Defensive stops, first half shooting power Miami Heat past Atlanta Hawks

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 23: Tyler Dorsey
MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 23: Tyler Dorsey /

Miami Heat guard Wayne Ellington broke out of his slump and the defense clamped down late, giving the team an 104-93 victory over division-rival Atlanta Hawks.

Following a rough showing against the Orlando Magic on opening night, the Miami Heat needed a spark, and through two home games, they’ve found that in the form of offense.

Josh Richardson led the way with 21 points, Wayne Ellington added 20 points off the bench and Goran Dragic recorded 19 points and six assists, as the Heat used a 27-point fourth quarter to pull away from the Atlanta Hawks. Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk contributed with 10 points a piece, while Taurean Prince and Kent Bazemore led Atlanta with 20 points each.

For the third consecutive game, the Heat topped 100 points. And while they shot 46 percent, it was still a far cry from the 43 percent outing put forth at Amway Center nearly a week ago.

In a scorching first half, the Heat set a record for most 3-pointers made in a half with 13, making Miami nearly unstoppable. Richardson got Miami off to a quick start, scoring 10 in the first quarter, as the Heat raced to a 26-23 lead.

The offensive onslaught would not end there.

Ellington’s six three’s in the second quarter were a career and season high, setting the tone for the rest of the team down the stretch. Richardson was 3-of-4 from long distance in the first half, followed by 2-of-3 by Waiters.

At one point, the Heat found themselves with a 21-point lead.

Miami ended the first half with 62 points on 55 percent shooting, with Ellington leading the way with 19.

The Heat were once again playing without center Hassan Whiteside, sidelined for the second straight game with a bone bruise in his left knee. But head coach Erik Spoelstra appeared confident in Whiteside’s progress.

"“He’s feeling better, he’s doing more,” Spoelstra said. “Just stay with the routine, and he’s doing a great job of that.”"

The second half, while less eventful, proved critical as the Hawks went on a quick 10-2 run to start the third period. At one point, Atlanta got to 75-71 within the waning minutes of the third. The Heat had gone over three minutes without recording a point, allowing the Hawks to climb back within striking distance.

Finishing off a 29-point third quarter performance, it was clear who held the momentum heading into the fourth. Miami shot just 29 percent from the floor in the third and mustered up just 15 points.

The Hawks used a quick 4-0 run to tie the game at 77, but the Heat would follow that with a 8-2 spurt, leading 84-79 with eight minutes remaining.

The Heat were 13-of-23 from 3-point range in the first half, and just 1-of-12 in the second half. At one point during the fourth period, Miami was 0-of-6 from that distance and appeared hopeless at putting the ball in the basket.

Insert defense. Steals in particular.

Staring a 1-2 record in the face with a stunned home crowd behind them, the Heat used key plays on the defensive end to put the Hawks away. Miami finished with 12 steals and six blocked shots as a team, while forcing Atlanta into 20 turnovers.

Following the game, Richardson emphasized the importance of defense down the stretch.

"“Atlanta is a tough team, when you get up they’re always going to go on a run,” Richardson said. “We just had to grit out teeth and start getting stops. I felt we relaxed and started settling a bit, so we just had to get back to attacking.”"

Next: The Miami Heat are continuing their long home stand

Miami (2-1) will remain home for a nationally televised contest against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, October 25 at 8 PM ET.