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Heat, Dragic step up the pace in 126-115 victory over Suns

Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Basketball

So even with Waiters back after his two-game paternity leave, Spoelstra unveiled his sixth starting lineup of the season, opening with Justise Winslow at power forward, after Winslow had previously started on the wing amid Waiters' absence.

That had Okaro White again back out of the lineup and out of the rotation.

With Waiters back, he opened in the backcourt alongside Dragic, with Josh Richardson and Winslow at forward, the lineup rounded out by Whiteside at center.

Further adjustment was required when Richardson was called for his second foul midway through the opening period, leaving Wayne Ellington as the unexpected first reserve off the bench.

Richardson, who played in foul trouble, as did Waiters, was the lone Heat rotation player not to score in double figures, fouling out with four points and six rebounds.

The Heat opened the fourth quarter with an Ellington 3-pointer, a Kelly Olynyk dunk and a driving layup by James Johnson to move to a 101-86 lead.

The Suns drew within six in the third period before the Heat went into the fourth up 94-86, with Dragic already up to 27 points by that stage, surpassing his previous season high of 23.

Despite being outscored 33-27 in the second period, the Heat went into halftime up 69-54, thanks, in part, to a late 3-pointer from Waiters. The Heat shot 9 of 17 on 3-pointers in the first half, fueled over the 24 minutes by Dragic's 17 points.

The Heat led 36-27 at the end of the opening period, with Whiteside called for two fouls in the first quarter.

The game was the first game of a two-game season series that concludes March 5 at AmericanAirlines Arena.

When the Heat lost last season's visit it snapped a 12-game winning streak over the Suns, with the team's splitting last season's two games.

The Heat were coming off Monday's 97-80 loss to Golden State, when Whiteside was benched for all but the first 73 seconds of the second half.

The game was the second on a six-game homestand for the Suns, who entered on a three-game losing streak.

(c)2017 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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