Heat thrive in closing time in absence of Butler, down Hawks 109-99

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Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·3 min read
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For all the Miami Heat had overcome during their recent climb from the depths of the Eastern Conference, one form of adversity had proven particularly problematic: finding a way to succeed in the absence of Jimmy Butler.

That opportunity, against their better wishes, came Sunday night, with the surging forward sidelined by knee inflammation.

At 3-9 in Butler’s absence this season entering their game against the Atlanta Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Heat found themselves having to play closing time without their closer, after blowing an earlier 14-point lead.

Adversity addressed. Adversity overcome.

Heat 109, Hawks 99.

Closers were found at closing time.

The winning streak is now six. The record is back to .500, at 17-17.

The Heat got quality power play from Bam Adebayo and Precious Achiuwa, with Adebayo closing with 16 points and 15 rebounds, Achiuwa with 14 points and seven rebounds.

There also were 24 points from Kenrick Nunn, 14 from Tyler Herro and 13 from Goran Dragic.

All of that was needed, with the Hawks getting 34 points and 10 rebounds from John Collins and 20 points and 14 from Clint Capela, on a night Trae Young scored only 15.

Five Degrees of Heat from Sunday’s game:

1. Closing time: The Heat went up 14 in the second quarter, led 54-44 at halftime, but the Hawks then pushed to a one-point third-quarter lead with a 19-6 run sparked by Collins, before the Heat went into the fourth up 78-77.

Then, even after going up 86-79 with 9:32 to play, the Heat found themselves in a 92-92 tie with 4:30 left.

The score stayed tied until Herro converted a pair of free throws with 2:4l left, with Nunn then following with a 3-pointer with 2:19 to play for a 100-95 Heat lead.

Baskets by Adebayo and Dragic put it away.

2. Power play: Injected back into the mix after being held out for the first time in his career in Friday night’s victory over the Utah Jazz, Achiuwa was up to 10 points and five rebounds at halftime.

That allowed Adebayo to rest for nine minutes in the first half, when he still had 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.

Adebayo’s sixth consecutive double-double tied the longest streak of his career.

3. Herro back: Herro was back in the Heat mix after missing the previous three games with a hip contusion.

Playing off the bench, he closed the first half scoreless on 0 for 4 shooting, short on most off those attempts. His first points came on a 17-foot jumper with two minutes left in the third quarter.

He then came alive early in the fourth quarter, with a 3-pointer, a 16-foot jumper and an assist for an Andre Iguodala 3-pointer.

4. That’s why: The Heat are among several teams linked to interest in Collins, the West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman High product who was unable to reach a rookie extension with the Hawks in the offseason.

Facing what could be a testy restricted free agency in the offseason, Collins has been rumored to be in play ahead of the March 25 NBA trading deadline.

Collins scored 19 of the Hawks’ 33 third-quarter points, the highest-scoring quarter of his career, after scoring 11 in the second quarter.

5. Trap-tastic: Even without Butler’s defensive ball-hawking, the Heat were aggressive and efficient early in their trapping of Young, who endured only his fifth scoreless first quarter of the season.

Consistently bringing two to the ball when Young was in possession, the Heat were efficient in zoning the rest of the floor.

Young’s first points did not come until a 3-pointer with 2:53 left in the first half, the deepest into a game he had gone this season without scoring. He closed the first half with six points on 2-of-9 shooting.

Young entered ninth in the NBA in scoring, at 26.8 points per game.