Amid the whirlwind of the Heat's uncertain future, Dwyane Wade was a late scratch from the Heat's Friday night road game against the Atlanta Hawks. Miami would face the Hawks without Chris Bosh (blood clot), Hassan Whiteside (one-game suspension) and Wade, the face of the franchise. Now, the optimistic Heat fan would think back to the memorable Heat victory in Atlanta in late 2012 without LeBron James and Wade.
Well, the Heat put in another nice victory the die-hard fans will remember for a while.
With just nine players available, the Heat manufactured timely baskets in the closing minutes of a close game to come away with a 115-111 win.
The Hawks ran off eight unanswered points to tie the game at 98-98 with just over four minutes left to go. But on the Heat's subsequent possession, Josh McRoberts found Luol Deng for a huge 3-pointer. Forty seconds later, McRoberts rose in for a tip-in. After a Kyle Korver missed 3-pointer, Goran Dragic got the ball in the semi-transition and made a tough layup despite getting fouled. Deng capped off the decisive Heat run with a long 2 in the corner to give the Heat a 110-102 lead with 1:33 remaining.
Although the Hawks made some late 3s to keep the game interesting, the Heat players made their free throws to earn the win.
The shorthanded Heat's effort and intensity was evident from the beginning of the game. The Heat played competitively against the Hawks to set the tone, even ending the first quarter up 22-19. In the opening moments of the second quarter, Miami rookie Josh Richardson stole a Hawks in-bounds pass right by the Heat basket before going in for a dunk. Later in the second period, McRoberts made a behind-the-back pass to Udonis Haslem in the lane for an and-one.
McRoberts' performance stands as one of the best signs from Friday night's game. The versatile forward looked for his shot aggressively for seemingly the first time since donning a Heat jersey back in 2014. He scored 19 points, the most points he's scored as a member of the Heat. The former Duke standout offered a variety of moves in his offensive production -- he made three timely 3s, but also drove to the basket. He needs to do more of that when Wade and Whiteside are back. Even if he missed, it was refreshing to see him look for his shot.
Miami's big scorer Friday night was Deng, who scored 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field and 7-of-10 shooting from the foul line to go along with 11 rebounds and four steals. Miami's top three scorers were all out, and everyone else exceeded expectations. Gerald Green scored 11 of his 14 points in the third quarter. Justise Winslow added 13 points and nine rebounds. Even Udonis Haslem offered six points and three boards in 12 minutes of action.
Tonight's game was a character-building win for the Heat. Even with Bosh's season very much in doubt, the Heat will remain competitive with nights like these.