Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat’s skeleton crew overwhelms the Hawks

The Heat’s skeleton crew visited the Hawks in Hotlanta, neutralized Trae Young and snatched the Southeast division lead, capping off four dubs in a row. Without Jimmy Butler (personal reasons), Tyler Herro (ankle sprain), Caleb Martin (knee tendinosis) and R.J. Hampton (knee injury), the Heat punished the Birds from the inside and out, logging its highest-scoring opening period of the season (41).

Bam Adebayo swished his initial four jump shots from midrange over Clint Capela and De’Andre Hunter. Duncan Robinson was the receiver on two fastbreak baskets. And Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored, rebounded and assisted twice while pestering his matchups.

The visitors contested jumpers on time, allowing the Hawks two field goals in half the quarter while keeping length on Young. Even with the defense slipping in the last few minutes, allowing three trifectas to fall, the Heat still held a 30.7 percentage lead in field goal efficiency.

In the second quarter, Miami flashed its 2-3 zone with man-to-man coverage but conceded baskets on half of Atlanta’s attempts. What bailed them out was playing at breakneck speed, forcing nine turnovers, Adebayo’s unblemished stroke, Jaquez producing 10 more points plus a steal, and Dru Smith wreaking havoc as a help defender with a block and a takeaway under the basket.

At halftime, the Heat was ahead 63-52, with 10 points scored off turnovers, seven off second opportunities and eight on the break. Its primary concern was stopping Dejounte Murray, who, despite a hand in his eye or a man on his hip at close range, finished four of six tries.

In the third frame, Josh Richardson rediscovered his jumper and got to the cup for a layup. Kyle Lowry converted two 3-pointers against Atlanta’s zone and ripped Murray’s defensive rebound. And Jaquez scored twice, posting up Young and Murray.

Miami had 30 points in the interval, but Atlanta matched it, capitalizing on seven possession changes that turned into nine points. Murray continued dazzling, blowing past Jaquez from the top to the hoop, shooting over Robinson, beating everyone on the break and splashing two extra triples.

In the fourth quarter, the Heat’s offense manufactured 24 points on 29.4% shooting. It also committed five more turnovers off sloppy passes and a traveling violation on JJJ. But Adebayo kept it under control, earning three trips to the charity line, not missing and recovering eight rebounds.

For Atlanta, Young finally cracked Miami’s code, adding 14 to the scoreboard. Miami held the rest of his team to 33% efficiency in the fourth.

With three minutes left and the Heat up 13, the Hawks intentionally hacked Haywood Highsmith, a career 45.9% shooter at the line, twice. He made three of four and wasn’t disrespected again.

The Heat won its second game on the road 117-109. Adebayo clocked out with 26 points on nine of 12 shots, 17 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks. Jaquez added 20 points with four dimes. And Lowry contributed 17 to his scorecard.

When questioned on the court postgame, Jaquez said everyone stepped up. “We had some guys missing…Every guy that gets an opportunity came up big for us tonight, and we’re just happy to get a win on the road.”

At the formal presser, coach Erik Spoelstra said at the pre-shootaround meeting, various Heatles were indicating through their body language that they wanted to be the ones to show out in Butler’s absence. “It was about collectively coming together and trying to get a tough win on the road… Throughout the roster, we had a lot of contributions. [Richardson] bounced back and had a really good game. He and Dru Smith, defensively, were fantastic whether we were in man [coverage] or zone.”



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