The Miami Heat have mostly been a mess this season. An already janky roster has suffered injuries everywhere, and only a truly monster season from Hassan Whiteside and a few splendid Goran Dragic games have kept the Heat from having perhaps the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Oh, and also James Johnson.
Johnson is the sort of bench player who essentially plays pickup basketball but in the NBA. Sometimes he gets hot and looks like he could be a valuable rotation piece, other times he doesn’t and may not see the floor for weeks. He also consistently brings dunks, for whatever that’s worth. He’s something like Michael Beasley with the craziness gene pointing a bit more in the right direction.
The Heat are currently on a weeklong Western Conference road trip, that took them through Denver and Utah and will bring them to Portland this weekend. It would be a grueling swing even if the Heat didn’t have to leave Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, and Dion Waiters at home with various injuries, robbing the Heat of a few of their best scorers (as sad as that reality is) and probably their best defender.
But lo and behold, they’re 2-o so far on this little trip, winning in Denver and then beating the Jazz last night, thanks to a huge game from Johnson, the highlights of which you see above. Johnson finished with 24 points in 24 smoking hot minutes, and if you had watched the game without knowing too much about basketball you might have assumed he was one of the best, most versatile players in the NBA.
He posted up Joe Johnson down low, he hit turnaround fadeaways, he drove to the basket, he hit threes, he scored on the fast break. He also jammed a dunk right on Rudy Gobert’s head to put the Heat up 111-108, a bucket that would turn out to be decisive.
There will probably be no reason to watch much of the Heat this year, but James Johnson—who hit his 20th and 21st three pointers of the season, despite only having a career high of 22 in any other season—may have some games where he tricks you into thinking you’re really missing out on something special.