The Atlanta Hawks suffered their ninth straight loss to the Miami Heat on Monday night falling 121-119 in overtime. Atlanta overcame a sluggish start to lead by as many as 11 points before watching it slip away at the end.
There is no room for moral victories for the Hawks who are still looking for a signature road win against a good team. However, there are still a lot of positives to take away from this one. First and foremost is that Miami is a really good defensive team and for most of the game Atlanta's offense got plenty of good looks at the basket and took advantage.
Jeff Teague was a big part of that as he attacked the Heat's pick and roll coverage to the tune of 26 points and eight assists. When Miami adjusted and started attacking the ball handler with double teams, Atlanta did an excellent job of slipping the screen with Al Horford and getting the ball in the paint usually with shooters in each corner. Horford had another solid night with 21 points, 11 rebounds and three assists.
Atlanta also really hurt Miami from deep as they went 17-34 from three-point range in the game. Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver combined to do most of that damage. Korver started the game 4-4 and finished 5-8 from deep for 15 points. He extended his consecutive games streak to 97 games and moved past Brent Barry into 23rd place on the all-time made threes list.
Millsap hit a career-best seven threes on the night and finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late. Millsap is now shooting 46 percent from three-point range this season and you can see the positive effect it is having on Atlanta's offense.
Lou Williams played 34 minutes and finished with nine points and five assists while Mike Scott chipped in eight. Shevlin Mack went just 1-5 from the floor but handed out seven assists in just under 22 minutes.
So for the night Atlanta racked up 121 points, shot 48 percent from the field, made 17 threes while shooting 50 percent from deep, shot 74 percent from the free throw line and recorded 29 assists on 44 made baskets. They did turn the ball over 19 times which is disappointing considering that protecting the ball was a priority coming in. However, factor in that eight of those 19 came in the opening period leaving the Hawks with just 11 over the final three quarters and overtime.
LeBron James turned in an MVP worthy performance finishing with 38 points, eight rebounds, six assists and zero turnovers. He scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to single handedly keep the Heat in the game and hit a pair of dagger threes late.
Atlanta still led 111-108 with 14 seconds remaining before Ray Allen got a foul call on a three-point attempt out of the corner with just eight seconds left on the clock. The replay showed little contact on the play but if you are Atlanta and LeBron is the biggest threat, Allen is the second most important player on the floor. DeMarre Carroll lost sight of Allen for just a moment on the play and that was all the veteran needed to get enough space for the final attempt. Allen made all three and Paul Millsap's game winning attempt under the basket was snuffed out so the game headed to overtime.
Both teams shot 3-8 in the extra period but Atlanta was 0-4 from three-point range. The Heat conversely worked their way to the basket for six free throw attempts including two by Michael Beasley with 9.2 seconds remaining that put Miami ahead for good.
The Hawks still had one last chance. After a couple of timeouts the Hawks inbounded the ball but the play failed to materialize. The ball ended up in Lou Williams' hands who probably waited a too long to attack and was fouled by Mario Chalmers with the foul to give with 2.3 seconds remaining.
Atlanta won a game earlier this month against Washington with a lob pass into Horford who scored as time expired. The Heat put James on Horford to guard against such a play this time. Mike Budenholzer opted to go with a lob play for Kyle Korver who was being guarded by Mario Chalmers. Korver ran off a series of screens as you would expect but then caught the Heat by surprise as he dove to the basket. Pero Antic gave him a great pass but Korver was unable to guide it in for the win.
This was a tough loss for the Hawks but one that they need to move past quickly. Atlanta is off on Christmas eve and Christmas day before returning to action on Thursday in Cleveland.