heat Need Him Most (Games 36-50)

When the Heat acquired Victor Oladipo, many (like me) thought that Dragic and Tyler Herro would split the fourth and fifth scoring option. When Oladipo went down on April 8, Dragic began to pick up his game that we all knew he had. Since April 16, Dragic has been putting up numbers that are similar to his playoff performance last year.

  • 14.3 points
  • 4.5 assists
  • 3.6 rebounds
  • 43.8% FG
  • 44.4% 3PT

Much better.

The return to form could not have come at a better time. The Heat began slipping and started to drop winnable games. If the Heat continued to lose these games, the team could’ve been in the play-in tournament, something most teams dread. No team wants to play 72 games and have one game end your season. Thanks to Dragic’s help, the Heat avoided the play-in and locked in the No. 6 seed.

https://twitter.com/NBALatam/status/1392298293124870147?s=20

Going Forward

The Heat are going to be leaning on Dragic like they did in last year’s playoff run. Let’s look at last year’s statistics as an example.

Dragic led the Heat in scoring during the first three rounds at 20.9 points per game on an outstanding 45.2% from the field. When he went down, the Heat felt his loss. During the first three rounds of the playoffs, the Heat as a team averaged 112.2 points per game. In the Finals, the team averaged just 104.5.

Similarly to last season, Dragic was used as the Heat’s sixth man throughout the regular season. Despite this, Dragic started every playoff game for the Heat last season, and I expect the same for him during this title run.

While it’s hard to imagine him to be the Heat’s leading scorer in the playoffs again, he should be the third option, but don’t be surprised if he outscores Jimmy and/or Bam. Dragic destroyed the Bucks during last year’s matchup. Over the five-game series, Dragic posted 19.8 points per game on 43.8% from the field.

If the Heat take down the Bucks, Dragic will surely be a reason why.

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