Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 114-113 win over the Atlanta Hawks (22-43) on Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena …
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1. The Heat (29-34) finally found a way to beat the Hawks. In the process, Miami moved closer to a playoff spot.
The Hawks won the first three games of the season series against the Heat by a combined total of 31 points. And Atlanta didn’t make it easy on Monday either, with the game including 12 lead changes and four ties.
“I’m actually pleased that we got the outcome, but that we were forced to go through a game like this,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “This is better than any two-hour film session we can go through, any kind of hour-and-a-half practice. It exhibited how important every single possession is. … I think it’s a great opportunity for us to grow from this. Plus, that team for us is a nightmare and our guys knew that. So it was a very competitive game and we were able to get the result and all the teaching points that we want from that, and we’ll just keep moving forward.”
The Heat found a way to hold on for the one-point win in a back-and-forth game that included a season-high 21 points from 42-year-old Vince Carter and 14 fourth-quarter points from 37-year-old Dwyane Wade.
“We took this game personal. We were 0-3 against them,” Heat point guard Justise Winslow said. “You never want to get swept, especially by a team in your division. So we went out there tonight and we took this one extremely personal.
With the victory, the Heat moved closer to regaining a playoff spot.
Miami, which remains in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, is now just percentage points behind the eighth and final playoff spot occupied by Orlando. The Heat has the same record as the ninth-place Hornets, but is behind Charlotte based on the head-to-head tiebreaker.
That sets up a critical matchup between the Heat and Hornets on Wednesday in Charlotte. The Hornets have won the first two games of the season series.
“I love the big stage,” Winslow said. “A tiebreaker seems like a pretty big stage, so I’m excited for Wednesday. I remember playing them my rookie year in the playoffs.”
2. Hassan Whiteside returned after missing three games with a strained left hip. But he returned to play off the bench for the first time since signing his four-year, $98 million contract in the summer of 2016.
Whiteside, who last played as a reserve on April 8, 2016, finished with four points on 2-of-3 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists and three turnovers in 15:14 of action.
Spoelstra used Whiteside as the fifth player off the Heat’s bench, behind Wade, Derrick Jones Jr., Rodney McGruder and Udonis Haslem. James Johnson received his second consecutive DNP-coach’s decision after returning from a four-game absence due to a slight AC sprain in left shoulder.
“We’re playing good basketball right now,” Spoelstra said when asked about his decision to play Whiteside off the bench. “Bringing guys back from injury, it’s not about any of that right now. It’s just about production and let’s keep this train moving forward. That’s it. When Goran [Dragic] comes back, come back, contribute. It might be 10 minutes, 12 minutes. With Hassan tonight, it was anywhere from five minutes to 15. He ended up playing that full allotment.
“Just anybody that’s available, help us win. We’re in a dog fight. Our backs are against the wall right now. Period, that’s it.”
It wouldn’t be surprising if the Heat continues to play Whiteside off the bench over the next few games, with the rhythm the starting lineup of Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters and Winslow has built.
This five-man group, which succeeds offensively with impressive ball movement, is a plus-15 in 52 minutes together over the Heat’s past four games. The lineup has also recorded 37 assists to 14 turnovers during that time.
3. Now, you can really make the argument that Wade is the best shot-blocking guard in NBA history.
Of course, the argument could have been made before Monday’s game. But the case got a little stronger when Wade recorded two first-half blocks to pass Michael Jordan for most blocked shots in a career by a guard (regular season and playoffs).
Wade has totaled 1,052 blocks (877 in the regular season and 175 in the postseason) in his career, and Jordan finished with 1,051 blocks (893 in the regular season and 158 in the postseason).
The next step for Wade is to get the regular-season record. Wade needs to total 17 blocks over the Heat’s final 19 games to pass Jordan for the regular-season mark. That’s an average of 0.89 blocks per game the rest of the way, and Wade is averaging 0.6 blocks this season.
Wade has said the blocks record is the only one he’s still chasing, with just more than a month of regular-season games remaining in his NBA career. He got one of the records Monday and is within reach of the other.
“I got one [record]. It’s good,” said Wade, who finished Monday’s win with 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting. “As you guys know, I take a lot of pride in my ability to be able to block shots in so many different ways. Especially now, I take even more [pride] in my ability to block a shot. I would love to get them both. But either way, it’s pretty cool.”
4. It’s hard to win when the opponent makes eight more threes than you. But the Heat pulled it off Monday.
Atlanta shot 17 of 46 on threes to finish with a 51-27 edge from deep. Miami made 9 of 23 threes.
Entering Monday, teams were 273-62 this season when finishing with at least five more made threes than its opponent. That’s a winning percentage of .815.
But the Heat overcame the odds thanks to 55.7 percent shooting from the field. Miami shot 35 of 56 (62.5 percent) on two-pointers, while Atlanta made 21 of 45 (46.7 percent) of its two-point shots.
Two-pointers won the Heat the game, and that isn’t said often in today’s NBA.
5. With Goran Dragic out, Winslow continued to flourish as the Heat’s starting point guard.
Winslow finished Monday’s win with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, five rebounds, three assists and three steals. He’s averaging 14.1 points on 45.9 percent shooting from the field and 39.1 percent shooting on threes, 5.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 39 games since the start of December.
Dragic, who returned from right knee surgery last month, missed his second consecutive game with a left calf strain. Spoelstra said before Monday’s contest: “Some of it is to be expected. And we’re being probably, as we should be, very cautious with it. It’s muscle calf tightness, and we just want to make sure that’s taken care of.”