The Miami Heat’s young players are preparing as the team battles injuries

The Miami Heat looked pretty impressive in a solid road win against the Atlanta Hawks, 106-98, on Sunday.

The win snapped a seven-game losing skid away from Miami for the Heat, who now find themselves back one game under .500 at 10-11.

It doesn’t get any easier from here with back-to-back games against the Boston Celtics coming up, although starting a road trip with a win over a playoff-caliber division foe is a good way to start the engine.

Miami again played without Jimmy Butler, who continues to nurse a sore knee, but practiced at the Heat’s home arena as his teammates shut out the Hawks.

If Butler returns for their rematch of last season’s conference finals, he will join a team that, especially lately, has individual players who play at a high level and use the sum of those parts to form respectable unit.

After recording a career-high 38 points against the Wizards, Bam Adebayo recorded another outburst on Sunday. He did most of his damage in the third period, when Miami erased a 9-point halftime lead to take control of the game, led by a well-oiled offensive performance and a combination of luck plus resilience with the zone defense.

In what many hoped would be his breakout campaign, Bam took the leap that could catapult him into every year All Star territory. His defense, which is elite, was never in question. Lately, he’s shown an improved offensive package that includes Kobe-like jumpers, Wade-like runners and Dwight-like athleticism. He can still create for others when called upon.

Best of all, he seems ready to shoulder all that responsibility more than ever. Maybe Butler’s injury forced it out of necessity, but situations like this often lead to breakthroughs.

It’s not a stretch to think that Adebayo is becoming the Heat’s best player, all options considered. Ball 3 is what remains of his confirmation.

The Hawks’ game was also progressive for Tyler Herro, who recorded his first career triple-double. He went an ugly 0-of-8 from deep, sometimes even forcing his shot, but showing he can be a weapon despite not converting on his jumper is the kind of growth that bodes well for him long term .

One-dimensional players don’t last long in the NBA. Hero is not one of them.

No one on this team does a better job of setting up Adebayo than Herro. Constantly throughout the game-defining third quarter, Miami ran empty corner pick-and-rolls between its two Kentucky guys, leading to points in the paint. The Hawks, without Clint Capela, had no answer.

Kyle Lowry was great too. Even when his shooting isn’t falling — 2-of-9 against Atlanta — there’s a sense of calm and security on offense when he’s running things. He’s still the best decision-maker on the team when in possession of the basketball, even if it means the occasional kamikaze-like pass.

Max Struss returned from a shoulder problem and dropped 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting. He struggled down the stretch in the second half, but as is often the case, his shooting when the Heat trailed kept the game from turning one-sided.

Caleb Martin continues to be up to something – I mean, hell – out there. In many cases, he looked like a lightweight Jimmy Butler with his ability to create offense from a triple-threat position while also breaking up passes on defense and the playmaker in transition.

The shooting numbers will eventually go down, but seeing him thrive in an expanded role with Butler out — it’s smart to think that will happen again — is encouraging.

When healthy, Dewayne Dedmon is one of the best backup big men in the NBA. His score down the stretch while Bam was resting allowed Miami to keep at least a few possessions ahead in the final minutes of the contest before Atlanta’s body language ultimately looked defeated.

There is a lot of positive momentum for the team in the last week. The impending return of injured players (which also includes Gabe Vincent and Victor Oladipo) may change the rotation a bit, but the Heat are building the foundations for the type of team they want to be this season and possibly beyond.

Part of that includes letting the players they developed take a greater share of the spotlight, both the pros and cons that come with that added responsibility. They have been thrown into the fire a lot in the past, now is the time for them to thrive in those situations.

For a team with aspirations like the Heat’s, that will be what it takes — even when Butler returns.

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