Forward Gerald Green showed again Sunday why he could be a very valuable player for the Heat this season.
Green was signed as a free agent in July with the intention of providing offensive punch off the bench. The veteran delivered again Sunday in Miami’s 101-92 win over Atlanta with 19 points and four rebounds as the Heat evened its preseason record at 4-4 and handed the Hawks their first loss.
“He’s ignitable,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We need some of those types of guys.”
In 20 minutes, Green was 6 of 13 from the field, 3 of 8 on three-pointers, giving him five straight preseason games in double figures. He is averaging 15 points and has totaled 40 points the past two games.
“He’s approaching it with a pure heart,” Spoelstra said. “We’re putting a lot of demands on him defensively. He’s got a lot to learn, a lot to get comfortable with. Offensively he’s a big-time scoring spark and he’s doing it within the framework of the offense.”
Green entered the game with 4:16 left in the first quarter as a replacement for Luol Deng. He made his first three field goal tries and scored eight points before the end of the period.
“He can put points on the board in a hurry,” Spoelstra said.
Green, who spent the past two seasons with Phoenix, said the transition to his new team has been painless. He’s starting to mesh with his teammates and is on schedule for the season opener Oct. 28 against Charlotte.
“This is my ninth year, this is my seventh team, so I’ve been through this before,” Green said. “Everybody is making it easy for me. Everybody is coming up encouraging me. They’re encouraging me to go out there and be aggressive.”
The Heat bench, given a chance to play extended minutes, responded with 68 points. Reserve forward James Ennis played 24 minutes, all in the second half, and scored 19 points, his best offensive effort this preseason, and added six rebounds.
“You like to see young players have to show some grit, some toughness and fight for it and that’s what he’s doing now,” Spoelstra said of Ennis. “Throughout training camp he’s been concentrating on the little things, the intangibles, the hustle plays. Tonight he was able to put some points on the board that probably gives him some validation for all that work.”
The only starter to play in the second half was Chris Andersen, who was in the opening lineup because Spoelstra opted to give center Hassan Whiteside the night off.
Whiteside was kept out of the game because he tweaked his left ankle in Saturday’s game against Houston. Whiteside played his first preseason game Saturday after missing three weeks with a calf injury and had 12 points and nine rebounds. Whiteside could probably have played if needed, but Spoelstra didn’t want to take any chances in a meaningless game.
Among the four regular starters, Chris Bosh scored 14 points, Dwayne Wade scored seven, with Deng and Goran Dragic each getting five points.
Also missing the Atanta game were Udonis Haslem, who need four stiches under his left eye after Saturday’s game, and rookie Justise Winslow, out with what the team described as “rehabilitative recovery.”