Injury-depleted Heat finish off Hawks to advance
10: 20 PM ET
Dave McMenaminESPN Staff Writer
- Lakers and NBA reporter for ESPN.
- Covered the Lakers and NBA for ESPNLosAngeles.com from 2009-14, the Cavaliers from 2014-18 for ESPN.com and the NBA for NBA.com from 2005-09.
With Kyle Lowry sidelined since late in the third quarter of Game 3 because of a left hamstring strain and Jimmy Butler in street clothes because of inflammation in his right knee, Miami got a lift from an unlikely pair of replacements.
Victor Oladipo, who appeared in just 96 out of a possible 309 regular-season games the past four years because of knee and quadriceps injuries, and Max Strus, who was undrafted and appeared in just two games total with the first two teams he was with in the NBA, picked up the slack to help the Heat clinch their first playoff series at home since 2016.
Oladipo, who scored more points in the first five minutes of the first quarter (eight) than he had in the first four games of the series (six), finished with 23 points on 8-for-16 shooting.
” A year ago today, I was waiting for my next operation and was expecting. “I can recall a year ago, around this time last, that I was alone in a darkened room and just broke down. It wasn’t because I quit, it was because I was at my lowest point. And now, God has placed me in this position so I made the most of it. “
It was the first time Oladipo scored 20 in a playoff game since he did it against the Heat in the NBA bubble as a member of the Indiana Pacers.
” I could have done two things. I could have stopped. Oladipo stated that he could have run right through it. “And I’m still running it. “
Strus finished with 15 points and went on a personal 10-0 run from the 2: 29 mark of the second quarter until there was 1: 22 left in the half, turning a one-point Miami deficit into a nine-point cushion that the Heat pushed to 12 by the break.
Of his 67-second scoring spree, Strus said: “I didn’t even know I did that. It was fun. “
Not to mention Bam Adebayo‘s 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting and 11 rebounds, which included a crucial dunk with 59.2 seconds left off an Oladipo feed that doubled the Heat’s lead from two to four to help stave off a late Atlanta rally.
Of course, it was a total team effort from a Heat squad accustomed to plug and play — Miami used 23 different starting lineups during the regular season en route to the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 record.
“Everybody that played had their fingerprints on this. “We clearly had some adversity with this game not having Kyle and Jimmy, and our team doesn’t blink,” Erik Spoelstra, Heat coach, said. “That’s not something we need to address. We just pivot, put in the game plan, and everyone gets out there and competes. “
That team cohesion was on full display on the defensive end, where Miami capped off a tortuous series for Trae Young by holding the Atlanta star to 11 points on 2-for-12 shooting (0-for-5 from 3) and six turnovers.
Young finished with more turnovers (30) than made field goals (22) in the five games and three of his four lowest point totals all season. After coming in fourth in the regular-season scoring race, averaging 28.4 points per game, Young averaged just 15.4 points against Miami. The 13.0 points per game decrease is the second largest from the regular season to the playoffs in a single season for a player over the past 25 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Strus stated that they threw many bodies at him. Strus said, “We were physically with him. He was just trying to get out of his game. It’s really that simple. Guys have just stepped up. Guys accepted the 1-on-1 challenge. We knew Trae was going to stop us. We took that personal. “
Miami completed the win by a signature stop. They didn’t allow the Hawks to attempt a shot on their final possession, when they had the opportunity to tie it with a 3 from an inbounds play after a timeout with 5.2 seconds remaining. The Heat trapped Danilo Gallinari in the corner and he threw a difficult pass across court that Adebayo stole to end it.
“Heat fashion,” Adebayo stated. “End with the stop. Defense wins championships. It just so happened that we ended the game with an abrupt stop. “
Tyler Herro, one of the three finalists for Sixth Man of the Year, scored 16 points off the bench. It was his 11th career playoff game with at least 15 points as a reserve, extending his lead for the most such games in Heat franchise history, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. Lowry and Butler didn’t play but they had an impact on the result.
” “There are many things you don’t all see or people don’t notice, but how big Jimmy and Kyle were today on the bench,” Oladipo stated. “They were like coaches. … Jimmy helped me tremendously during the fourth quarter, and it won’t be in the box score. It’s not possible to see it unless you ask someone. It’s my job now to tell you that Jimmy helped me tremendously in the fourth quarter. “
Miami will play the winner of the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors‘ first-round series, which the Sixers lead 3-2, guaranteeing at least six days off for Lowry and Butler to rest up before the second round begins Monday at the earliest. The break, as well as Butler’s coaching appearance, is appreciated.
” We’ll go back into our cave, bandage up and hopefully get healthy, then we’ll watch what happens in that series,” Spoelstra stated. “But the guys have definitely earned a few days of just quality rest. “
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.