Miami Heat: Goran Dragic is bringing his inner Steve Nash out in playoffs

Goran Dragic #7 of the Miami Heat shoots around Doug McDermott #20 of the Indiana Pacers(Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)
Goran Dragic #7 of the Miami Heat shoots around Doug McDermott #20 of the Indiana Pacers(Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images) /

Remember when Goran Dragic played behind Steve Nash years ago? He’s reminding us of that with his efforts in the playoffs for the Miami Heat. 

The biggest development for the Miami Heat this season has come at its end and into playoffs. Goran Dragic is a quality starter, and he’s absolutely balling since they arrived in Orlando.

After spending 56 of 59 games coming off the pine for Miami, Dragic was promoted to the starting lineup, with Kendrick Nunn unavailable due to a positive test for COVID-19. It might possibly be the best lineup decision coach Erik Spoelstra has made all season.

In their five playoff games, Dragic is averaging 23.6 points, 5 assists, and 1.2 steals per game on a 50/41/73 shooting split. The Heat are undefeated in the postseason thus far, coming off of a Game 1 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks after sweeping the Indiana Pacers in the first round.

Jimmy Butler’s playing like his superstar self. Bam Adebayo may have been the most versatile big inside the bubble thus far. And Miami’s shooters are doing just that and scoring too. But it’s Dragic’s play and contributions that’s pushing this team over the top of their competition.

The point guard hasn’t refined his game though, no, he’s just taking a page out of a long book. That of his former point guard mentor Steve Nash. Dragic played behind the Hall of Famer for a few seasons as a member of the Phoenix Suns, and still considers him a mentor.

Nash is a former eight-time All-Star, seven-time All-NBA, and two time MVP. He was a phenomenal scorer, even better passer, and a career 43-percent shooter from deep.

Yet while he’s often associated with that impressive shooting mark, most of Nash’s scoring presence took place inside the three-point line. He was a master of penetration, seemingly always finding the only open window in the paint with access to the cup.

We’ve seen a lot (more) of that with Dragic this postseason. Miami’s shooting arsenal has allowed for the veteran guard to look into other scoring opportunities, and he’s thriving in the paint. Dragic is shooting 63 percent on attempts within three feet of the basket in the playoffs.

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From floaters to layups off of the glass, the 12-year veteran’s scoring has seen a renaissance here inside the bubble, and especially within the Miami Heat’s five playoff games.

It’s quite well represented in this video capturing his 19-point first half in Game 1:

And it’s not to say that Dragic hasn’t been shooting threes. Quite the opposite. He’s actually taking more shots from behind the arc in the playoffs (6.8) than he did in the regular season (5.7).

Yet that play inside the paint is primarily what fueled Miami to a Game 1 victory over Milwaukee. The Bucks have one of the best defenses in the NBA, and the Heat still managed to score 42 of 115 points in the paint, thanks to Butler and Dragic’s efforts.

But it’s not just his play that is paying tribute to Nash. Dragic has also been a key voice in the Heat locker room all season long, and that’s continued inside their quarantine inside Orlando.

In a recent interview with Joe Beguiristain, writer for the Miami Heat, the point guard was asked if he’d taken any of the younger guys under his wing:

"“All of them. Maybe in the last few names, a little bit more Tyler because he’s playing more minutes. And I even talked to K. Nunn. I told him, ‘I know that it’s hard for you. You’re not playing, but trust me, we’re going to need you for something. Even a play. If nothing this series versus Indiana, the next one.’ And I just want to be there for those guys.”"

Rookie Tyler Herro has seen an increased role in the postseason. And Nunn had been the team’s starter ahead of Dragic in the regular season but has seen little to no run in these playoffs.

The Dragon is a locker room presence similar to those like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, or the OG, Udonis Haslem. He credited those guys, along with Nash, for his current leadership role:

"“For me that was Steve Nash when I came to the league. And then after that, like I mentioned, all those three guys when I came to the Miami Heat Culture was D. Wade, CB and UD. UD is still that guy even now.”"

Steve Nash is still leading Goran Dragic, even retired and with the point guard in his 12th NBA season. And it’s paying off big time for the Miami Heat in their postseason run.

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The Miami Heat are buzzing after their Game 1 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, but know they’ve got a long way to go before they’re finished with this series. Game 2 is scheduled for Wednesday night, with tip-off slated for 6:30 pm est. Coverage will be provided by ESPN.