The Miami Heat returned to the FTX Arena and also welcomed back Jimmy Butler in a surprisingly thrilling 124-118 win against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night. The win puts them in sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference.
Just two days after cruising to victory in Atlanta, it appeared that the same outcome would happen again when Miami — clearly enjoying themselves back home after such a lengthy amount of time away — took an early 17-point lead. Max Strus was lethal from the outside, scoring all 16 of his points in the first quarter and making his case to become the permanent starter.
Don't forget about the beginning of this game.— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 15, 2022
Max got us going with all 16 of his points in the first quarter. pic.twitter.com/uH47bbqCg6
Even though the Heat couldn’t be stopped offensively, they didn’t do enough on the defensive end to stop the Hawks from scoring 30 themselves to stay reasonably close. Making matters worse, the offense cooled while Atlanta took over the game and were able to put up 40 points in the second quarter (a Heat opponent record for this season in any quarter) to take the lead. You read that correctly, they allowed the struggling Hawks to put 70 points in the first half.
The second half featured moments of playoff intensity and a healthy-looking Butler really starting to put his imprint on the game. Atlanta would respond to each push by Miami but would eventually start to wilt under the Heat’s depth, powered by Caleb Martin’s defense on Trae Young and role players like Dewayne Dedmon putting in quality minutes.
With regular rotation players rejoining the team after a disastrous start to their recently concluded road trip that forced the postponement of their game against the San Antonio Spurs, things are really looking up for one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Yes, there were plenty of highlight worthy offensive plays by the starters but the sizzling defense in the final quarter was what allowed to finally retake the lead so late in the game after closing the deficit to 99-95 at the end of the third.
Atlanta scored just 19 points, including Young with four points —all from the free throw line — in the fourth quarter. There were too many clutch plays to recount here but with the notable exception of Duncan Robinson, the rest of the team that played each made big contributions to get the opportunity to grab the win.
No surprises here but Tyler Herro was huge when it mattered, pulling within two points with seven minutes left with this dagger and scoring 11 of his 24 points in the final 12 minutes.
This Kyle Lowry basket finally got the game tied up, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.
The acrobatic drive by Butler with seconds left somehow ended with the ball in the hoop, giving the Heat a 122-118 lead with 22 seconds left.
Once again, Miami’s shooting from 3-point territory was outstanding with Herro (24 points, 4 of 8), PJ Tucker (17 points, 3 of 5), Strus (16 points, 4 of 7) and Kyle Lowry (13 points, 3 of 6) getting it done tonight with all 14 of the team’s 3-pointers.
Meanwhile, the Hawks not only struggled to respond but suffered costly turnovers (seven in the final quarter alone) and committed silly fouls that kept giving the Heat more opportunities to get back into the game and ultimately the victory.
This was the first in a stretch of eight games out of their next nine that will be at the FTX Arena, with Philadelphia 76ers next up tomorrow night at 8:00pm.