Any fears that their momentum would be slowed down due to the lengthy All-Star break or a roster shake-up at the trade deadline were quickly dissipated. Miami once again displayed very strong defense, to the point that the Hawks were completely out of rhythm and ended up shooting 38% for the game, and efficient shooting with a season-high 17 3-pointers and their second-most in franchise history. With 30 assists out of 40 total field goals made, it was a clear sign that their relentless ball movement yielded big dividends.
Tyler Johnson led the way with 23 points on 9-11 FG shooting off the bench but balanced scoring, starting with four of the five starters scoring in double-figures, was what powered the easy victory. Rodney McGruder and Luke Babbitt not only provided outside shooting but were the catalysts on defense with their all-out hustle. Not to be outdone, Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic had their moments on defense as well — and even tallied two blocks each.
Not helping matters for Atlanta was the loss of starting point guard Dennis Schroder, who was suspended by the team for one game after returning back to the country late from the break. Paul Millsap did what he could, including a near endless parade to the free throw line in the first half, but it wasn’t nearly enough to turn the tide against an energetic Heat team.
So thorough was the victory, it was notable in that it came with one of the more quiet games of the season from Hassan Whiteside. While he grabbed 10 rebounds, he was a nonfactor on offense with just two points by missing eight of his nine shots. Though he looked frustrated, coach Erik Spoelstra insisted after the game that he made winning plays despite the numbers and his +20 was notable because of that. Regardless, Miami’s strong bench again came through again with Willie Reed coming in and notching a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, half of them on offense.
Also notable was the return of Josh Richardson after a lengthy absence to shake some of the rust off. Though he went scoreless, it didn’t matter tonight with Dragic, Johnson and Waiters combining to score 54 points and dishing out 18 assists.
The Heat will want to keep that momentum going when they host the Indiana Pacers tomorrow night at the AmericanAirlines Arena.