MIAMI — Heat forward Michael Beasley acknowledged how different things would’ve been had Monday night’s 121-119 overtime victory over the Hawks come during his rookie season.
In a tight game, Beasley saw crucial minutes towards the end of the fourth quarter and the beginning of extra time instead of being subbed out for a better defensive player.
"I would’ve been on the bench the whole fourth quarter," Beasley said. "I wouldn’t even have seen the last play. The trust that (Erik Spoelstra) has in me on the defensive side is really a testament to my work.
"Not work so much on the physical part — it’s mental. First, wanting to do it and then second just taking a stand. Last play I really didn’t want the loss to be on me, so that’s what my motivation and energy came from."
After missing seven games with a strained hamstring, Beasley returned to the rotation and finished with 10 points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes.
Spoelstra inserted him into the game for Shane Battier with 8:11 remaining in the third and the Heat trailing 65-56. Beasley would play the remainder of the quarter.
The 6-9, 235-pounder wasted no time easing his way back, taking three shots (making one) and setting up a Ray Allen lay-up.
"The second group kind of thrives off me being aggressive," Beasley said. "We got a lot of shooters out there. The dump-down pass for (Chris Andersen) is open a lot, but those shots are only open if somebody’s aggressive. Just making it a point trying to get the team going and get the offense running."
Beasley made a lay-up and one free throw to open up the fourth, cutting the deficit to four. Spoelstra called it encouraging that Beasley played those many minutes in pressure situations despite not getting into a game since Dec. 5.
With only one practice under his belt, Spoelstra was uncertain how much Beasley would play. But Dwyane Wade sat to rest his knee and Chris Bosh got stitches for a laceration on his lip late in the game.
"He gave us a spark there in the fourth quarter with (LeBron James) and CB out of the game," Spoelstra said. "So he was able to take some of the responsibility offensively but also defensively he gives us that athleticism."
Added James, who scored a game-high 38 points: "It definitely wasn’t just me. The contributions that we got from Beas, coming off the layoff that he had. (Roger Mason Jr.) played some great minutes, and of course Bird — those guys — and Norris (Cole) always step up."
Trailing 119-118 with 9.2 seconds left in overtime, Beasley took a jumper and missed. However, he pounced on the offensive rebound and was fouled on his next shot.
Beasley knocked down both free throws to give the Heat a 120-119 lead it wouldn’t relinquish. After the game he said he has taken it upon himself to help a team ranked 27th out of 30 on the boards.
"Honestly I was just so mad I missed the last shot and I knew exactly what it was going to be. Rebounding has had to become a big part of my game to help the team," Beasley said. "(I just want to be) an everything guy — whatever the team needs. Really making it a priority to be as flexible as the team needs me to be."