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Weekly Heatcap: Heat show improvement despite some setbacks

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A learning loss to last year's Eastern Confrence leader, first win on the road, close nailbiting loss against a rival and homestrong demoliation contributed to a 2-2 record for the Heat this week

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat didn't have the type of week it was anticipating, but it didn't have a horrible one. More productive lineups were molded as coach Erik Spoelstra continues to figure out the framework of this talented team. Although Dwyane Wade's 20-point game streak was broken, several other players stepped in to give the Heat formidable winning efforts and show their own skills. The Heat opened the week against the reigning Coach of the Year, Mike Budenholzer, and the Atlanta Hawks.

Coming off a fantastic comeback win against the Houston Rockets, the Heat would find themselves in the same position against the Atlanta Hawks attempting to fight their way to back to victory. A 16-2 run to start the second quarter by the Hawks had the Heat looking back the whole game. Down by 15 in the third quarter, Miami would successfully rally back behind Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic and Wade to get back in the game. Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow and Chris Anderson (who made his season debut) provided helpful contributions to bring the Heat within four but the Hawk's stifling defense and smooth offensive prevented the Heat from getting any closer.

The Hawks had 12 more assists than the Heat (25-13) showing off their chemistry and experience compared to the new-look Heat. Whiteside was the lone bright spot for Miami, having 23 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks on an impressive 11-12 shooting. Dragic and Wade, the only other Heat players to score more than 10, combined for 8 turnovers and were completely outplayed by Jeff Teague. The 6-foot-2 starting point guard for the Hawks was a step too fast for all the Heat guards to contain as he finished with a game-high 26 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds to lead the Hawks to a 98-92 win in Miami.

Gerald Green, who missed the game with an illness, was hospitalized Wednesday morning without any solid reason. Reports indicated that Green had to be restrained and that he was "screaming at the top of his lungs" outside his residence, although nothing was confirmed by the Heat.

In addition to Green not playing on Thursday night, Mario Chalmers missed the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves with a sore right knee. Without Miami's primary bench players, the starting lineup was heavily relied on and they delivered. All 5 starters contributed in double figures to keep the Heat ahead the whole game. Wade had another good performance, hitting a half court shot off a steal as the buzzer sounded in the second while giving the Wolves problems all night; he finished with 25 points and 5 rebounds. Bosh had a double-double (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Dragic (18 points) looked a lot more comfortable finding his spots. In the second half, Miami would pound the Timberwolves, extending their lead to over 20 a couple times, before winning 96-84 in their first road win of the season.

The Heat would then fly to Indiana to face the Indiana Pacers in an Eastern Conference showdown. Miami started the game off great, closing the first quarter on an 18-1 run to lead 26-16. Indiana would fight back behind Paul George and George Hill to even the game 49-49 at half-time. While Paul George got it going again, Wade had trouble all game long, being held to 0 points in the second half.

As the game winded down, it felt like a classic Heat-Pacers playoff game, with confrontations and a lot of new faces. One of those faces was Justice Winslow who had his best game of the season with 13 points and 8 rebounds. The Heat rookie had 7 big fourth quarter points to keep the Heat in it and made Paul George work for everything he scored. Unfortunately for Winslow, George played invincibly, destroying the Heat all night long. George took over in the fourth quarter, putting up 11 in the final period, showing flashes of MVP production to haunt the Heat. Miami could not stop him as the superstar finished with 36 points and 12 rebounds. Bosh gave Miami a chance, playing hard on both ends, having 21 points and 11 rebounds. But with the game on the line and Miami down by three, the Heat went to Wade, who missed a potential tying shot at the buzzer to give Indiana the 90-87 win.

Back in Miami, the Heat began a seven game home-stand with the Toronto Raptors, who came in 5-1. The game was close early as a battle of the centers took place. Two improving centers, Jonas Valanciunas and Hassan Whiteside, went back and forth in the first half. Whiteside had 11 points while Valanciunas had 16 to give his team the 47-44 edge at half-time. In the second half, Miami would change their tone and haunt the Raptors. Whiteside came alive and unleashed a reign of terror on the visitors as he blocked three shots and scored nine points in the third, including a spot up jumper that had the Heat bench smiling. Tied at 53, Wade drilled a three from the corner that not only gave the Heat the lead but put him ahead of Scottie Pippen for 51st place on the all-time scoring list. Strong play from Chalmers had the Heat up 74-63 at the end of the third. Miami would only expand their lead from there. Back-to-back-to-back dunks to open the fourth from Johnson, McRoberts and Winslow had the home crowd roaring on in during the 250th straight sell-out game. Bosh then hit two straight three-pointers to put the lead over 20. The rest of the starters weren't need after that as Whiteside's 20 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks, and Bosh's 23 points, 8 rebounds and four three's led Miami to a huge 96-76 win over the Raptors.

The Heat split the week with two wins and two loses. The wins were big, as the Heat led over 20 during both games. The loses were tough but they were close games within winning range. Whiteside had a terrific week on the defensive side, blocking at least 4 shots in the past 4 games and having two 20 point, 10 rebound games. Winslow also continued to show his defensive maturity with unseen heroics on several occasions. Although Dragic hasn't shown consistency, a 19 point game against the Hawks and 18 point game against the Wolves were positive performances. The Heat did all this without Gerald Green playing a game this week, who we hope to get back soon, to strengthen the Heat bench even further.

There are only two games this week, both against the Western Conference's weaker side of teams. The Heat will play the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday (7:30 PM) in what could be the city of Miami's final chance to watch Kobe Bryant play live. On Thursday (7:30 PM), the Utah Jazz will come in to town, owners of a solid 4-2 record.