Goran Dragic has been a dominant force so far in the 2020 Playoffs as the Heat swept the #4 seeded Indiana Pacers 4-0 in their first-round matchup.
Averaging 22.8 points, 5.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.3 steals in 34.2 minutes per game in Playoff action, the 34-year-old is leading the Heat in scoring whilst shooting an efficient 48.1% from the field and knocking down 41.4% of his 7.3 attempts per game from three-point range.
Crouching Tyler, Hidden Dragic
Dragic was restored to the starting backcourt in place of impressive rookie Kendrick Nunn who left the bubble ahead of the Playoffs for personal reasons. Since his return to the starting lineup, the Slovenian hasn’t looked back, repaying Eric Spoelstra’s faith tenfold.
Heavily rumored to be part of a trade to the Dallas Mavericks that would have landed Jimmy Butler in 2019 free agency, Dragic was reportedly close to being dealt away but ultimately stayed in Miami. Fast forward to the 2020 Playoffs and The Dragon has been back to his very best when the franchise needed him most.
The one-time All-Star’s ability to be a dual playmaker and shot-maker off the dribble was key for the Heat all series. Most notably in Game One’s 113-101 victory, Dragic scored 21 of his 24 points in the second half with a team-leading 14 points coming in the fourth quarter.
Following a similar pattern in Game Two, the Slovenian started slowly in the first half scoring just 4 points before heating up in the second half and posting 16 crucial points. Producing another team-leading fourth quarter performance, The Dragon added 8 clutch points as the Heat clinched a 109-100 victory.
Interestingly, in fourth quarter scoring for all starters in the 2020 Playoffs, Goran Dragic is third in the NBA at 9.5 points behind Donovan Mitchell (14.3) and Jamal Murray (10.3). Showcasing his ability to score important buckets, Dragic intriguingly sits above Kawhi Leonard (9.0), James Harden 8.0, and also notably Damian Lillard at 8.0.
Enter the Dragic
Game Three saw a much more aggressive Dragic from the tip as he came out looking for his shot in the first half, pouring in a game-leading 18 points on 7-10 shooting from the field and 4-6 shooting from three-point range. Playing a pivotal part in the Heat’s 74-point first half; the highest-scoring playoff half in franchise history.
Heavily active on both sides of the floor, Dragic finished with 24 points, 6 assists and 3 steals to round off yet another tremendous all-around playoff performance. Two of his three steals came in the fourth quarter with the most notable coming when Dragic stripped TJ Warren on a vital possession late in the closing moments.
As the Heat led 116-112 with 36.7 seconds left on the clock, the Slovenian was switched onto Warren at the top of the arc where he moved his feet well and poked the ball away to Jimmy Butler who broke and sunk two clutch free throws to extend the Heat lead to six points.
The Heat closed out Game Three 124-115 as Bam Adebayo, Butler, and Dragic made big plays down the stretch to extend the series lead to 3-0. Playing the joint-most minutes on the team (137) with Adebayo in the series, Dragic who isn’t known for his defense impressively has the best defensive rating (98.2) amongst his fellow Heat starters.
Dragic has performed at an All-Star level since his return to the starting line-up and is also blossoming in a leadership role. He is regularly seen providing on-court advice to the Heat’s key young guys like Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson. Now in his fifth season in Miami, Dragic has really bought into the infamous Heat Culture and the hard work is coming to fruition so far this postseason.
Game 4 reverted back to the play in the opening two games for Dragic, starting off slowly, shooting just 1-6 for 3 points in the first half. The 34-year-old once again shined in the second half, scoring 13 of his 20 second half points in the all-important fourth quarter. With Butler nursing a shoulder strain throughout the game, Dragic led from the front as the Heat completed the sweep defeating the Pacers 99-87.
Dragic led the entire series in total points scored with 91 ahead of Malcolm Brogdon (86), Warren (80), and Butler (79). Outscoring his two All-Star teammates, the former Phoenix Suns, and Houston Rockets player has executed impressively on both sides of the ball so far in these playoffs.
Nevertheless, If the Miami Heat are to shock the NBA universe and make a deep playoff run, they will need their wily veteran point guard to keep playing at a high level. Whilst you know the level of production Bam and Jimmy will give the Heat, Dragic will need to once again score consistently to give the Heat a fighting chance in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
Sports Journalism student at the University of Huddersfield. Student Press Officer for Bradford Dragons basketball.