Heat 88, Hawks 81
Jones had 14 of his season-high 21 points in the final quarter, Shaquille O’Neal added 14 points and nine rebounds on the eve of his 35th birthday, and the Heat beat the Atlanta Hawks 88-81 on Monday night. The victory pushed the defending NBA champions’ record over .500 for the first time in nearly four months.
“Felt good. I had my legs in it,” said Jones, who had 19 points after halftime and was 3-for-3 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter. “I thought the first half, I didn’t have my legs in the shot. Second half, everything just kind of got together.”
Jones hit a 3-pointer to start a game-deciding 13-2 run over a 5-minute stretch of the fourth quarter by the Heat (30-29). The defending NBA champions last had a winning record on Nov. 10: 3-2.
And they needed him, too, with Dwyane Wade still out indefinitely with a dislocated left shoulder, and now poised to be without Jason Kapono for some time with a badly sprained left ankle. The NBA’s leader in 3-point percentage suffered the injury in the third quarter, when he stepped on teammate James Posey’s foot.
“Every game, somebody’s going to have to do something. … This game, it was Eddie,” O’Neal said. “Every good team, every great team, you have someone that does something extra every night. So tonight, Eddie woke up a little bit and shot the ball well.”
Gary Payton had 11 points and seven rebounds and Posey added 10 points for Miami, which got promising news earlier in the day from Wade—when the star guard announced he will not have immediate surgery to repair his shoulder and will attempt to return by the end of the season.
“They have veteran guys. Eddie Jones has been in enough games. He’s a veteran,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “He’s proven he can score in this league. It’s nothing new to see him come out and get his 20 points. He’s capable of doing that.”
Jones’ last 20-point effort was nearly a year ago: March 23, 2006, a 23-point game for Memphis in its 95-85 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. But when the Heat reacquired their former standout earlier this season, moments like this were what coach Pat Riley had in mind.
“Eddie gave us a big lift,” Riley said.
The Heat have won nine straight at home, are 35-1 at home in February and March since O’Neal joined the team three seasons ago, and moved past idle Indiana into sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Tyronn Lue hit a pair of free throws with 6:27 left to get Atlanta within 67-63, but the Hawks got no closer, thanks to the run Jones started with his 3-pointer.
“He may not have been hitting them lately,” the Hawks’ Anthony Johnson said, “but tonight he stepped up.”
With the Heat missing 12 of their first 15 shots, Atlanta ran to a 17-11 lead on Lue’s jumper with 2:38 left in the opening quarter. At the time, Atlanta wasn’t shooting much better, going only 6-for-19.
And then the Hawks got worse.
Atlanta missed 10 straight shots over the next 7 1/2 minutes, and the Heat took advantage with a 15-0 run to build a 26-17 edge, then led 39-31 at halftime.
But the Hawks, who scored 18 points in the final 16 minutes of the opening half, needed only the first 5 1/2 minutes of the third quarter to put together an 18-9 run, one that made Miami’s lead disappear when Anthony Johnson hit a 3-pointer from the right wing for a 49-48 lead.
Miami, though, held the Hawks to five points, three on free throws, in the rest of the quarter, and when Jones beat the buzzer from the right wing with a jumper, the Heat took a 59-54 lead into the fourth quarter. Atlanta never got closer than four in the fourth.
“A couple of mishaps late in the game cost us the ball game,” Joe Johnson said. “We lost it down the stretch on the defensive end.”
Miami improved to 5-8 without Wade this season. … Hawks radio voice Steve Holman broadcast his 1,500th consecutive game, doing so on his 53rd birthday. … The Hawks outscored Miami by six points when O’Neal was in the game. … Heat forward Antoine Walker was 4-for-4 from the foul line, raising his season percentage to 39.7.