It was only an NBA Summer League game, but Justise Winslow showed his Miami Heat coaches something in the highs and lows of the final 7.5 seconds of Sunday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.
With the score tied, Winslow had the ball and was fouled with 7.5 seconds left. He made one of two free throws for a 69-68 lead.
Then the player he was guarding, Jonathan Simmons, got past him and was fouled with four-tenths of a second left; he made both free throws for a 70-69 Nets lead.
But Winslow came through in the end, with the ball advancing to the front court and the former Duke standout delivering a perfect inbounds pass close to the basket, where guard Tyler Johnson caught it and quickly shot the winning basket for a 71-70 victory.
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Meaningless and meaningful, all at the same time.
“I told the guys, ‘Winners find a way to win,’ and that’s a phrase the staff uses a lot,” said Heat assistant Dan Craig, serving as head coach for the summer league. “Justise missed three free throws, stayed with it and made the last free throw. Then you make the game-winning assist. He couldn’t have put that pass in a better spot for Tyler to finish. As a rookie, that’s a tremendous job just staying with it.”
Winslow has made a promising debut, leading the Heat to a 3-0 start after being the No. 10 overall pick in the draft. He had 15 points in Saturday’s opener, then 14 in Sunday’s win, with five rebounds and four assists.
“Everybody did their part, and it took everybody to execute it,” Winslow said of the winning play. “It’s great to just win. To win in that fashion, everybody came together and it really paid off, so it’s great to share a moment like that early in our careers.”
For Winslow, it was a chance to show his NBA game will be much more than just scoring – he missed all five 3-pointers he attempted, finished just 3-of-10 from the field. With Duke as a freshman, he was the only player on the national championship team to finish among the team’s top three in scoring, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals.
“My game is way more than about if my shot is on,” the 19-year-old said. “It’s rebounding, defense, making plays for my teammates. My shot wasn’t falling so I had to find other ways to affect the game, and I felt like I did that.”
Winslow is one of the biggest names among the nine teams playing in Orlando – he has enjoyed facing other first-rounders, like the Pacers’ Myles Turner, whom the Heat played Saturday, and Brooklyn’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who fouled Winslow to set up his final free throws Sunday.
On Monday, he faced another rival and friend in former Arizona standout Stanley Johnson, the No. 8 overall pick for the Pistons. The two have played on and off since sixth grade, and beyond that, Winslow wants to improve himself by playing against the best. Winslow had 17 points Monday in a close Heat victory, with Johnson scoring 14.
“The competitors that we are, we’ve always wanted to play against the top competition,” Winslow said. “He’s a great player and I want to play against the best.”