In the Heat’s 36th game decided by five points or fewer, Miami narrowly skated by the Atlanta Hawks at home. Atypical of its season, the hosts couldn’t miss from beyond the arc. Of course, for this type of uncommon production, there needed to be a trade-off: the ability to defend for most of the game.
The Hawks seized control of the first half by scoring a few fastbreak buckets, and slicing up the point of attack, converting 19 out of 24 shots in the paint. Dejounte Murray logged his first four baskets- three maneuvering around Adebayo for pull-up jumpers after the switch and another 15-footer over Gabe Vincent off the dribble.
The rest of the Hawks were soaring through the first quarter too. The visitors recorded 76% of their attempts in the frame and led by 15 points eight minutes into the game.
Offensively, Miami was in sync, dropping five triples out of seven tries on both wings in the opening quarter. Max Strus nailed the Heat’s first off a flare screen by Bam Adebayo. Butler set up the second with Murray momentarily over-helping in the low post, uncovering Vincent at the top of the key. Victor Oladipo canned another when his defender went under Cody Zeller’s pick. And Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson were both left open when Atlanta sent two at the ball.
After one half, Miami had given up 68 points but shot back into the match, only down five. Adebayo took charge with 10 points on 80% field goal efficiency, plus four boards and a block. Butler had eight points, with five dimes and four rebounds. Victor Oladipo also had seven on his scorecard.
In the third quarter, the Heat had its strongest defensive run, holding the Hawks to 41.7% of its attempts from the floor. The hosts were quicker to get the ball out of Murray’s hands in half-court sets, and defenders closed out quickly and did a finer job staying in front of their man.
In response, Butler finished at the cup three times in the third quarter, getting free off a fake handoff and scoring twice in transition. Against Atlanta’s 2-3 zone, Herro drove to the middle and found Strus open at the top for a trifecta. Facing man-to-man coverage, Oladipo broke down De’Andre Hunter with his dribble in the strongside corner for a banger.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Miami’s bench was outdoing its rivals’ reserves 41-31 on the stat sheet. Caleb Martin and Oladipo combined for 28 bench points through 36 minutes. With three minutes left in the third quarter, Vic challenged three Hawks on the break and hit a reverse layup.
In the final period, Oladipo stayed hot. He hit a jumper from the left corner when Atlanta iced Herro’s roll to the rim, splashed another triple over Murray and Hunter on the wing, and then caught a fastbreak lob from Robinson to cap off a vintage night. He came one-second shy of playing the entire fourth quarter. The only players who got that credit for Miami were Adebayo, Butler and Martin.
In the last stretch, the Hawks made 54.5% of its attempts. Murray hit two runners over Martin and a break layup against Herro. Bogdan Bogdanović boxed out Robinson for a tip-in. Saddiq Bey caught Herro in a mismatch seven feet from the cup. And Young hit a 3-pointer and gashed Miami inside three times.
But Atlanta went cold for a pivotal stretch late in the game. With the Heat up five points and fewer than four minutes left, Hunter misfired an open triple behind a pindown on the right wing, and Murray air-balled a three-foot finger roll, horrifying his newly appointed instructor Quin Snyder on the sideline.
The Hawks had a chance to tie with 25 seconds left, but Martin stripped Young on a drive. Butler got the ball and was sent to the free-throw line, where he made both. The Heat would take two more trips to the line, knocking down three to close the match with a W, pushing Miami to four wins above .500 and two games behind the Brooklyn Nets for sixth place in the east.
At the postgame presser, Oladipo said he was trying to catch a lob all year and gave props to Robinson for the precise pass.
On the topic of his efficiency, Oladipo said, “I’m just going to keep shooting. I’m not really concerned about the past and what the years [have] been and the up and downs. I’m just going to hoop like I know I can… I’m just going to continue to make the most of it and be aggressive.”