The Miami Heat kept things on the right track with a 97-91 home victory over the Chicago Bulls. The win puts Erik Spolestra's club within one game of .500 at 3-4. Hassan Whiteside, the Heat's 7' Center, returned to action after missing the last five games with an injury. His performance was striking evidence that his team is a different unit without him. The Heat built a large lead in the first half before a third-quarter full of miscues and fouls put the game in jeopardy for them. It was the play of Tyler Johnson that was key in rebuilding the Miami momentum, putting the Heat in position to win on Coach Spolestra’s 47th birthday.

Here are three big things we noticed in last night’s game.

The Importance of Being Whiteside

Hassan Whiteside’s size and rebounding ability brought a crucial dynamic to the Heat offense. It was a skill set sorely missed after the hulking center went down with a knee injury in the season opener against the Orlando Magic. Attempts to fill the void with different bigs like Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk yielded some success, but the relative inexperience of those guys came with its issues. When Whiteside returned Wednesday Night for 26 minutes of action against the Bulls, the rebounding was reignited. The center had 14 boards to go with 13 points. The low point of his showing according to the Miami Sun-Sentinel was his quick tiring.

It was after his exit from the game that the mistakes among teammates began reappearing. However, the sharpening they receive in Whiteside’s absences will correct those errors.

Goran Dragic, Mr. Clutch

Point Guard Goran Dragic was the Heat’s leading scorer, with 20 points, five rebounds, and six assists. The Sun-Sentinel quotes Coach Spolestra as saying of the Slovenian import; “He just finds a way, It’s uncanny.” In Miami’s first several games, Dragic has averaged 19.8 points and 3.8 rebounds, and usually receives a healthy dose of minutes.

Dragic played in the Chicago game despite nursing an illness that the Sun says kept him out of practice Tuesday. This is a key example of his tenacity.

The Youth Movement

Young players like Tyler Johnson and Adebayo contributed heavily to the Heat’s triumph. Johnson went 5-12 from the floor for 19 points during 34 second-half minutes according to ESPN stats.

Adebayo had four points in fourteen minutes but matched his scoring with rebounds. These players are examples of those who learn as they go. The turnovers were still excessive but not the point of previous games, and they seemed to find a way to make things happen down the stretch. The Heat will want to point to their strengths as they try to improve over a six-game road trip.

Going forward

The heat will play six straight on the road, beginning on Friday with the Denver Nuggets, who are currently 4-4. That game is slated for a 9 PM Eastern time tip on Fox Sports Sun. The Nuggets boast players such as Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap, and the Heat will want to keep everyone healthy for that one.