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MIAMI (The Sports Xchange) — Center Amar’e Stoudemire, a six-time NBA All-Star whose career has slowed to a crawl due to injuries, was a healthy scratch 27 times for the Miami Heat this season.
However, when starting center Hassan Whiteside got hurt, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra turned to the well-rested, 33-year-old reserve.
On Sunday night, Stoudemire came through again, scoring 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to help the Heat defeat the Atlanta Hawks 105-87 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Heat are 4-1 with Stoudemire as a starter, including their current four-game win streak.
“He had moments like this the past couple of years,” said Spoelstra, referring to Stoudemire’s time with the New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks. “We fully believe Amar’e can be who he was in his 20s in short bursts if we are all smart about it and control his minutes.”
Stoudemire played 21 minutes Sunday, making five of eight shots from the floor and three of four from the foul line. He added three steals and one block, and five of his rebounds came on the offensive end.
“He’s fresh,” Spoelstra said of Stoudemire, who has played between 18 and 26 minutes since Whiteside got hurt.
Heat forward Chris Bosh, who scored a game-high 18 points, said Stoudemire is doing more than just scoring and rebounding.
“He’s playing great defense,” Bosh said. “He’s physical. … We’re trying to get him in positions where he can be effective.”
Spoelstra wouldn’t say what would happen to Stoudemire once Whiteside returns, but — for now at least — the Heat are thriving with their first four-game winning streak since April 2014. The Heat also scored 100-plus points for the third game in a row.
In addition, Miami (27-21) moved to fourth place in the Eastern Conference, vaulting past the Hawks (27-22) and Boston Celtics (27-22).
Miami got 17 points each from guard Dwyane Wade and forward Luol Deng. Wade added a game-high eight assists. Rookie forward Justise Winslow came off the Heat bench to contribute 10 points and nine rebounds.
Atlanta, meanwhile, is 1-5 in its past six games.
“You have times like this during a season,” said Hawks forward Paul Millsap, who had 17 points, tying center Al Horford for team scoring honors. “I feel like we are struggling because we are trying to do the right things, trying to make the right plays and trying to be perfect.
“That’s putting a lot of pressure on us. But if we keep making the right plays, it will pay off.”
Perhaps that pressure got to Hawks guard Kyle Korver, who was held scoreless, missing all six of his shots. Korver is normally one of the best shooters in the NBA, leading the league in 3-point percentage three times, although he has slumped this season.
Korver wasn’t the only Hawks player to misfire on Sunday. The team shot 38.6 percent from the floor and 22.7 percent on 3-pointers.
That opened the door for the Heat, who led 27-17 after the first quarter and 47-34 at halftime. After the teams played to a draw in the third quarter, Miami went into the fourth with a 75-62 lead.
That was pretty much it for Atlanta, which never got closer than 11 points in the fourth.
“We were in a big hole all night,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Offensively, we were not where we needed to be.
“There were a couple of times when I felt we made a run, but it was still quite a bit of distance.”
Miami shot 48.1 percent from the floor and hit five of 20 3-point attempts.
NOTES: Miami finished 9-8 in January. Atlanta was 6-9. … Hawks All-Star F Paul Millsap, who sprained his left ankle Thursday against the Indiana Pacers, was able to make the start. … Heat C Hassan Whiteside (strained oblique) missed his fifth consecutive game. … Heat SG Tyler Johnson (shoulder) missed his second straight game. … Heat SG Dwyane Wade (.461 shooting percentage entering Sunday) is on pace for the worst shooting percentage of his career. His 3-point shooting (.226) is the worst it has been in a decade. Wade, 34, is averaging 18.8 points, the lowest mark since his rookie year. He made five of 12 shots Sunday. … Hawks SG Tim Hardaway Jr. played his high school ball locally at Miami Palmetto. His father is former Heat star PG Tim Hardaway. Tim Jr. had 10 points in 20 minutes off the bench against Miami.
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