The Miami Heat closed the preseason with their third straight victory, all at home, in a 119-113 win against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.
Josh Richardson once again led the way for the Heat with 24 points in another impressive performance showcasing a much more confident offensive game. Hassan Whiteside was active early with 15 points in 16 foul-plagued minutes, as was Goran Dragic, who scored all seven of his points in the first quarter. Dwyane Wade came back from a one-game break to rest up and looked sharp running the offense, feeding his teammates and all the while looking to score, finishing with 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
As has been the case throughout the preseason, the Heat were without several key players tonight, including a resting Justise Winslow fresh from signing his contract extension.
The offense continued to look almost surprisingly explosive at times, but their defense is going to have to be a work in progress now entering the regular season. They allowed the Hawks to score 39 points in the second quarter alone to fall behind 66-53 at the half but to their credit the Heat turned it around in the third quarter, outscoring the visitors 34-23 and setting up an intense fourth quarter (well, by preseason standards). Out of nowhere, Yante Maten helped preserve the victory when he quickly tallied nine points on 4-5 field goal shooting, five rebounds and two blocks in just five minutes.
Even with so many players going in and out of the lineup and dealing with the Jimmy Butler saga in the midst of training camp, the Miami Heat showed a lot of promise from the young core as well as some excellent moments from the veterans such as Dragic, Wade and particularly Whiteside — who is looking far more mobile and engaged so far. The turnovers and lapses in defense must be corrected and coach Erik Spoelstra has quite the puzzle to solve with how he’s going to find minutes for everyone once Wayne Ellington, James Johnson and Dion Waiters are healthy.
Miami opens the regular season on the road against the Orlando Magic next Wednesday at 7:00pm.