Heat improves to 11-4 without Adebayo, Butler. Takeaways from road win over Hawks.

On Dec. 26, 2021, Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra gestures as his teams plays the Orlando Magic during the first half at FTX Arena in Miami. (John McCall/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS)
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Anthony Chiang Miami Herald (TNS)

ATLANTA — The Miami Heat continues to find ways to win without stars Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler.

The Heat did it again on Wednesday night, defeating the Hawks 115-91 at State Farm Arena without its two best players to reach the midway point of the season at 26-15. Miami improved to 11-4 without Adebayo and Butler this season.

The Heat started slow, falling behind 13-2. But Miami dominated the rest of the game to run away with its second straight double-digit win.

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After a rough first quarter that included 1-of-5 shooting on threes and seven turnovers, the Heat found itself trailing 27-21. But sixth man Tyler Herro led the comeback with 16 points and eight assists in the first two quarters to help Miami enter halftime with a five-point advantage.

The Heat then opened the third quarter with 16-0 run to break the game open and take a 21-point lead. The Hawks (17-23) scored their first points of the second half with 7:20 left in the third period.

When it was over, the Heat won the third quarter 30-16 to enter the fourth with a 19-point lead.

The Hawks managed to cut the deficit to 13 points early in the final quarter, but that’s the closest they would get.

Seven Heat players finished with double-digit points led by 21 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists from Herro.

Caleb Martin finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Omer Yurtseven contributed 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

Hawks star guard Trae Young, who was defended by Martin for most of the night, was limited to 15 points on 4-of-15 shooting.

The Heat, which has won three straight and 12 of its past 16 games, now returns to Miami to open a four-game homestand with a rematch against the Hawks on Friday.

Here are five takeaways from the Heat’s win over the Hawks:

After a slow start for the Heat, Herro came off the bench and brought the offense to life.

When Herro entered the game with 6:18 left in the first quarter, the Heat trailed 13-4. But Herro immediately provided a spark, scoring eight points and dishing out three assists in the opening period to help cut Miami’s deficit to six points entering the second quarter.

Herro was so good that coach Erik Spoelstra couldn’t take him out of the game. Herro played the entire second quarter and entered halftime with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, three rebounds, eight assists and one chase-down block in 18 minutes to send the Heat into the break with a five-point lead.

The Heat outscored the Hawks by 14 points in the 18 first-half minutes that Herro played. Atlanta outscored Miami by nine points in the six first-half minutes he spent on the bench.

The Heat then went on to dominate the second half.

Max Strus started again and Duncan Robinson played off the bench again.

Strus, who has made his first six NBA starts in his last six appearances, finished with 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from deep in 15 minutes.

Robinson, who has been a fixture in the Heat’s starting lineup, finished with 14 points in his third straight game off the bench after returning from COVID-19 protocols. Before this stretch, Robinson’s had not played as a reserve since Nov. 5, 2019.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has remained non-committal when asked whether he’ll continue using Strus as a starter and Robinson as a reserve. But it’s working for now.

Center Dewayne Dedmon made his return and returned to his usual bench role.

Dedmon, who missed the previous seven games with a sprained left knee, recorded six points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench in his return.

Wednesday not only marked Dedmon’s first game action since Dec. 23 because of his injury, but it also was his first time playing off the bench since Nov. 29. Dedmon, 32, started in his previous 12 appearances with usual starting center Bam Adebayo injured.

Instead, Yurtseven made his eighth straight start at center.

With Dedmon back and Gabe Vincent and Udonis Haslem also available for the first time since missing time while in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, the Heat’s bench rotation looked a little different on Wednesday.

Miami used a bench rotation of Tyler Herro, Dedmon, Duncan Robinson and Vincent. Because Dedmon and Vincent were back, COVID-19 replacements Kyle Guy and Chris Silva did not play until the final minute of the game with the Heat already in control.

While the Heat welcomed back Dedmon, Haslem and Vincent, it was still missing its two best players in Adebayo and Butler.

Along with missing Adebayo (right thumb surgery) and Butler (sprained right ankle), the Heat was also without Marcus Garrett(return to competition reconditioning), Markieff Morris (health and safety protocols), KZ Okpala (sprained right wrist) and Victor Oladipo (right knee injury recovery) on Wednesday.

Adebayo, who has missed 20 straight games, is inching closer to a return and went through an extended pregame workout with assistant coach Malik Allen in Atlanta. And Butler’s return is considered imminent, potentially Friday against the Hawks in Miami.

The Hawks also played without a few key players on Wednesday, including starting center Clint Capela (sprained ankle). Solomon Hill (torn hamstring), Jalen Johnson (sprained ankle) and Cam Reddish (sprained ankle) were also unavailable for Atlanta.

The second half of the Heat’s season includes a lot of home games.

Reaching the midway point of the season on Wednesday, 25 of the 41 games that the Heat has played have come on the road. That’s tied with the Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic for the most in the NBA.

Among the 15 teams that have played the most games away from home this season, the Heat owns the best overall record.

Surviving this road-heavy start to the season while dealing with injuries and COVID-19 issues has been the story of the Heat’s season.

The Heat now returns to Miami for a long stretch at home, with eight of its next nine games coming at FTX Arena. In total, 25 of the Heat’s final 41 regular-season games come at home.

Miami is 12-4 at FTX Arena and 14-11 on the road this season.

“I think everybody realizes that the first half of the schedule was road intensive,” Spoelstra said. “We literally didn’t even feel like we’ve had opportunities to unpack our bags and repack. We just kept the same bag.”

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