The Miami Heat defeated the Suns in Phoenix for sixth straight time last night despite the being without Dywane Wade, who missed his 14th game this season due to debilitating migraines.
Toney Douglas got the nod to be his stand-in for the night, ahead of Roger Mason Jr and James Jones, but did he do enough to impress coach Erik Spoelstra in his first audition for the “Mike Miller role” and become Wade’s full time replacement?
In a nutshell, no … but he did make a solid case for himself.
Starting for the first time in two years, the fifth-year guard out of Florida State had a rough night shooting the ball as he made just two of his nine shot attempts (one of four from 3-point range) to finish with a total of five points in 15 minutes of action. However on the defensive end is where he left his mark and will ultimately earn himself some brownie points.
Going up against Goran Dragic, Toney Douglas was certainly in for a tough night, but held his own.
The “Dragon” had been on a bit of hot streak lately, averaging 27 points in the past seven games, in addition to being one of three players (the other two being Most Valuable Player front-runners, LeBron James and Kevin Durant) to put up at least 20 points and shoot 50 percent from the field, while finding teammates for five assists. Yet Tuesday night he was kept in check with 15 points and only four baskets from 12 shots.
Granted Miami’s team defense overall was a key factor in limiting the Dragon, but Douglas set the tone with great individual defense. Whenever Dragic was in possession of the ball, the Miami Heat guard was stuck to him like white on rice and he didn’t give him much room to operate, forcing him to give up the ball right from the tip-off.
That kind of intense, harassing play will no doubt endear him to Erik Spoelstra who loves players that do the dirty work, and he knows it.
“Regardless of who I’m guarding, I play ‘D,’ I pick up, I pressure the ball,” Douglas said. “That’s what I do. It’s just in me. That’s been my mark since I was in college.”
If he can up his performance on the offense end, especially 3 point shooting, then that will be a bonus for the defending champions. Then again, this was the first time he had received any significant minutes in his fourth game as a member of the Miami Heat having amassed less than three minutes prior to last night.
Also, he is a career 35 percent shooter from long range, therefore teams have to respect his shooting ability, regardless of his current slump – averaging a 31 percent conversion rate in 2013-14.
Nonetheless, he is confident he will be contributing on both ends soon enough.
“I learn quickly,” he said. “So, I just get better every day and compete in practice and in games when I’m out there on the floor.”
Plus, keeping him on the floor as Wade’s backup would allow Coach Spo to keep his rotations the same (i.e. bringing Ray Allen off the bench), as well as give him a player that is both a threat on offense and great defensively, unlike Roger Mason Jr or James Jones.