A swift kick to the stomach. That is what this one felt like as the Atlanta Hawks fell to the Miami Heat 121-119 in overtime. Save for a four minute stretch to start the game, the Hawks outplayed the world champs and deserved to win this one. However, in the end it was all about the calls they didn't get, the turnovers they made and too much LeBron James.
Atlanta fell behind 13-0 to start the game and trailed 33-23 after one. Atlanta then outscored Miami 61-44 a career-best shooting night from Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague. Miami came charging back in the fourth behind LeBron James who had a monster game of his own. Two free throws from Teague put Atlanta up 111-108 with just 14 seconds remaining.
Out of the timeout, James drove the baseline and found Ray Allen in the corner. Allen's game-tying attempt missed but DeMarre Carroll was whistled for a foul on the play. Replays showed little to no contact on the attempt but nevertheless Allen went to the line and calmly sank all three attempts to send the game into overtime.
Again it looked like the Hawks might close out the Heat as Al Horford's lay in put them up 119-116 with 1:21 remaining. Chris Anderson then scored to cut Atlanta's lead to just a single point. The Hawks then got a pair of looks from the three-point line for Kyle Korver and Millsap but couldn't cash in.
On Miami's next possession, Michael Beasley rebounded his own miss and was fouled with 9.2 remaining. He sank both free throws and the Hawks had one final chance to steal a victory.
The Hawks ended up running a lob play from out of bounds for Kyle Korver whose game-winning attempt fell short as the Heat escaped with the win.
James as is usually the case was masterful finishing with 38 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and zero turnovers. Allen added 19 while Chris Anderson and Mario Chalmers finished with 12 each.
Jeff Teague led Atlanta with 26 points and eight assists. Paul Millsap added 25 points and 10 rebounds including a career-high seven made three-pointers before fouling out late. Al Horford added 21 points and 11 rebounds while Kyle Korver finished with 15.
It'd be real easy to point the finger at the officiating down the stretch as a reason for this loss and quite frankly it was atrocious. Still 19 turnovers by Atlanta were too many given that protecting the basketball was a focus coming into the game. As defending champion, Miami has earned their reputation and the Hawks have to be even better just to get the benefit of the doubt. Its frustrating and often unfair but that is the reality.