Coming out of the All-Star break, all signs pointed to a great opportunity for the Hawks to get off to a quick start in the second half with a matchup against a Heat team that was without Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Hassan Whiteside. Instead, Atlanta surrendered 115 points, including 30 from Luol Deng, in a 115-111 loss to Miami.
Coming into the break, I feel like defensively, we've been playing better," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "To give up 115 points on 50 percent (shooting) is tough. We have to be a lot better. We have to start doing it on the court. It's a disappointing way to start after the break."
From the beginning of the game, the Hawks played sloppily on offense and fell in a deficit that remained for a majority of the game. Part of the major problem offensively were turnovers -- the Hawks had 21 of them, which is the second most of the season. While a few of them were careless, a concerning amount came from passes to the player slipping out of a screen. Multiple times, a Hawk either misjudged the direction the screen man was rolling, or a Heat defender was easily reading the pass and was able to intercept it.
"A little bit of both," Paul Millsap said when asked about whether the Heat were reading the passes well or if it was a lack of focus from Atlanta. "That defense is pretty tough. You never know when they're going to switch it, or push it, or whatever the case may be. But we can do a better job of reading it."
"Obviously we have to be a little smarter with some of those passes," Kent Bazemore added about the turnover problem on Friday night. "This is a team that (loves) to share the ball. There are going to be times where we're just off a little bit with the reads. These are just growing pains. The good thing is we have a game tomorrow."
A couple of positives from the game were Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver. Teague finished with a game-high 23 points and seven assists for the Hawks on 9-14 shooting, including 3-7 from beyond the arc. He showed a few flashes of Teague Time late in the fourth before the Heat knocked down a couple daggers to put Atlanta in catch-up mode. Korver was second on the team with 18 points on 7-14 shooting and 4-7 from three-point range. Korver is now shooting nearly 52 percent from the field and 53 percent from deep in seven February games. More than any time this season, it appears he may be getting the rhythm in his jumper back.
The positives were still easily overshadowed by the negatives, which were largely a lack of defensive focus from the Hawks. Luol Deng had 30 points and 11 rebounds, both season-highs. Josh McRoberts had 19 points and 10 assists. McRoberts hadn't scored more than 12 points and hadn't gained more than five assists in a game this season coming into Friday night.
Though it's just the first game back from the break, which is typically a game teams can come out slow in, a loss to a depleted roster like Miami's can cause some concern.
"I think to come off the break and play a team that had a lot of guys play well and step up ... I don't know what the right word is, but we have to be better, Budenholzer said. I think it has to happen with out actions and what we do on the court. I do believe in the character of our group, but at some point, it has to happen on the court. That has to come out on the court. It has to come out in the games, and we believe it will."
The Hawks will be back in action at Philips Arena on Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.