No LeBron James? No Dwyane Wade? No problem.
With two parts of the Big 3 out, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat persevered to defeat the Atlanta Hawks 116-109 in triple overtime at Philips Arena on Thursday.
With James (ankle) and Wade (foot) sidelined with injuries, the Heat’s supporting cast confidently stepped up and outplayed a fully healthy Hawks team that handed Miami their first loss of the season on Monday. Bosh led the way with 33 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a pair of blocks, and hit a key 3-pointer at the end of regulation to send the game into the first overtime. Starting point guard Mario Chalmers, who recently has been outshined by rookie sensation Norris Cole, led the Heat with 13 points in the three overtimes, shooting 9-of-20 from the field, to finish with 29 points. He started triple overtime with a 3-pointer and ended it with a driving layup to avenge the Heat’s only loss of the season. James Jones (five points) and Shane Battier (nine points) were the fill-in starters for James and Wade.
Midway through the third quarter, Miami took a 13-point lead on a 3-pointer by Chalmers, 67-54, before Atlanta closed the period on a 16-1 run to seize control. The Hawks other Johnson, rookie Ivan Johnson, came up big scoring 13 points for Atlanta. The undrafted forward, out of Cal State-San Bernardino, had a steal and dunk to cut Miami’s lead to one point and then closed the third with a pair of free throws to give the Hawks their first lead of the second half, 70-68.
Chalmers scored six of the Heat’s final eight points and cut the Hawks lead to two, 90-88, with 52.8 seconds remaining in regulation. Miami forced a shot-clock violation on Atlanta’s next possession, setting up a chance to tie the score or win the game. Less than three seconds separated the shot clock and game clock, when Chalmers 3-pointer caromed off the rim. But, the Heat had one last opportunity. Bosh trimmed the deficit back to two, 92-90, with 10.4 seconds left and Miami immediately fouled on the following play. Joe Johnson, who led the Hawks with 20 points, made just one of two free throws down the stretch, setting the stage for a dramatic end to regulation. With six-tenths of a second remaining, and Atlanta leading 93-90, Bosh hit the tying 3-pointer, from 30-feet, over Hawks forward Marvin Williams (seven points) to force the first overtime.
The first OT ended tied at 99 on a Josh Smith (17 points, 13 rebounds) baseline jumper. Miami had a chance to win it at the buzzer but Chalmers botched the final play and could only manage an off-balance shot that banked off the glass and clanked off the rim. The beleaguered guard, who played 49 minutes, redeemed his play by tying the score at 109 with a pair of free throws with 23.9 seconds left in double overtime. Battier then blocked Joe Johnson’s game-winning attempt, sending the game into triple OT. With Ivan Johnson and Al Horford (10 points, 11 rebounds) fouling out in the final overtime period, Chalmers scored five of the Heat’s seven points in the third overtime, including the 3-pointer at the top of the key and then a driving layup over Hawks’ guard Willie Green (14 points) with 59.3 seconds left to give the Heat a 116-109 advantage. Chalmers danced off the court and was met by LeBron, who gave him a low five in celebration. Smith air-balled a final 3-point heave as time expired, and James and Wade gleefully greeted their teammates on the court.
It was a breakout performance for Terrell Harris. The Heat’s under-used rookie guard entered the game having only played 18 minutes all season. Harris played 43 minutes against the Hawks and finished with nine points, 14 rebounds and four assists. Miami’s collaborative effort was a testament of the team’s fortitude. Battier played a lead role in defending Joe Johnson, as the Hawks all-star had a woeful shooting performance only making 7-of-20 shots from the field. Heat forward Udonis Haslem had 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Norris Cole, who had nine points, five assists and four costly turnovers, was a DNP in the extra periods as Miami’s head coach Erik Spoelstra elected not to play his rookie guard in any of the three overtimes.
Atlanta, whose win at Miami gave the Heat their only loss, struggled from the field and at the line, missing 15-of-46 free throws. Hawks head coach Larry Drew searched all night for a rotation of players that showed “a sense of urgency.” Tracy McGrady, the franchise player-turned-journeyman, finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, five assists, a pair of blocks and a steal, in 29 minutes off Atlanta’s bench, but exited the game in the second overtime because of a bruised knee. The once-perennial-all-stars status is uncertain. The Hawks (4-3), losers of the last two games, play at Charlotte on Friday to face the Bobcats and host Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls on Saturday to complete three games in three nights.
Miami (6-1) won its fourth game in five nights. Both James and Wade’s status for the Heat’s match up against the New Jersey Nets on Saturday remains uncertain. But the way the Heat played the Hawks without them on Thursday night, it might be worthwhile in this truncated season, to give ‘Bron and D.Wade a few extra days off to rest up.