The Atlanta Hawks participated in a basketball game on Sunday evening. There were referees, fans and everything. After 48 minutes in the preseason opener, the Hawks came away on the losing end, falling by a final score of 96-90 to the Miami Heat.
The first half saw Mike Budenholzer deploy 14 (!) players and, effectively, the entire projected 15-man roster with the exception of the injured DeAndre’ Bembry. That meant the debut of both John Collins and Tyler Dorsey, as well as the first action in Atlanta for Dewayne Dedmon, Nic Brussino, Marco Belinelli, Luke Babbitt, Quinn Cook and Miles Plumlee.
It was a back-and-forth affair in the early going, with the Heat reeling off a 15-2 run in the second quarter and the Hawks answering by scoring the final eight points of the half to claim a three-point lead. Dedmon scored a team-high 10 points prior to halftime and both he and Collins were featured at the center position in a “five-out” offensive scheme.
Miles Plumlee exited with a quad ailment and did not return but the Dedmon/Collins combination functioned well at center and the veteran even launched a corner three-point attempt. It was a slow evening for Taurean Prince (1-6 FG, 21 minutes) and Kent Bazemore (scoreless in 16 minutes) but flashes of coherent offense abounded and the defense, generally, was solid for a preseason atmosphere.
The Heat took control of the proceedings by scoring the final eight points of the third quarter and never really looked back. Budenholzer injected Josh Magette and Jeremy Evans (and, later, John Jenkins and Tyler Cavanaugh) into the mix for portions of the stretch run but a comeback never materialized.
Overall, there were plenty of encouraging signs. John Collins looked the part on both ends, finishing with 9 points and 15 rebounds (in 19 minutes) while flashing strong defensive indicators. Dennis Schröder did not shoot well (6 for 17 from the floor) but dished out five assists without a turnover and, in general, the defensive performance from a team-wide perspective lent plenty to the belief that it could be solid this season.
The Hawks will be back in action on Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Stay tuned.