The Atlanta Hawks played their first game of a back-to-back, home-and-home series against the Heat in Miami tonight. The Hawks get a rough stretch of games to finish the season with all five matches coming against currently playoff teams.
The injuries for the Hawks include a laundry list of players, starting with Kent Bazemore, who has now been ruled out for the remainder of the season. Also out for the Hawks was Schröder, who turned his left ankle recently and was ruled out for the season. Antonius Cleveland, who recently inked a multi-season contract with Atlanta, was finally listed as active for the first time since signing with the Hawks. Malcolm Delaney and Jaylen Morris were also out with ankle sprains and the remainders of both guys’ seasons are in doubt. Dewayne Dedmon was a very late scratch with what the team called “rib soreness.”
The game dragged out of the gates and was a battle of missed shots early on. Taurean Prince finally got something going with an and-one layup but the offense for Atlanta was far and in-between. Miami was equally as bad but were able to get some good moments out of Goran Dragic who was able to get shots to fall in the first quarter. Hassan Whiteside had a little run late in the first and gave the Heat a cushion at the end of the opening quarter. The Hawks scored a couple of late buckets to make things look better than they were as the Heat held a 30-25 lead after one.
The second quarter was just the opposite, as Damion Lee and Mike Muscala were firing on all cylinders from beyond the arc to open the quarter. Lee continued to play well by slashing to the basket and loosening up Miami’s perimeter defense. The Heat were able to stay in the game due to their steady handed point guard Goran Dragic. John Collins in his return to Miami nailed two impressive three pointers late in the second to give Atlanta a slight 56-52 lead on the Heat at the break who seemed to have underestimated the short handed Hawks.
Miami must have gotten a rousing speech from Erik Spoelstra at halftime because they came out of the break a completely changed team. Hassan Whiteside re-asserted himself in the paint and Dragic continued his hot shooting from three while the Hawks depended heavily on solely John Collins for offense. Damion Lee and Tyler Dorsey (starting the second half in place of Prince, who did not appear after halftime) came in to give the Hawks some good minutes and Collins nailed yet another three pointer at the end of the third as Atlanta came back to tie the game at 78 with a quarter to go.
Dorsey continued his hot shooting early in the fourth as he nailed back-to-back threes to give Atlanta a 6 point lead. Miami fought back with some easy points around the rim but everything was just going right for the Hawks down the stretch. Evidence was a ridiculous three pointer nailed by DeAndre’ Bembry to put the Hawks up 8 with just under three minutes remaining. The Heat would not go quietly with back to back drives to the rim by James Johnson and an enormous three point shot from Tyler Johnson with just under a minute and a half to go cutting the lead to one.
After a missed jump shot by Isaiah Taylor, the Heat promptly came down the floor and got a tip in dunk by Hassan Whiteside to give Miami the lead. Damion Lee missed the next shot for Atlanta with just over 40 seconds remaining and Miami rebounded the ball with a chance to ice the game. They could not take advantage and Atlanta was able to get the ball back for another chance to pull out the win with 20 seconds remaining.
Again, the Hawks went to Damion Lee, who had a shot in the lane but he was emphatically blocked by Josh Richardson with a second remaining as the Heat rebounded the block. Richardson was fouled and hit both free throws to put Miami up three with 0.8 seconds remaining. Atlanta advanced the ball and John Collins had a look, but it was partially blocked and Miami squeaked out the win.
The Hawks will see the Heat once again on Wednesday on the back end of this home-and-home at Phillips Arena.