UNC in the NBA: Wayne Ellington gets first start, leads Heat to victory

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 25: Wayne Ellington
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 25: Wayne Ellington /

Wayne Ellington’s hot shooting keeps Heat in win column

In his first start of the season, Miami Heat shooting guard Wayne Ellington did the exact same thing he’s been doing off the bench all season; hit three-pointers.

The veteran sharpshooter is having the best overall season of his career, scoring more points per game than at any point in his nine-year professional career. In fact, he’s averaged more points per game each month since the 2017-18 NBA season began in November.

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And on Saturday night, in a game-high 37 minutes, Ellington scored 26 points on a season-high 10-of-15 shooting from the floor, including 6-of-10 from three-point range. He added three assists and a steal, to just one turnover, in helping the Heat to their ninth victory in the last 11 games.

Ellington hit three fourth quarter threes that helped propel the Heat to a narrow 106-105 victory over Southeast rival Charlotte.

One of the league’s hottest teams, the surging Heat have passed the Washington Wizards for first place in the division and now sit at fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, just half a game behind the floundering Cleveland Cavaliers.

And through it all, Ellington has been a constant for the Heat.

He’s scoring from a variety of places on the court, but almost always from beyond the three-point line. He’s shooting 50 percent from inside the arc this season, but has put up just 66 such shots. His 137 made three-pointers, though, are third best in the league behind only Klay Thompson and James Harden.

The former Tar Heel has made just 12 fewer three-pointers than he did all last season, though he’s attempted 60 less shots to this point. And he’s on pace to average more points and minutes per game than in any of his eight previous seasons in the NBA.

Ellington’s two-year contract, worth just north of $6 million per year, has obviously paid off for Pat Riley and the Heat. And it’s safe to assume that after outperforming his current contract, he’ll likely be due for a nice payday in the summer of 2018.