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Bazemore takes over as Hawks top shorthanded Heat

Baze’s play in the final minute was huge.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks snapped their four game losing streak as they beat the Miami Heat 110-104 at Philips Arena.

The Hawks were led by Taurean Prince’s 24 points while Dennis Schröder (who was able to exploit the Heat’s lack of shot blocking) added 23 points.

For the Heat, they were led by Josh Richardson’s 26 points while Dion Waiters added 23 points for a very shorthanded Heat.

Bazemore seals the win

After using a strong third quarter to build a double-digit lead, the Hawks held that advantage for much of the fourth quarter too, leading by as many as 14 points. But then the Heat came roaring back as they whittled the lead to just one point with a minute left after Josh Richardson’s layup.

Things weren’t looking great for the Hawks, and a classic Hawks implosion was well and truly on the cards. But up stepped Kent Bazemore.

Bazemore — who scored 16 points, dished out seven assists, came up with five rebounds and secured five steals for the game itself — scored 10 points in the final period, four of them coming in the final minute. Here’s the clutch jumper he hit when the Heat closed the lead to just one point:

Good screen on Tyler Johnson by Ersan Ilyasova and really good contest by Bam Adebayo on Bazemore. But it was a case of ‘good D, better O’.

Bazemore then comes up with a huge defensive play, forcing Wayne Ellington to turn the ball over:

This didn’t count as a steal but it’s a turnover forced and it’s not like Baze was lacking for steals anyways — he had five of them in this game.

“It’s all about being in the right spot and following the game-plan,” said Bazemore. “Did a good job of executing . . . as a unit, everyone was in the right spots. A lot of deflections, a lot of ball-pressure. I had the easy job of being in the right spot at the right time.”

Bazemore came up huge again, as he gets the step on Tyler Johnson — the Heat defense doesn’t rotate to stop Bazemore at the rim — and Baze gets to the rim for the layup plus the foul:

He would miss the free throw, but two huge buckets by Baze to create the separation the Hawks needed to get this win.

And, to top it all off, another great defensive possession.

Dion Waiters looks to drive to the rim, Baze sticks with him all the way and comes up with the block to seal the game:

DeAndre’ Bembry shaded over to cover Tyler Johnson at the wrong time, this almost gave Waiters a layup at the rim, but Bazemore was there to get the stop and the Hawks finally get on the winning side.

“It was good for our guys to have some success, find a way to win, close out a game,” said Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer postgame. “I thought the execution – a couple big plays down the stretch – was good.”

“ . . . Our guys are working hard. Their focus and their effort in practice, their spirit’s good, the energy is good. You certainly want them to experience and feel the success and the reward for the work that they’re putting in.”

One player who felt particular satisfaction for this win was Taurean Prince.

“It’s amazing (to get a win), especially when you’ve been taking a lot of L’s,” said Prince postgame. “We work just as hard as if we’re winning, so we just have to keep it going.”

Having let the Memphis game slip away on Friday, Kent Bazemore was also very happy to get a win.

“It feels great (to get a win),” said Bazemore. “We let one go in Memphis, so it was great to get back home and refocus. We had the lead down the stretch and we relinquished it a little bit. But we took a step forward as a team. We did the right things to get a win.”

Without Bazemore — on both ends of the court — you have to wonder if the Hawks would’ve pulled through with this win. But Baze was ready to make those shots.

“You just got to be ready,” said Bazemore. “Whenever the moment presents itself, be ready to step up and make some shots for your team. I did just that.”

Miami’s lack of bodies

There wasn’t really a better time the Hawks could’ve faced the Heat, the Heat with a lot of talent sidelined with injuries: Hassan Whiteside (knee), Goran Dragic (elbow), Justise Winslow (knee) and James Johnson (ankle) all missed out.

This left the Heat with just nine available players, and effectively an eight-man lineup and almost seven, with Udonis Haslem only playing a minute in this game and with Heat two-way player Derrick Walton Jr. also playing a low number of minutes with six.

This, as you could imagine, hurt the Heat’s bench production, and the Hawks bench outscored the Heat’s bench 28-18 — an important aspect of this game swinging in the Hawks’ favor.

The Hawks should’ve been expected to win this game and probably shouldn’t have made this game look as difficult/close as it was in the end. But give the Heat credit: they played hard and played well — they just didn’t have enough bodies.

Regardless who does/doesn’t play, the Heat are always well respected.

“Miami is a well-coached team,” said Kent Bazemore. “They bring it regardless of who’s in their lineup. A lot of scrappy guys – Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters. Those guys play really hard. They play together so it was a good test for us . . .”

For Miami, they would have every excuse to blame injuries and fatigue but they weren’t having it.

“You have to credit Atlanta,” said Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. “They played good basketball and were really aggressive all game long. They had us mostly on our heels until that fourth quarter. There were stretches in the first half where I thought we competed.

“Those last nine minutes ... it would require that kind of effort, that kind of disposition. It didn’t even mean every possession was going perfectly. But you could see the level of urgency go way up. That’s what is required.

“We just didn’t have it for the entire game. Not having enough bodies – that’s not an excuse. We had enough. We had enough energy. They move you, so there are some things you have to deal with. But we just didn’t get control of that until it was too late.”

You have to respect what Spo is saying here: again, it would be easy to say the Heat didn’t have enough energy (Dion Waiters missed a free throw down the stretch that looked very fatigued).

In a way he’s right, the Heat did have enough to win this game, the Hawks (mostly Kent Bazemore) just had a little more when it mattered, but the Heat should be commended for their effort — they made Hawks fans very nervous down the stretch as the Hawks almost imploded.

Taurean Prince’s big night

After hitting five three-pointers in Memphis, it was another strong night for Taurean Prince — a team-high 24 points (tying a career-high set earlier this month, vs. Cleveland) on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor and 4-of-7 from three (three of them coming in the first quarter.

Prince continues to shoot the three at a level not many could’ve predicted in his second season in the NBA — 43%. He now appears to have the green light to shoot it when the opportunity presents itself.

“Taurean was great,” said Bud postgame. “I think he’s got a real comfort level offensively. We’re wanting him to shoot a lot. Catch and shoot, shoot whenever he’s got any daylight, driving and finishing. I think his defense has improved here recently. He’s just in a good place. He’s playing well.”

When Prince was asked if coach Bud encourages him to shoot that shot, he replied, “Most definitely. I still have the ability to go to the rack and make plays for others, so I was just doing what I do best first, and the other stuff afterwards.”

It’s no surprise then that Prince placed an intentional focus on shooting the ball and not as much focus on driving to the rim in this game.

“Today I was more focused on just shooting the ball, not as much driving going for me tonight,” said Prince. “Kent Bazemore, Dennis, Malcolm, they did what they had to do as far as the facilitating part and getting everybody involved.”

For the season, Prince is shooting 43% from three and is shooting 48% from three in his last five games. He’s playing very well right now, probably the best stretch of his young career.

Malcolm Delaney

After not featuring as part of the main rotation for a significant stretch, Malcolm Delaney made his return to the rotation in this game and played well — 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting in 24 minutes.

We saw him feature (briefly) in lineups with Isaiah Taylor and Dennis Schröder and it was his defense that really stood out to Bud.

“I thought his defense (was good), he took a couple of charges in the first half,” said Bud of Delaney. “Wayne Ellington is such a tough cover. He’s given us a lot of problems, so Malcolm... He’s a unique defender he loves to take the challenge of guarding the other team’s best players, especially guys coming off of screens and pin-downs. I thought Malcolm was a huge part of our defense, including in that third quarter when where we were able to get some separation.”

Delaney had a great sequence in the second quarter where he tried to draw a charge on Waiters, didn’t get it, saw the opportunity for another so he got up quickly, got into position and drew the charge on Bam Adebayo:

‘If first you don’t succeed...’

The Hawks (7-23, and yes, that’s all for today: we’re not talking about the poor lady who puked her guts up in the fourth quarter — which was captured on film — in detail) are back in action on Wednesday at Phillips Arena where they’ll take on the Indiana Pacers.

Should be fun. Stay tuned.