Trailing throughout their game against the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night, Tyler Johnson drained a 3 with 8:05 left to pull the Miami Heat to within 76-83. A little more than a minute later, Goran Dragic found Johnson for a breakaway alley-oop that got Miami within 5.
After a Hawks timeout, Dennis Schroder drove into the lane for a layup attempt. Johnson was there to swat it away. Dragic then made a couple free throws to cut the Hawks lead to 83-80. But Atlanta responded with an 8-0 run to get back up by double digits. Although the Heat cut the deficit to six with 2:40 left, the Hawks held on to win 103-95 and hand the ailing Heat their third straight loss.
On a night Miami only had nine players available on the second night of a back-to-back, the Heat players could not muster enough firepower to get back in the win column. Johnson deserves a lot of credit for keeping the Heat in this game, especially with his play to get the Heat to within three. The undrafted guard scored a career-high 27 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 shooting from downtown. Johnson also shot 7-of-8 from the field and dished out five assists.
Dragic struggled with foul trouble in the first half, but made some nice plays in the fourth quarter to cut into the deficit. He finished with 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting from the field and four assists.
The highly paid player who had a tough game Wednesday night? Hassan Whiteside. The Heat center shot just 4-of-12 from the field for eight points. Dwight Howard, by contrast, finished with 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting (he even went 5-of-6 from the foul line). It wasn’t a terrible night for Whiteside — he grabbed 12 rebounds — but a maximum-salary player has to produce when his team is shorthanded with injuries and playing on the second night of a back-to-back.
At one point in the third quarter, Whiteside grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled the ball up-court and (predictably) committed an offensive foul trying to get to the rim. Bone-headed plays like these — I’m thinking of when Whiteside launches a 15-foot jumper with plenty of time on the shot clock -- are costly for an injury-depleted team.
The Heat had some other bright spots. Wayne Ellington scored 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field and nailed four triples. But the Heat offense simply is too anemic to compete against good teams now, especially with all the injuries. Rodney McGruder, who played for the D-League Sioux Falls Skyforce last year, started and played 30 minutes Wednesday. Josh Richardson should get those minutes. Spoelstra shouldn’t have to start Josh McRoberts.
Things won’t get any easier for the 7-15 Heat. Miami will next visit the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday at 7:30 p.m.