The Atlanta Hawks dropped their first game after the All-Star break in spectacular fashion, falling to a 108-90 home defeat against the Miami Heat. Tyler Johnson led the way for the Heat with 23 points off the bench on 9-of-11 shooting while Goran Dragić added 17 points. Paul Millsap, probably the only Hawks who actually played well, scored 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting, 19 of those coming in the first half. Were it not for these 19 points in the first half, the Hawks would’ve easily been trailing by 25 points at least…
New faces, same old Hawks…
New Hawk Ersan Ilyasova couldn’t help the Hawks overcome their Achilles heel last night: defending the three-point line.
The Heat became the sixth team this season to set a season-high in three-point makes with 17 as the Heat shot 17-of-37 from behind the arc, 46%. It was truly something else watching the Heat shoot open three after open three. In fact, just over 30% of the Heat’s three-point shots were open, 14% — as classified by NBA.com — were open (the closest defender is 4-6 feet away from the shooter) and 16% of the Heat’s three-pointers were wide open — again, classified by NBA.com — (closest defender, 6-10 feet).
This is just not acceptable for what the Hawks are trying to achieve and where they’re trying to go. Time after time after time they’ve let teams ignite from three. Hey, guess what? Professional basketball players can make wide open three-pointers.
The Hawks tried switching to try stay in front of the Heat but it didn’t work. The Hawks just completely collapsed upon penetration and the Heat did a great job finding the open man time and time again.
“They were able to knock down those 3’s on the switch. When we switched they did a good job of probing and picking and choosing when to drive. They’ve got tremendous drivers on that team with Dragić and Dion and Tyler Johnson. Everybody can drive on their team.”
— Tim Hardaway Jr.
Postgame, Coach Bud admitted that the Hawks switched a little more than they normally would:
“We switched maybe a little more than usual tonight. Sometimes, just in our one-on-one situation….they’re doing a great job of driving the ball. They’re doing a great job of getting a shoulder and getting an edge. They finish enough when they kick it. They’re doing a great job of balancing it. We talked about it coming out of the break. It’s just coincidental that we played a team tonight where that’s an emphasis. We have to do a better job of keeping the ball in front of us.”
— Coach Mike Budenholzer
The Heat pretty much got whatever they wanted and they recognised they could too:
“It feels like every possession we can get a good shot, an open shot”
— Goran Dragić
Ilyasova ended up with nine points on 3-of-7 shooting and speaking of, sort of, new faces, Malcolm Delaney got the starting nod at point guard in place of Dennis Schröder, who was suspended for failing to report to training on time after the All-Star break. Unfortunately for Malcolm, he struggled shooting from the floor, 2-of-10 but did register a team high in assists with four.
The Heat have killed the Hawks in their last two meetings and the season series is finished, tied up at 2 game apiece. I’m sure the Hawks are more than happy to be done with the Heat for the season…
Lack of ball movement
The Hawks were given a clinic in ball movement last night from the Heat, who out-assisted the Hawks 30-14 and 19-6 at halftime.
At this stage, I think you can attribute part of this to Miami’s defense of the Hawks. Two of the Hawks’ lowest nights in assists have come against the Heat (last night and February’s blowout loss). Coincidence or…?
Sure, Dennis Schröder may have helped in this department, but when you’re a team like the Hawks, this is on everyone. It’s about the system, not on the PG to dish out 10 assists every night. No one moved the ball well, there were some bad shots taken without much ball or man movement.
“I don’t feel like it was a real sharp game for us. I don’t think we were crisp. I do think they were playing very, very good defense. It was a little bit of both. I don’t think we were very good. We had some opportunities.”
— Coach Mike Budenholzer
While the ball movement hasn’t been as good this season as years prior, maybe this is just an issue when playing the Heat, who have really turned a corner in their season and will, more than likely, make the playoffs if they continue to play like this. A lot of credit to them.
Leaving free throws at the line
The Heat outplayed the Hawks in so many ways and held so many advantages in the stats but one area the Hawks did have an advantage was when it came to free throws, but they couldn’t make the most of them. The Hawks shot 24-of-36 from the free throw line while the Heat shot 11-of-13.
Millsap shot 9-of-14 from the line, Dwight 0-of-3, Muscala 4-of-6.
Had the Hawks cashed in on their free throws, this could’ve been an interesting but, alas, it was not to be…
Underwhelming center matchup
Dwight Howard vs. Hassan Whiteside was an interesting matchup pre-game, but it ultimately proved to be a dud. Howard scored four points on 2-of-4 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds while Hassan Whiteside scored two points on 1-of-9 shooting but did grab 10 rebounds.
Howard looked poor in this game, he showed very little impact here and will have to be better against Orlando on Saturday. For him, it’s onto the next one:
“Win the next game, that’s the mindset. This game is over with. No game is easy to flush, we just have to get ready for tomorrow. They hit a lot of three’s. We missed a lot of shots. We have to get ready for the next one.”
— Dwight Howard
We’ll keep it brief enough today to ease back in. The Hawks are back in action tonight against the Orlando Magic in Florida. The Hawks need to bounce back, simple as.