The Miami Heat were without two starters and playing on the second night of a back-to-back set after a tough road loss to the San Antonio Spurs and had a golden opportunity to end their losing streak back home with one shot.
Unfortunately, Dion Waiters’ desperation 3-point attempt couldn’t reverse the Heat’s fortunes during the final seconds of Tuesday night’s eventual 93-90 loss to the visiting Atlanta Hawks. It’s the Heat’s sixth loss in a row and five defeats in their six home games at the AmericanAirlines Arena. Goran Dragic again sat with a sprained ankle and Justise Winslow joined him with a bruised left wrist, with Rodney McGruder starting in his place.
Miami was tantalizingly close to getting a solid win against the Hawks but turnovers and too many missed shots at the rim, many courtesy of Waiters, doomed them once again just one night after hanging around just long enough to threaten the Spurs but also coming up just short.
The team also missed out capitalizing on a monster performance from Hassan Whiteside, who finished with 19 points and tied his career-high with 25 rebounds, the most in the NBA this season, as well as an incredible 10 offensive rebounds, also the most from any NBA player in one game. He battled hard all night long, especially against Dwight Howard, who eventually missed the fourth quarter with a left quad contusion, and his seventh career 20-rebound game just a week after pulling down 20 rebounds against the Chicago Bulls.
Josh Richardson appears to be back in top form with 19 points starting in place of Dragic and Tyler Johnson contributed 14 points off the bench. James Johnson was solid again and shot well from beyond the arc to finish with 13 points. The team shot 40.4% overall and 7/23 from long range with a season-high 23 turnovers, though they did outrebound their opponent 48-35 thanks to Whiteside’s herculean efforts.
The Heat played well in the first half and hung tough after the Hawks took the lead at 39-38 after a 9-0 run in the second quarter. There was a solid stretch of basketball soon after that triggered a 19-5 Heat run to end the first half. Atlanta bounced back in the third but again Miami pushed back with a 13-2 run to retake the lead at 61-60 with 3:50 left in the quarter.
Though the far more talented Hawks eventually took control of the game in crunch time there was still ample opportunities to pull a victory out but once again they fell short. As the Associated Press points out, all eight Heat losses have come by an average of 6.9 points and three of the last four by four points or less.
“This is where you just have to have great mental resolve to stay the course,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You really do because we’re seeing progress. It’s not perfect basketball but we’re actually developing some collective toughness and grit right now. You just keep on building those habits that eventually you get your breakthrough. I know it’s painful right now for the guys. It means a lot to them in that locker room but we seek progress and these are the type of two-game stints that even though you don’t get the result that you want, two or three months from now you start to realize that’s when we started to build that toughness.”
MIami is now 2-8 for the season for last place in the Southeast Division.