ATLANTA — Mario West blew a dunk. Speedy Claxton threw up an airball on a free throw. And Miami missed five shots on a decisive possession.
This playoff preview looked more like a preseason game.
Flip Murray scored 17 points to lead the Atlanta Hawks reserves past the Miami Heat scrubs 81-79 Tuesday night in a game that shed little light on their upcoming playoff series. With both teams locked into their seedings—they’ll play Game 1 in Atlanta this weekend—there was little incentive for either to give significant minutes to top players.
Miami star Dwyane Wade, coming off a career-best 55 points against the New York Knicks, wasn’t in uniform. Neither were Jermaine O’Neal or Udonis Haslem, the latter recovering from a deep cut on his right thumb. Michael Beasley led the Heat with 23 points and 13 rebounds in only 24 minutes.
The Hawks rested Maurice Evans and Zaza Pachulia, and kept their starters on the bench much of the night. Speedy Claxton, a $25 million free-agent bust, actually played for the first time in more than two years.
“I was glad to see the guys who didn’t get much playing time during the season,” said Josh Smith, who played about 12 minutes. “They were able to showcase their talents.”
Neither team had any starters on the court with the game on the line in the final minute. The Heat kept clanking shots but kept getting offensive rebounds before the Hawks finally gained possession after Miami’s fifth miss of the possession. Wade was impressed with the effort; watching from the bench in a burnt orange sportcoat and tie, he jumped to his feet waving a towel.
Wade is also likely to sit out the regular-season finale, at home against Detroit on Wednesday night.
“Any rest helps the body,” said Wade, the league’s leading scorer at 30.2 a game. “We won’t play them until possibly Saturday. That’s a nice amount of days.”
He even liked the view from the bench.
“I enjoyed it,” Wade said. “I enjoyed seeing Beasley playing two quarters with the numbers he had.”
With Beasley leading the way, Miami built a 30-20 lead early in the second quarter, then managed only two more baskets the rest of the half. The Hawks closed on an 18-4 run for a 38-34 lead at the break.
The game—using that term loosely—was tied at 64 going to the final quarter. The Heat went more than 4 1/2 minutes before getting their first basket of the period and Atlanta led the rest of the way, despite shooting just 42 percent from the field. The Heat were even worse at just under 40 percent.
“We had an opportunity to rest some guys,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “The guys who are usually on the bench were able to come out and play well, especially on the defensive end.”
There was one promising note for the Hawks. Marvin Williams, who missed 16 games with a back injury that he feared might need surgery, played his second straight game with no problems. He got in for nearly 16 minutes, went 4-for-4 from the field and finished with 13 points.
“I feel good,” Williams said. “It’s good to get a few games under you before the games really count.”
Claxton was the main attraction on this night. He signed a four-year deal in 2006 to be the Hawks’ starting point guard, but injuries and poor play made him persona non grata in Atlanta. He had not played since March 3, 2007, when he turned in 15 scoreless minutes against the New York Knicks.
“It was fun,” he said. “It felt a little weird to be out on the court, a little bit rusty.”
Claxton played 7 minutes, missing his only two shots, doling out one assist, and put up an airball on a free throw attempt, drawing groans from fans who still wonder why the Hawks gave him so much money. But he swished the second for his first point of the season, which averages out to $5.7 million per point.
“I was so nervous,” Claxton said. “After I airballed the first one, I knew I had to make that second one.”