After 10 months on the sidelines due to a pectoral injury, Al Horford finally returned to action on Tuesday night for a preseason matchup with the Miami Heat.
But it was an inauspicious return for Al Horford, as Chris Bosh won the tip, scored a layup, made a jumper and recorded three rebounds in the first three minutes as the Heat opened on a 14-0 run. Bosh’s two baskets on Horford during that run looked effortless and Horford’s baseline turn-around was well short and unconvincing.
You can’t lay it all on Horford’s plate, however, as the entire starting unit played the first quarter in a listless and disinterested manner. Jeff Teague’s layup and free throw, a pair of threes from DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver and a short jumper and layup by Paul Millsap was all the offense the starters were able to muster in the 1st as the Heat built a 31-16 lead heading into the second quarter.
Horford showed signs of life in the second quarter, assisting Mike Scott on a dunk and hitting a 13-footer. However, James Ennis, a player whose rights Danny Ferry traded to the Hawks’ division rivals, made a dunk and hit a corner three to counteract Horford’s positive efforts.
Once Horford was replaced by Pero Antic with 6:16 remaining in the half, the Hawks came to life, closing the half on a 19-12 run. Antic had a pair of rebounds, a foul on Bosh, a bad pass, a missed 24-footer, two free throws and a missed heave at the buzzer. In other words, Antic didn’t exactly take over the game, but as it was in the playoffs against the Pacers, the Hawks played better with Antic on the floor.
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) October 15, 2014
The run continued into the third quarter, in which the Hawks scored 43 points on 14-for-22 (63.6%) shooting. Korver hit a trio of 3-pointers in the period, including one where he grabbed a defensive rebound, brought the ball up the floor, and scored off of a deep pull-up jumper. Millsap scored seven of his game-high 23 points in the quarter and was particularly dominant against Bosh on that end of the floor.
The Hawks nearly gave away their 18-point lead in the fourth quarter, as both Shelvin Mack and Dennis Schröder struggled to contain Shabazz Napier and Shannon Brown. Matters intensified when Erik Spoelstra subbed in Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade as Budenholzer and the Hawks stood pat with a collection of bench players. Even though they were outplayed, the young guns did enough to maintain the lead and win the game, earning some valuable experience against some big name players. John Jenkins, who has not done much defensively in his career, held his own against Wade’s post-game.
Other meaningful notes: Thabo Sefolosha provided a lot of impact in 18 minutes, racking up a line of eight points, five rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. My favorite play of his was a successful running floater from the left block, which is an attempt that I did not know was in his arsenal. Mike Scott tallied 10 points in just 15 minutes on the court. The Hawks as a team shot 13-for-34 (38.2%) from 3 and finished the night with 27 assists. Every Hawks expected to make the opening night roster — apologies to Dexter and Jarell — saw at least six minutes of action.
Hawks next play on Thursday at Chicago.
Buddy Grizzard contributed additional reporting for this story