That’s what Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he wanted from his nine available players Friday night at Philips Arena.
And that’s what he got.
Without Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside around to help, Luol Deng, Justise Winslow, Josh McRoberts, Amar’e Stoudemire, Gerald Green, Goran Dragic, Beno Udrih, Josh Richardson and Udonis Haslem — the Heat’s Nine Strong — pooled their efforts and stunned the Atlanta Hawks 115-111.
Deng scored a season-high 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and McRoberts, who missed 93 of his first possible 135 games with the Heat because of knee injuries, came off the bench and added 19 points, six rebounds and 10 assists — his best game in a Heat uniform.
“We were moving the ball and we did a good job attacking the paint,” Deng said. “We knew we were missing D-Wade and CB so we knew we had to come out with a lot of energy. We’ve been in situations like this, but we knew we were going to play with a lot of energy and a lot of heat.”
The Heat’s starting lineup of Dragic, Green, Winslow, Deng and Stoudemire entered Friday’s game having played all of five minutes together on the floor this season. And when the season averages of all nine healthy players available to Spoelstra on Friday were added, it equaled 55 points.
But that group defied the odds to upset the Hawks (31-25) and win the season series 3-1. Miami (30-24) entered the second half of the season Friday fifth in the Eastern Conference and facing long odds with the uncertainty of Bosh’s health.
The Heat was also without the league’s leading shot-blocker in Whiteside, who was serving a one-game suspension for a flagrant foul against the Spurs just before the All-Star break.
But the team wasn’t expecting was to be without Wade, too. The Heat’s 12-time All-Star and co-captain was ruled out for only the fourth time this season with soreness behind his left knee.
Wade, who hasn’t had any knee issues in a year and a half, said the injury occurred toward the end of Wednesday’s practice. He hoped rest and treatment would ease the pain and his concerns. But it didn’t.
Now, he’ll undergo an MRI on Saturday in Miami, where he hopes to “ease his mind.”
“I feel OK… it’s just a little uncomfortable,” Wade said about an hour before Friday’s tipoff. “… It’s nothing that I’m overly concerned about. It’s just some soreness I haven’t felt in a while. So I just want to make sure it’s good.”
Wade said had the pain been in the front of his knee — such as tendinitis — he would have played Friday night. But considering his knee issues of the past he didn’t want to risk it.
Wade said the injury “came out of nowhere.”
“I turned to run and then I felt it,” he said. “That’s the part about it. It wasn’t [anything] like I jumped and came down and felt it. That’s why my mind is at ease from that standpoint. I didn’t actually hurt it. Hopefully, it’s just a little irritation and things like that. Hopefully, it will be fine.”
Wade said his knees feel fine when he’s resting. He feels a sharp pain, he said, when he squats or tries to turn on it.
Wade lost 20 pounds in the offseason, hired a new trainer and got himself in better shape to take pressure off his knees. Before being scratched from Friday night’s starting lineup, he had only missed two other games this season for injury. Both of those were because of shoulder discomfort.
Even if Wade doesn’t play Saturday at home against the Wizards, the Heat will at least have Whiteside back.
“I’m just glad we got the win,” said McRoberts, who made three three-pointers, matching the same amount he had made to this point in the season. “I still don’t care about stats. I don’t care about when I get ’em or when I don’t. My man Bill Walton says the stats are for people who don’t watch the game.”
Saturday: Wizards at Heat
When, where: 7:30 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami.
TV, radio: SUN; WAXY 790, WAQI 710 (Spanish).
Series: Heat leads 74-38.
Scouting report: The Heat lost two of the previous three meetings this season including 106-87 in Washington back on Jan. 20. Center Hassan Whiteside, who served a one-game suspension Friday in Atlanta for his flagrant 2 foul just before the All-Star break, will be back for the Heat.