After a woeful opening to the night in Miami, it appeared as if the Atlanta Hawks were on their way to their second consecutive road loss in the preseason. However, things flipped toward the positive side in a hurry, and in the end, the Hawks improved to 2-1 with a 109-103 victory over the Heat.
The night began with a thud for the Hawks, as the Heat exploded to a 14-0 lead out of the gate. Because it was the starting unit for Atlanta, that was a bit of a surprising result, but admittedly, Miami was firing on all cylinders early in the night, and the margin grew to as many as 19 points during the first quarter.
However, the Hawks would battle back valiantly in the second quarter, outscoring Miami 29-21, and in short order, Atlanta finished the half within seven points at 52-45. Paul Millsap was the "star" of the first half for the Hawks, finishing with 16 points, but the bigger story line was certainly the return of Horford, who played 11 minutes before the halftime break.
Halftime spelled the end of Al Horford's night at the office, as he was replaced in the lineup by Elton Brand to kick off the third quarter. Horford finished with two points (on 1-3 shooting) and two assists, but above all, it was simply encouraging to see Al on the floor, and he should have every opportunity to shake the rust off before the tip-off of the regular season in a couple weeks.
Early in the third quarter, the focus turned to Kyle Korver, who knocked down back-to-back threes to tie the game at 57-57 for the first time since the opening basket. Later in the third, the Hawks took the lead for the first time on a Pero Antic lay-up at 63-62, and that margin swelled to 8 at 74-66 after DeMarre Carroll knocked down an open three, followed that up with a dish to Antic for a lay-up, and then converted a jumper and two free throws while putting on his own, personal variety show.
From that point forward, the Hawks would never trail, as Pero knocked down a three to push the lead to double-digits and that cushion would continue to multiply. The lead would grow to as many as 19 points in the third quarter, and as a group, Atlanta was able to score 43 points in the 12-minute frame on the strength of lights-out shooting and shot creation.
The final quarter did not start off swimmingly, as the Hawks almost immediately surrendered an 8-0 run to Miami that cut the advantage to 12 points with just over nine minutes to play. The lead was never seriously threatened, however, as the second (and third) unit managed to extend the lead to as many as 16 against the likes of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh before holding on (for dear life) for the final, six-point margin.
Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver finished with the best nights for Atlanta, as Millsap led the team in scoring with 23 points while Korver knocked down five three-pointers in route to 17 points. Jeff Teague was forced to exit the game briefly in the first half with a right hand issue, but he returned quickly and finished with 10 points and five assists in just over 23 minutes.
As far as the young guys are concerned, it was a late start for the trio of Mike Muscala, Adreian Payne and Dennis Schröder. None of the three appeared in the first half, but Muscala added five rebounds in 12 minutes, while Payne contributed a couple of high-impact plays and Dennis added six points in 15 minutes. John Jenkins did not explode in the same way as he did in the first two games, but the still-young shooting guard did play 17 minutes while looking just fine athletically, and he knocked down a three in the final moments that virtually put the game away.
Both Kent Bazemore and Pero Antic (mentioned above) made their preseason debuts on Tuesday. Bazemore played only six minutes and failed to score, displayed a considerable amount of rust in his first "real" action, while Antic flowed pretty well, scoring nine points and posting easily the best plus/minus of the night at +25 in his 11-plus minutes.
The Hawks will be in action again on Thursday night, as they travel to Chicago to face the Bulls at 8:00 pm ET. Stay tuned.