BY IRA WINDERMAN
MIAMI – A week after losing to the Phoenix Suns, it was almost another Monday nightmare for the Miami Heat.
And then Dwyane Wade stepped up his play in a battle for the aged.
Sparking the Heat with seven consecutive fourth-quarter points, Wade helped settle the Heat in what turned into a 114-113 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“He’s playing his best basketball of the season now,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s textbook Hall of Fame poise.”
At 37, Wade closed with 23 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, just about all of them needed with Vince Carter, at 42, scoring 21 for the Hawks.
“Between Dwyane and Vince Carter at the end, this was circa 2005 at the end,” Spoelstra said.
The Heat led 32-31 at the end of the opening period, with the score tied at 61 at halftime and 85 at the end of three quarters.
The Heat entered 0-3 against the Hawks, manhandled in each of the losses.
That had Spoelstra expecting more than the uneven play from his team through three quarters.
“What we talked about today is put the foot on the gas pedal and let’s go,” he said going in. “Either we have a response for that — we’re tired of getting blown and the door absolutely taking off by this team — or we don’t.”
Ultimately, the response came from Wade, with Josh Richardson added 19 points for the Heat and Justise Winslow 18.
Still, after Carter’s seventh 3-pointer, which set a record by a player 40 or older, the Hawks closed within 111-105, with a pair of Tre Young free throws trimming Atlanta’s deficit to 111-107 with 2:04 to play.
Rodney McGruder then made one of two fouls shots for a 112-107 Heat lead, with an Alex Poythress driving layup trimming the Heat edge to 112-109.
A Wade turnover followed with 1:16 to play, with a Young layup with 62 seconds to play brining the Hawks within 112-111.
That’s when Wade swooped in for a layup with 42 seconds to play for a 114-111 Heat edge.
But the Heat’s 19th turnover, by Kelly Olynyk on an inbounds play, with 10.3 seconds to play, gave life to the Hawks.
The Hawks then went to Kent Bazemore, who was fouled with 9 seconds to play, his two foul shots bringing Atlanta within 114-113. The Hawks then were unable to foul as time ran out.
“Our team is gaining confidence,” Spoelstra said, after his team’s third win in the last four games.