The Atlanta Hawks fell to a 0-2 hole in their Eastern Conference playoff series against the Miami Heat after being unable to steal a game on the road in South Beach on Tuesday night, falling 115-105 in Game 2 at FTX Arena.
Bogdan Bogdanovic led the Hawks in scoring with 29 points, Trae Young adding 25 points. For the Heat, Jimmy Butler scored a playoff career-high 45 points, Tyler Herro added 15 points off of the bench.
Having been beaten comprehensively in Game 1 by the Heat, the Hawks responded in a much more positive way in Game 2 and were able to trade baskets with the Heat for much of the game, despite their slow start to the first quarter offensively.
The Heat only earned their first double-digit lead of the game in the third quarter behind an 11-0 run and ran their highest lead of 16 points in the fourth quarter. The Hawks would reel a 12-0 run themselves to get back into this game, largely thanks to the heroics of Bogdan Bogdanovic, who scored 19 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter alone.
You could look at the final score — having not watched the game — and be forgiven for thinking that the Hawks didn’t have a chance in this contest down the stretch, given the finishing margin, but they most certainly did, trailing by just three points with 3:15 remaining after this tough three-pointer from Bogdanovic:
The Hawks would actually get the chance to cut the lead to one point or tie it with a three-pointer after Herro misses the three on the late closeout by Bogdanovic, the Hawks getting the stop they needed:
After a foul from the Heat leaves the Hawks with 10 seconds on the out-of-bounds play, John Collins receives the ball and following the hand-off to Young, Young immediately launches into a three-pointer that would have tied the game:
I’m in two minds over this shot. In one sense Gabe Vincent is stumbling for the Heat and the look from Young is OK, not brilliant but not awful. In another sense, it was a very quick shot and could be perceived as a ‘hero’ shot to tie the game. Regardless, it’s a miss from the Hawks and now they must defend again.
However, defend they do not and Butler is allowed a very straightforward drive to the rim for the dunk:
The second Kyle Lowry was coming over it was very obvious what the Heat were trying to do: force a switch from the Hawks that would result in Young guarding Butler. The switch is allowed to happen and Young’s attempts at defense here — as he lazily tries to swipe for the ball on the drive — just isn’t good enough at this part of the game with the Hawks in a 0-2 hole if they lose this game.
In response, the Hawks try to go through Young, who again sees a sea of white, and their offense is forced to stay along the perimeter and after Bogdanovic’s contested is missed there’s a contest for the rebound between Collins and and Bam Adebayo:
The officials indicated Hawks ball but Miami took a timeout to challenge this call and ended up winning the challenge, returning possession to the home side.
Again, the Heat try to create that Young/Butler switch with Lowry and while Hunter is able to get through it this time, his contest on Butler doesn’t alter the shot enough to prevent Butler hitting the three-pointer, giving the Heat an eight point lead:
A very difficult shot from Butler here, not a ton Hunter can really do here.
Sensing the game getting away from them, the Hawks respond hastily with a quick three-point attempt from Bogdanovic but the shot is missed:
Off of that miss, Butler is able to take the ball coast-to-coast before beautifully side-stepping Collins and finishing with the left-handed layup to give the Heat a 10 point lead with just over a minute remaining and finish the game:
Matters unravelled quickly for the Hawks here down the stretch, and had that Young shot had played out differently who knows how this may have ended. Alas, when it came down to it the Heat executed. The Hawks’ execution on both ends let them down in those final few minutes.
Despite that, the Hawks pushed this contest closer than perhaps some may have expected given the fact that John Collins is not 100%, the absence of Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari scoring just two points after leading the Hawks in scoring in Game 1 and Young’s 10 turnovers.
Those 10 turnovers contributed to the Hawks’ 19 total turnovers, leading to 21 Miami points and 20 fast-break points in what Hawks head coach Nate McMillan described as the difference in this game.
“I think the difference in the game tonight was turnovers,” said McMillan postgame. “You can’t have 19 turnovers in a playoff game and expect to win games. They scored 21 points off of our turnovers, a lot of those came in transition — 20 points in fast-break points. I thought that was the difference in the game. We’ve got to do a better job taking care of the ball, not playing in traffic, passing in traffic, dribbling in traffic. They do a good job in traps and having active, high hands. We’ve got to have the proper spacing and we’ve got to get that ball out to the open man and we will have opportunities on the weak-side. We just didn’t do a good job of doing that tonight.”
Let’s take a look at some of these turnovers and the differing factors behind them.
The Hawks tried to play to a quicker tempo in the first quarter (something that did please McMillan) but sometimes tried to play a little too fast for their own good at times in their desire to try get going in the more open-court/before the Heat could set their defense — such as this turnover from Delon Wright trying to quickly get the ball forward to Bogdanovic:
If you can tell me what Onyeka Okongwu is called for on this offensive foul turnover, that’d be great. Because I do not see anything, and Okongwu is very confused too:
There’s space later to talk about some of the officiating.
The Heat’s defense at times last night was just really good and a pleasure to watch enforced — they just made some very good defensive plays, such as this strip from Vincent on the Bogdanovic drive:
Credit where credit is due: that’s a fantastic defensive play.
With Young near the sideline when Hunter comes to set the screen, the trap is invited and when Max Strus absorbs the contact from Young and stops him in his tracks, Butler arrives to help trap Young and forces the turnover:
The Heat also telegraphed a number of Young’s passes last night.
Here, the Heat load the left side of the floor with bodies and have PJ Tucker shade a bit on Gallinari, knowing that Young — with the shotclock winding down — either has to fire a tough shot on the perimeter or, in this case, attempt to pass to the deceptively open Gallinari in the weakside corner. Tucker anticipates that pass and when Young makes it, it’s easily picked off and the Heat head the other way and score in transition:
On this play, Bogdanovic arrives for Young to help create a switch and Young’s intended loop for Bogdanovic is read by Caleb Martin and another turnover leading to a basket is committed and Butler springs into a three:
Again, the Heat just do a great job swarming off the ball and give Young very few options here to pass to, and when he does it’s going in only one place because the Heat have covered off every other avenue and it allows Butler to reach in and intercept the intended pass to Bogdanovic, and Butler scores in transition:
Young obviously had some turnovers forced upon him but also had some poor turnovers on his behalf too, such as this intended oop to Okongwu which is long, and the Heat turn it into another fast-break scoring possession:
On this out-of-bounds play, Young just goes too quickly on the inbound as Strus picks off the pass and scores the ‘and-1’ in transition off of the turnover:
“They were doing a lot of the same things,” said Young of what forced the turnovers. “Being aggressive, being in their gaps, forcing us to make threes. Pretty much all five in the paint or right outside it, so they’re not letting us get to the basket and into the paint. A lot of it is getting too far in the paint and trying to throw it out and hands are there. We’ve got to get to our spots a little better and be ready to knock it down.”
“Experience,” added Bogdanovic when asked about the Hawks’ turnovers. “A couple of times we should dive to the ball, maybe we took the step-back or we didn’t set a screen or whatever. That’s that little experience that makes a difference in the game. I felt like they were struggling to hit a shot at the end of the game and then they found the rhythm and momentum back through these experienced plays — easy layups and some good possessions defensively. All credit to them in the first two games.”
The Hawks were the best team in the regular season in turnovers per game and their 19 turnover game here in Game 2 tied their worst outing from the entire regular season.
“We’re not going to win with that many turnovers,” said De’Andre Hunter simply.
Butler scored 12 of the Heat’s 20 fast-break and we saw quite a number of them just now, but where he also scored a number of points was at the free throw line, hitting 11 of his 12 free throws, five of them coming in the second quarter as the Hawks were called for 12 fouls in the second quarter alone.
Butler scored a new playoff career-high of 45 points on 15-of-25 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 from three, most of his baskets coming inside the paint, scoring 20 points in the paint alone.
“Part of it is he has shooters around him,” said McMillan when asked about Butler’s 45 points. “A lot of times those guys, your defense is hugging the perimeter and it’s giving him opportunities to play one-on-one and tonight I thought he took advantage of that. He was really good playing and creating and scoring with the space he had. If you’re helping he will pass the ball, he will give it up to the shooters on the perimeter. Tonight he did a good job, he found a rhythm, he stayed aggressive and we didn’t have an answer for guarding him tonight.”
“He hit some tough shots,” added Young of Butler. “He hit a three fading into our bench, that’s a tough shot. There’s shots you can’t guard on both teams. He hit a couple of shots tonight that we’ve got to be able to live with.”
You look at the 8-of-9 shooting at the rim... A number of these were obviously uncontested transition looks but a few you couldn’t help look at and think that Clint Capela would’ve obviously really helped — which should be a given, and when the Heat shoot 82% at the rim (14-of-17) when the league average is 64.9% that should say a something about Capela’s absence but alas...
A shot like this from Butler at the rim would’ve been challenged, and perhaps it would have been — or simply not counted — if the pull on the arm of Hunter from Lowry was noticed that meant Hunter couldn’t contest:
Of course, the Hawks didn’t help themselves at times as this missed Hunter shot fuels the fast-break and not the most amazing effort defensively in transition allows Butler to carry through coast-to-coast:
Poor help defense here from the Hawks results in a basket at the rim for Butler after the drive on Bogdanovic:
Butler’s free throws obviously helped buff his final tally of 45 and his 12 attempts helped outweigh the Hawks’ free throws as the Heat shot 25-of-29 from the free throw line to the Hawks’ 11-of-14.
The officiating left something to be desired at times in what was a very physical game where bodies on both sides were on the floor often, with Kyle Lowry and De’Andre Hunter getting into it in the first half.
“We’re going to always feel that some calls go against you,” said McMillan. “Emotions — you have to get back to calm in situations like that where you feel some calls have gone against you. There’s nothing you can do once that call is made. You have to control your emotions and get back to calm so that you can be clear about what you need to do — get to the next possession and it can’t become a distraction.”
Young was a little more critical of the officials in his postgame comments saying that despite the Hawks feeling they let this game slip away there wasn’t going to be much there for the Hawks with the game being called as it was.
“It’s tough, obviously we felt we let one slide,” said Young. “You can’t let it linger too far, we’ve got another game in a couple of days. Obviously we felt we let one slip away but if the refs are going to let them be as physical as they are and not call fouls it’s going to be hard to really do anything anyways. Got to be a little bit better with knowing who we’ve got to be and be ready to take care of home.”
Young may find himself slapped with a fine for that one but he is right from the point of view it was a very physical game.
For all of the turnovers, Butler going off, and the officiating, the Hawks played a decent game to be fair to them.
They fought hard to stay with the Heat in the first half and when they found themselves down in the fourth quarter they found something to make a run to make this a close game on the road despite all of those factors that would normally give them no chance to win this game.
Bogdanovic going for 19 points in the fourth quarter and 29 points on 12-of-18 shooting was a huge reason behind that as he turned up his aggressiveness. Despite a great game offensively, it meant little to Bogdanovic given the series situation.
“I felt maybe I wasn’t aggressive enough in the beginning,” said Bogdanovic of his fourth quarter. “I got in foul trouble quick and I felt I had to do something. I just played freely, honestly. But it doesn’t matter now. Still 0-2. First game was a terrible game, now a great game; doesn’t matter. 0-2. New start.”
Young hopes the Hawks latch on to Bogdanovic’s finish to Game 2 and carry into a much needed Game 3 performance.
“It was great to see,” said Young of Bogdanovic. “It was great for him to get into a rhythm especially going back home to finish the game the way he did. He was playing like that the whole game. The way he was into a rhythm tonight was great tonight was great to see. We’ve just got to all follow up on him and catch up on his speed in Game 3.”
Young finished Game 2 with 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting but just 2-of-10 from three-point range. Young really settled at times offensively from the perimeter and these possessions hurt the Hawks at times.
Early in the game, Young settles with a three here which he tries to get out of as both Tucker and Butler spring onto him:
With the Heat on an 8-0 run later in the quarter, the Hawks obviously need some offense to stop the run and Young settles at a time where the Hawks need to get on the board:
Again, Young settles from the perimeter as he walks into the three when guarded by Butler and then sprung by Tucker again after the screen:
Young can obviously make these shots but just a little too much settling last night from Young and just not always the cleanest of looks. Inside the arc Young was very efficient and was able to clean up at times (Wright too) but a more efficient game than you’d think from Young just offset by those misses from three (and obviously the big one that would have tied the game).
Gallinari really struggled in Game 2 after leading the Hawks in scoring in Game 1, scoring just two points on 0-of-6 shooting from the field and 0-of-4 from three in just 21 minutes. Just a bad time for Gallinari to have his worst game offensively of the season — the Hawks could’ve used anything from him given how the game ended up unfolding as it did.
The Hawks did make a lineup change with Collins starting at center, scoring 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field in 29 minutes of action. Collins obviously isn’t at 100% but has not allowed it serve as an excuse.
“John hasn’t complained about his foot or his finger,” said McMillan of Collins. “He came out of the first game OK. Tonight, didn’t even think about that, his injuries or anything like that. Our trainers were OK with the minutes that he played. That issue was really no concern tonight.”
Overall, the Hawks shot 47% from the field, which is very solid given they shot 12-of-40 from three-point range. Again, those turnovers hurt, the free throw disparity hurt, Gallinari’s performance hurt but a much, much better showing than in Game 1, even if the Hawks are now 0-2 down.
“Obviously a way better game than the first game but we’re down 0-2,” said Bogdanovic postgame. “Onto the next one.”
The Heat deserved both of these victories. Their defense has been very impressive to watch and they’ve clearly game-planned excellently in these first two games, as you would expect from one of the best head coaches in the NBA in Erik Spoelstra. They deserve credit for that because they — similarly to the Hawks — had very little time to prep for this series after the Hawks defeated the Cavaliers in the play-in game. They, of course, had more rest prior to Game 1 but that’s how it should be — there should be some benefit to have the 1-seed and it’s rest. Now, both sides will have a few days between now and Game 3 to recover.
The Hawks were not a good road team this season but gave themselves a good chance to win on the road in Game 2 despite everything, which is good cause for optimism heading home. Now, the series shifts to Atlanta where the Hawks have played significantly better this season, especially to end the season.
“They’re a really experienced team and they show the way every team should play at home,” said Bogdanovic. “They use the energy from the crowd. It’s really tough to play against them here, honestly. But we’ve got to do the same at home. We know how our Atlanta Hawks fans are treating us during the season and I know for the playoffs it’s going to be even better. I’m excited to play in front of our fans.”
“We’re fine,” said Hunter on the mindset in the series. “They did what they were supposed to do and we’re going to do what we’re supposed to do at home.”
Game 3 is a must-win game for the Hawks, with no team in NBA history overturning a 0-3 deficit. It’s now or never for the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.
Until next time...