Tyler Johnson leads resurgent Heat past Hawks, 108-90
ATLANTA (AP) Tyler Johnson looked past his team-leading points on a stat sheet which told the story of Miami’s productive night.
Johnson scored 23 points and the resurgent Heat helped add new life to their playoff hopes by beating the Atlanta Hawks 108-90 on Friday night.
Johnson found good news everywhere in the statistics.
Dion Waiters had 14 points and 10 assists. Hassan Whiteside had 10 rebounds. Six players scored in double figures. The Heat set a season high by making 17 3-pointers.
”We’re a tough team to beat when it looks like that,” Johnson said.
That’s been a familiar conclusion for the Heat in recent weeks.
Miami (26-32) has won 15 of 17 to move to within six games of .500. Miami was a season-low 19 games under .500 at 11-30 following a loss to Milwaukee on Jan. 13.
Miami is only two games behind eighth-place Detroit in the Eastern Conference.
The Heat’s ball movement led to 30 assists.
”We’re starting to make that our identity,” Johnson said. ”Everybody feels like they’re in rhythm when everybody’s touching the ball on every possession.”
The Heat made 17 of 37 3-pointers to dominate the short-handed Hawks.
”Everything looks better in this league when you make shots,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
Atlanta was without starting point guard Dennis Schroder, who was suspended for one game Friday after failing to return on time from a visit to his native Germany for the All-Star break.
Paul Millsap led Atlanta with 21 points, but he had too little help. He scored 10 straight points for the Hawks in the second period.
The Hawks missed Schroder on both ends of the floor. They struggled in their half-court offense and also missed Schroder’s defense.
”They put a lot of defensive pressure on us,” said Kent Bazemore, who had 10 points. ”We need to sharpen up.”
Goran Dragic had 17 points and Rodney McGruder added 13 for the Heat.
Both teams relied on backups after Miami took an 87-66 lead into the final period.
Heat: Luke Babbitt was 4 of 6 on 3s for 12 points. … Miami made 11 of 19 3s in the first half. … Johnson had 12 points in the second period while making two 3-pointers. … The win gave the Heat a split of the four-game season series with the Hawks.
Hawks: Rookie Malcolm Delaney had five points and four assists and made only 2 of 10 shots from the field in his first career start as the fill-in for Schroder. Schroder is expected to rejoin the team Saturday in Orlando. … F Ryan Kelly and G Lamar Patterson were signed to multiyear contracts. The Hawks had two vacant roster spots after trading F Mike Scott to the Suns on Thursday.
Johnson said Miami’s players finally realized sharing the ball was the path to success ”when we did it one time and we won.”
Added Johnson: ”And we figured maybe we should just try it again.”
DEBUT FOR ILYASOVA
Ersan Ilyasova, acquired by the Hawks from the 76ers on Wednesday, had nine points in his debut but quickly identified his new team’s defensive woes.
”We played poorly defensively,” Ilyasova said, adding Miami’s 45.9 percent 3-point shooting ”is unacceptable. … We have to be more aggressive defensively.”
The Hawks wore their early 1970’s Pete Maravich-era blue and green throwback uniform. The Hawks will retire Maravich’s No. 44 jersey in a halftime ceremony during their March 3 game against Cleveland. The other Hawks to have their numbers retired are Bob Pettit, Lou Hudson, Dominique Wilkins and Dikembe Mutombo. Former owner Ted Turner also is honored with a banner hanging beside the retired numbers.
Heat: Host Indiana on Saturday night
Hawks: Visit Orlando on Saturday night
This story has been corrected to show that Heat are six games under .500.