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Hawks hold off late charge in 115-113 win over Heat

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Two in a row.

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

On the heels of a fun victory on Sunday, the Atlanta Hawks began a three-game road trip on Tuesday evening with a stop in Miami to face the Heat. For large swaths of the second half, it appeared as if a second straight win was imminent and, while it took some fireworks to preserve the victory, the favorable result did arrive in a 115-113 win for Atlanta.

The first quarter was a back-and-forth affair and it actually began in suboptimal fashion for the visiting team. After the Hawks scored first, Miami raced to nine straight points and that had to be setting off alarm bells to some degree. Fortunately, Atlanta did respond to tie the game at 11-11 and, from there, both offenses were cooking for the duration of 12 minutes.

The Hawks shot 60 percent in the first quarter but actually trailed by three, simply because the Heat posted a 132 offensive rating and converted 62 percent of their shots. That environment did provide highlights, though, including a rookie connection.

Not to be outdone, Jeremy Lin got into the act with a beautiful drive and dish for an easy bucket.

The highlight-making did continue into the second quarter for the Hawks, as well, including Taurean Prince finishing after a gorgeous spin move.

In fact, the Hawks were (again) quite good offensively in the second quarter and, this time, the Heat couldn’t keep up. Atlanta scored the first six points, including an Omari Spellman three, to take the lead and, while full-blown disaster didn’t immediately strike for the Heat, it was coming.

The Hawks finished the half on a 17-2 run over the final four minutes, taking an unexpected 16-point lead into the break. While Atlanta’s defense was poor in the first quarter, it was much improved in the second, holding the Heat to 5 of 19 shooting and producing eight turnovers, many of the live-ball variety.

Before the half, the Hawks did commit 13 turnovers but, aside from that, the offense was fantastic and highly balanced. 10 players scored for the visitors but, in a strange twist, no member of the Hawks reached double-figures and that balance manifested on the final play, when newly-minted reserve Kent Bazemore connected on a walk-off three.

The third quarter wasn’t as dominant as the second but, with haste, the Hawks pushed the lead to 19 and continued to perform well offensively. One notable play was Young connecting with Spellman on a dunk that prompted a timeout from Miami.

Miami would make a run late in the third, scoring nine straight points to slash the edge to only eight points but the Hawks responded immediately. Atlanta put together a 9-0 run of their own, capped by a dunk from Bazemore in transition.

At the (very) end of the quarter, Spellman added an exclamation point to bring Atlanta’s point total to 100.

The Hawks opened the closing period with a 14-point lead and, for a while, that advantage was maintained. Then, the Heat scored seven straight to prompt a timeout from Lloyd Pierce with 7:30 remaining and, in a flash, Atlanta led by only six points.

After the timeout, Miami connected on a three to climb within only one possession and the Heat just kept coming. All told, Miami scored 14 straight points to take the lead and the Hawks failed to score even a single point for more than four minutes.

Atlanta’s original advantage proved helpful, though, as the Hawks got their starters back on the floor and things stabilized. Bazemore stopped the bleeding with a mid-range jumper to retake the lead with 4:20 to go and things were hotly contested from there. Miami stopped scoring on virtually every possession, allowing the Hawks to reclaim control, and the visitors led by four (at 112-108) with two minutes to play.

Then, after a miss from Miami and a loose ball, Collins connected on a layup in transition to make the margin more comfortable at 114-108 with 1:33 to go. The Hawks then generated another defensive stop, setting the stage for a potential dagger, but Young missed an ill-advised three and, seconds later, Bembry missed a long-range attempt of his own. In between, the Heat scored five straight and, suddenly, the lead was trimmed to one.

Prince was then fouled with 14.4 seconds remaining and the small forward converted only one of two attempts, leaving Atlanta with a two-point cushion. While Atlanta’s defense on the final possession didn’t stop the Heat from getting up a good (read: great) shot, Josh Richardson’s last-second attempt clanged off the rim and the Hawks escaped with a win.

Prince (18 points, five rebounds) and Young (17 points, 10 assists, five rebounds) led the way for the Hawks, with Collins (16 points), Bazemore (12 points, five rebounds) and Spellman (14 points, four rebounds, four steals) providing strong support.

The Hawks will now have a quick turnaround, as the team travels for a back-to-back matchup with the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. Stay tuned.