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Dwyane Wade outduels Vince Carter in Hawks loss to Heat

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Atlanta comes up just short in South Beach.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In their final career head-to-head matchup, Dwyane Wade and Vince Carter both stepped forward to play the role of hero for their respective teams. Each player led his team in scoring in a game that came down to the final seconds, but only one could be victorious.

Carter scored 21 points, all coming from beyond the three-point line, where he made seven of his 11 attempts. But it was Wade who would come out on the winning end of this tilt featuring two legends and future Hall of Famers as Miami defeated the Hawks 114-113.

Wade lead his team with 23 points, but it was his 14 fourth-quarter points that were the difference in the ball game. In typical fashion, Wade took the helm in the final period, making 6 of 10 field goals and taking more than half of his teams’ attempts in the period.

The Hawks trailed by double digits as the game seemed to be slipping away with three and half minutes to play, but head coach Lloyd Pierce ran starters and bench players in and out of the game in an effort to keep fresh legs and hot shooters on the court.

Consecutive three-pointers by Carter later followed by back-to-back layups by Alex Poythress and Trae Young closed the gap to a single point with 1:02 to play. After Wade dealt his final dagger to push the lead back to three, a costly turnover and a failure to collect a defensive rebound cost the Hawks dearly. Still, they founds themselves down three with the ball with ten seconds left after Kelly Olynk lost the ball out of bounds, thanks to a superb defensive play from none other than Carter.

After a timeout, the Hawks inbounded the ball from mid-court. Kent Bazemore was fouled after catching a lob pass. He made both free throws to draw the Hawks within one at 114-113. However, Miami was able to get the ball in bounds and play keep away for the final nine seconds to seal the victory.

Though the Hawks come up on the losing end, Pierce was happy with the Hawks effort to to scrap their way back to a chance to win in the final seconds: “I thought our guys had a gutsy effort and clawed their way back into the game.”

In describing the failure to foul at the end, he added, “Just fell asleep at the end. We were just trying to steal-foul at the end and just couldn’t get to their body and we just fell asleep for a second and they took advantage of it. But it doesn’t take away from the effort our guys had all night.”

After the game, Carter reflected on his final match-up against Wade. “It was great to see, our last time going at it, forever. to see him try to go get wins [for his team} and I was trying to do the same.”

The Hawks played without several key players. John Collins missed his third consecutive game with the flu. Taurean Prince missed the game for the birth of his child. Omari Spellman is out, perhaps for the balance of the season, due to an injured left ankle.

Playing on the tail end of back-to-back road games, the Hawks looked sluggish early on, especially on the defensive end of the floor. After the teams traded a couple of empty possessions to open the game, Olynyk opened the scoring with a corner three at the 10:52 mark. It was the start of a 10-2 run, which prompted Pierce to call a timeout to stop the early bleeding.

As Miami jumped out to the early lead, the Heat were finding an easy time working the ball to the middle of the floor and finding open shooters or favorable match-ups. On the other end of the floor, the Hawks’ shooting stoke was elusive as they settled for looks from the three-point line with little success.

After the Hawks’ timeout, Kevin Huerter made a three and the Hawks found some intensity on defense, using three consecutive stops and another score by Huerter to close the gap to 10-7.

As is often the case, intensity on the defensive end and on the boards led to results on offense. The Hawks traded a couple of baskets with Miami, but a Trae Young putback of his own missed layup attempt prompted Miami coach Eric Spoelstra to use a timeout of his own with his team leading 17-13 near the mid-point of the opening quarter.

Just inside the six minute mark, the Hawks drew three Heat fouls on a single possession, the last of which was capped by two free throws by Young. The Hawks used better spacing, with Dewayne Dedmon parked at the three point line to draw rim-protecting center Bam Adabeyo away from the middle. With no other Miami rim protectors on the floor, the Hawks attacked the paint and crashed the offensive glass to find offensive production, mitigating their shooting struggles early in the game.

With 3:30 to play in the first quarter, Young beat a Miami double team and a total of three defenders to score a layup which was followed by a B.J. Johnson transition dunk to pull the Hawks within two, 26-24. The teams continued to trade scores until Vince Carter closed the period with a three pointer to to pull the Hawks within one at 32-31.

Miami out-shot the Hawks in the opening period, making 14 of 24 from the field including three of six from behind the arc. Meanwhile, the Hawks made 11 of 26 field goal attempts and 4 of 14 from the three-point line. The Hawks kept the game close using seven offensive rebounds to get extra shots while outscoring the Heat five to one at the free throw line.

Carter opened the second period the way he ended the first, with a three-pointer to give the Hawks their first lead, 34-32. Backup point guard Jaylen Adams found Carter, who buried the shot, even though it was closely contested by Derrick Jones Jr.

Aside from forcing Heat turnovers, the Hawks struggled to get stops in the second quarter. Three consecutive buckets, two by Josh Richardson and one by Wade, pushed Miami back in front 41-37. Miami made their first nine field goal attempts in the period, with their first miss coming on a three-point attempt by Olynyk near the five minute mark.

During that stretch, Carter kept the Hawks close by continuing to make an impact at the three-point line. With 6:04 left in the quarter, Carter pulled the Hawks back within three with his fourth three-pointer of the game. The shot gave him 2,196 made threes for his career, passing former Hawk Jamal Crawford for sixth place on the all-time list.

After Carter’s fourth three, Miami built an eight-point advantage, leading 58-50 with 3:34 to go before the half. Sloppy and stagnant offensive play by the Hawks negated slight progress made on the defensive end just as they finally started getting some stops. After Olynyk gave the Heat the eight-point edge, Pierce used a timeout to get his team reorganized.

After the timeout, the Hawks put together a quick 5-0 run. On both possessions, Miami trapped Young off of pick-and-roll action. The Hawks patiently found open players, first DeAndre’ Bembry for an easy layup followed by a corner three for Dedmon.

On the defensive end, the Hawks started doubling Miami’s post up attempts and scrambled back to challenge perimeter shooters to force some misses. After making their first nine field goals of the quarter, the Heat made just 2 of 8 for the rest of the period, giving the Hawks an opportunity the close the gap before the half.

With the Hawks trailing 61-55 inside the two minute mark, the Heat again trapped Young as he worked off of a screen. The Hawks reversed the ball to Bembry on the other side of the floor, who beat Miami’s defensive rotation for an impressive reverse dunk to close the gap to four points.

In the final minute of the half, Young scored four points while the Hawks forced back-to-back turnovers to bring Atlanta even at 61-61 at the half. The Hawks overcame Miami’s 61 percent first-half shooting by managing 11 more field goal attempts than their opponent. An 11-5 advantage in the turnover category as well as a 10-4 edge on the offensive boards helped offset a ten-point deficit in paint scoring.

The Hawks doubled up the Heat at the three-point line in the first half with ten makes to Miami’s five. Bazemore and Carter led the Hawks in the first half with 12 points each as Young added ten points and four assists. Richardson led the Heat with 13, followed by Justise Winslow with 12.

The Hawks opened the second half with a beautiful play that resulted in a lob from Young to Dedmon. The score gave the Hawks a 63-61 lead. The Heat responded with a three-point play by Adebayo to retake the lead 64-63.

Coming out of the half, Miami continued their focus of pushing the ball to the middle, getting open looks or working their way to the free throw line. Four consecutive Hawks’ misses at the three-point line allowed Miami to build a 68-63 lead, but Huerter got the Hawks back on track with a three to pull the Hawks back within two with 9:18 to go in the period.

Miami then regained momentum as two sloppy Hawks’ possessions resulted in consecutive transition opportunities for the Heat as they pushed the lead back to five points. The constant trapping of Young started to take its toll, forcing the Hawks into a bit of helter skelter offensive play, but Miami gave the Hawks a gift when they fouled Bazemore on consecutive three-point attempts. Bazemore made four of the six attempts at the line to close the lead to a single point, 71-70.

B.J. Johnson then put the Hawks 72-71 with a baseline floater, but another turnover by Young on the Hawks’ next possession, his sixth of the game, resulted in a transition score by Waiters to put Miami back in the lead 73-72.

After a Hawks’ timeout, Pierce put five bench players on the floor. The Heat scored four consecutive points after the timeout but the Hawks countered with back-to-back threes to start an 8-0 run to put the Hawks back in front 80-77. A quick flurry of scoring from both teams in the final two minutes of the period resulted in an 85-85 tie at the end of three.

Miami opened the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run. The Hawks responded with a three-pointer by Huerter. Anticipating yet another double team, Young whipped a behind-the-back pass to Huerter, who drilled the long three.

The Hawks retook the lead on a putback by Dedmon with 93-92 with 9:17 to play. However after that Dedmon score, the Heat put together a 12-2 run, opening a nine point lead at the midpoint of the final period. Three missed three-pointers and another turnover by Young gave Miami the opportunity to build momentum in the game’s final period.

While the Hawks’ starters looked sluggish and struggled on the offensive end, Wade scored seven consecutive points with a step back three and two pull-up jumpers. Richardson followed with a three-pointer of his own capping the run and putting Miami up 104-95.

Clearly, a short-handed Hawks’ team was fighting fatigue. Still, the Hawks wouldn’t quit as Pierce looked to his bench for a spark. Adams and Bembry returned to game followed by Carter and Dedmon a couple of minutes later.

Miami matched their largest lead of the game when another jumper by Wade increased the lead to ten at 109-99 with 3:27 to play. Then Carter came through again with two more three-pointers closing the gap to 111-105.

Later trailing by five with 1:44 to play, Poythress and Young made consecutive layups to close the gap to a single point at 112-111. Wade responded with yet another fourth quarter bucket to push the lead back to three before two free throws by Bazemore and a failed attempt to put Miami on the free throw line in the final seconds left the Hawks on the losing end.

Though a short-handed, fatigued Hawks team fought hard and almost stole a road win from the Heat, it was a Miami defense set on trapping Young that was a major factor in the Miami win. There were stretches when the Hawks responded to the trapping defense by patiently working the ball to open players catching Miami rotating back from the trap.

In the end, Miami’s trapping game disruptive enough to force 14 turnovers, eight by Young, while holding the Hawks’ point guard to 18 points after scoring 30 or more in four of his last six games.

“They were blitzing Trae and they put him under duress most of the game,” Pierce said in describing Miami’s defensive approach. “Their defense was aggressive, they were trying to take Trae out of it.”

Ultimately, Pierce wasn’t disappointed in how the Hawks handled the trapping Miami defense. “[Miami’s defensive approach is a] compliment to Trae. I though our guys did a good job adjusting.”

The Hawks seemingly won the battle of the box score. The Hawks made 17 three-pointers compared to nine by Miami. The Hawks made 20 free throws compared to 17 by Miami. The Hawks collected 16 offensive rebounds, while Miami gathered seven. The Hawks even won the turnover battle, 19-14, in spite of eight turnovers from Young.

Ultimately, it was the Hawks’ inability to keep the ball out of the paint that countered all of the other statistical advantages. Miami finished with a 20-point advantage in points in the paint and shot 62.5 percent on their 56 two-point attempts.

After an exhausting three games in four nights, including a four-overtime game on Friday, the Hawks return to action on Wednesday as they kick off a four-game home stand by playing host to the Spurs.