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Short-handed Hawks come up empty in Miami

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Another loss, but it sure wasn’t for a lack of effort.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks dropped their third straight game on their five game road trip as they fell short in Miami, defeated by the Heat 104-93.

Josh Richardson led the Heat with 21 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks. For the Hawks, Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince both scored season-highs of 20 points apiece.

All you can ask for

Under normal circumstances, the Hawks would be up against it on the road in Miami, on the fourth game of a five game road trip and the second night of a back-to-back — that’s a tough sled for any team.

But the Hawks weren’t operating under normal circumstances; without two starters (leading scorer Dennis Schröder and Ersan Ilyasova) and a key member of the bench (DeAndre’ Bembry) also out, that’s just about as ‘up against it’ as you can get.

It wasn’t looking pretty in the second quarter as Miami ignited from the perimeter to build a big lead, and the Hawks eventually found themselves down by 21 points by the early stages of the third quarter.

But the Hawks — just as they did in Brooklyn — kept at it, scrapped away, picked up their defense, got a bit luck with Miami going cold from outside, outscored the Heat 29-15 in the third quarter and gradually dug into the Heat’s lead, evaporating it entirely by the early stages of the fourth quarter.

But just as what happened in the Brooklyn game when the Hawks tied the game, the Heat reeled off a 7-0 run and the Hawks — though they hung around — couldn’t get close again and the Heat eventually won by 11.

After the Brooklyn game, coach Bud said that the Hawks had expounded a lot of energy trying to overcome a 16 point deficit and you can’t help but feel the same way when it came to this game.

“It’s tough,” said Kent Bazemore postgame. “You got a point guard out (Dennis Schröder), who has been monstrous for us the start of the season, and Ersan who can spread the floor a little bit...we fought hard out on the road, fourth game in a couple of days. We left it all out there.”

It’s all that coach Mike Budenholzer could’ve asked for, ultimately — scrappiness, competitiveness...

“...We found a way to scrap our way back into a tie game,” said Bud postgame. “That kind of effort, that kind of competitiveness... That’s what we want to build on, that’s what we want to be.”

“I think there’s things we can learn from tonight and can build on from tonight,” Bud added.

It was that third quarter where the Hawks began the long-road back, and despite the Heat shooting the lights out in the second quarter, the Hawks knew that the percentages would eventually even themselves out and the Hawks held the Heat to just 15 points and 28.6% from the field

“When you play this game long enough you understand that the percentages do catch up,” Kent Bazemore said postgame.

“It’s rare that a team stays that hot for that long,” Bazemore added. “So we just stayed the course, came out the third quarter, really gave them a good punch to start the third, kept battling, kept doing what we’re doing which was the biggest thing we could take from tonight. We stayed steady, kept plugging away and gave ourselves a chance.”

It sucks when your team loses and loses three straight but you can’t fault the Hawks too much here.

And if you are, keep these things in mind:

The Hawks haven’t played at home yet this season, this was their fourth straight game on the road and this was the second game of a back-to-back, they scored over 90 points, shot over 47% from the field shot 41% from three, got to the free throw line 18 times, had five players score in double-digits (two of which scored 20 points)... What more did you expect from the Hawks without Dennis Schröder and Ilyasova?

They gave everything you could’ve asked for and more considering they fought all the way back from a 21 point deficit.

Wayne Ellington’s second quarter explosion and Miami’s first half red hot shooting

The second quarter of this game was quite something...

‘The Man with the Golden Arm’, Wayne Ellington — having had a slow start to his season — exploded into life in the second quarter as he scored 19 of his 20 points in the second quarter, hitting six three pointers.

Miami do a great job of driving, collapsing the defense, and kicking it out to their shooters and Wayne Ellington — when he gets going — is a great shooter to have for this team with that philosophy.

When a role player ignites like this, it alleviates a lot of the pressure on the star players, particularly for Goran Dragić, who was without running mate Hassan Whiteside for this game.

"When he has this kind of game, it’s so much easier for us," said Heat point guard Goran Dragić.

“...When it rains it pours,” added Heat forward Justise Winslow.

I loved this next quote from Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, and it reminded me of the quote Bud gave when asked about Marco Belinelli and how Bud wanted Marco to keep shooting. This is what Spo said about Wayne Ellington shooting the ball:

“I will continue to say this, I don’t get caught up in whether the ball is going in or not.”

I love seeing a coach — no matter what team — place absolute confidence in a player, and a veteran role player too, not a young growing star, even when they’re struggling. But the Heat certainly weren’t struggling shooting the ball in the first half.

The Heat themselves hit 13 first half three pointers as they shot 13-of-23 from behind the arc in the first half.

This definitely helped the Heat really pull away from the Hawks in the second quarter (Miami outscored Atlanta 36-21) but — as Baze mentioned — this really evened out, as the Heat shot 1-of-14 from three in the second half (7.1%). This, equally, helped the Hawks come back into this game — so it all really evens out in the end, despite how unideal the first half Heat shooting was for the Hawks.

Bazemore and TP stepping up

In the absence of Dennis Schröder, the Hawks needed someone to step up in his place, to replace his scoring, and both Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince did so: Bazemore scoring 20 points and Prince tying a career-high, also with 20 points on 9-of-14 from the field.

Prince was one player who really benefitted from the absence of Heat center Hassan Whiteside and the rim protection he gives. Prince got to the rim often and displayed his ability to finish with either hand once he got to the rim.

Prince also shot 2-of-3 from behind the arc in what was a bounce-back game after a tough afternoon in Brooklyn. The only real stain on this performance from Prince were his seven turnovers...

Kent Bazemore, meanwhile...

Baze can be a frustrating player to watch at times. He could’ve had 30 points in this game (and 15-20 most nights) if he was just more efficient from the field, if he could just hit a few more shots. Monday night against the Heat was no different: 6-of-17 from the field was Bazemore (35%), and some of those shots were pretty bad/wild, as Baze is known to be at times.

It’s a shame that Baze wasn’t able to be more efficient in this game, because he got to the free throw line on 10 occasions (converting seven) and this, obviously, helped the Hawks score some free points in a game they desperately needed some scoring in the absence of Dennis Schröder.

The positive thing from Baze — despite his inefficient shooting from the field — is, obviously, that he has gotten to the line a ton in the last two games (18 times) and converted them (15-of-18). That’s a good sign going forward for Bazemore.

Turnovers

The Hawks committed a season-high 20 turnovers on Monday night which led to 17 Miami points — the Hawks were, perhaps, fortunate that Miami didn’t score more points off of.

This happened for a number of reasons.

The Hawks — without Dennis Schröder — found themselves trying a bit too hard, or too fancy, on offense at times, sometimes the Hawks were just sloppy with the ball and sometimes the Heat came up with steals (12 in total).

Taurean Prince, when it came to turnovers at least, had a night to forget: seven in total. Yikes.

The Hawks will have to do a better job taking care of the ball going forward.

Back-to-back double-doubles for John Collins

After notching his first double-double against the Brooklyn Nets, John Collins notched another one in Miami — 14 points and 11 rebounds in 18 minutes.

Collins continues to be productive in limited minutes, but it was somewhat surprising that he only played 18 minutes (and only one in the fourth quarter) on a night where Ersan Ilyasova missed out with a left knee strain when Collins had played over 20 minutes a game when Ilyasova actually played.

Perhaps this was to due do with a matchup issue? In the third quarter, Heat forward James Johnson started to take it to the Collins and found success doing so. Johnson was just too strong for Collins to handle underneath and Johnson was always going in the fourth quarter and down the stretch, and Collins would’ve been an easy target for Johnson.

Regardless, another encouraging performance by Collins, who continues to look like a fantastic selection at 19th overall.

The Prince-Dragić scuffle

In the early stages of the third quarter, Goran Dragić sets a screen on Taurean Prince on the edge of the paint. Prince takes exception to it, and as Josh Richardson launches a three, Prince intentionally bumps into Dragić and the two have to be separated — more so to prevent Prince going at Dragić rather than the other way around.

Prince was assigned a Flagrant 1 foul for the play.

Dragić was left less than impressed postgame.

Interesting that another incident involving Taurean Prince happened in Miami, you might remember last season when Prince was ejected for bringing down Hassan Whiteside hard to the floor in a blowout loss.

Only in Miami, apparently...


The Hawks (1-3) finally finish their five game road trip in Chicago where they’ll take on the Bulls on Thursday.