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Heat take control late for gritty 117-109 win over visiting Hawks

Miami desperately needed a victory against their division rivals to keep their playoff hopes alive.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Trae Young was held to a season-low eight points and Bam Adebayo bounced back with a 30-point game to lead the Miami Heat to a much-needed 117-109 victory at the Miami-Dade Arena on Saturday night.

Miami not only won for just the second time in eight games, but the win over their division rivals extended their lead over the Hawks to 1.5 games for seventh in the Eastern Conference and gave them a 2-1 lead for the season series with one more game between them to be played on Monday.

Tyler Herro added 20 points for the Heat, while Jimmy Butler contributed 15 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Refreshingly, the bench provided support this time too with Cody Zeller adding 13 points and Caleb Martin with 15 points.

Adebayo’s dominating performance was especially encouraging after a series of lackluster showings since the All-Star break, with the All-Star asserting himself in the paint with an efficient 10-12 FG shooting performance from the field and 10-12 from the free throw line along with 11 rebounds and five assists.

Yes, the Heat’s offense was more accurate from the field than they had during their losing streak, notably in the first half, but their defense was the biggest factor in the victory. And not just against All-Star point guard Young, who shot 2-13 overall and 0-5 from beyond the arc, either. One game after notching a career-high 41 points against the Portland Trail Blazers, Dejounte Murray was held to just 10 points against Miami on 3-14 shooting — including 0-5 from long range.

With their starting backcourt struggling so much, the Hawks couldn’t keep up and fell behind by 66-49 at the half. Miami had committed eight first-quarter turnovers that prevented them from building a large lead but had settled down by the second quarter to build a double-digit lead.

The lead swelled to 21 points midway through the third quarter before the Hawks began an extended run that cut it to 87-75 while Butler was on the bench. Atlanta got as close to 108-103 on De’Andre Hunter’s jumper with 4:39 remaining in the game but the home team was able to score timely baskets during crunch time and solidified their defense enough that even with Young returning late to the game it didn’t have enough of an impact to swing the game around.