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Atlanta Hawks’ slow start proves crucial in loss to Miami Heat

Miami Heat v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks suffered a 119-109 defeat against the Miami Heat on Saturday night. The Hawks did not hold a lead outside the first few minutes of the game. The absence of Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Caleb Martin heightened fan expectations for a win. However, the Hawks found themselves in a challenging position after a problematic first quarter, which they couldn’t recover from.

Early in the game, the Hawks had opportunities for good shots, but they struggled to convert. The team made numerous mental mistakes, leading to turnovers and providing the Heat with fast-break chances. Facing a team without three starters, allowing easy opportunities proved detrimental. At times, it was simply a matter of getting beat down court.

The overall offensive performance was lacking precision. The Heat, with a formidable defensive scheme regardless of their lineup, posed challenges for the Hawks. They forced the Hawks into uncomfortable drives, resulting in challenging shot attempts. The offensive decision-making was lacking, especially in the first quarter.

In addition to the defensive intensity leading to fast-break points, the Heat were efficient from the field to start the game. They started 15-for-20 on field goals, while the Hawks struggled to find any semblance of offensive rhythm. Wes Matthews, in his first available game, was the second man off the bench after Bogdanovic. AJ Griffin received a DNP due to the coach’s decision. The Heat concluded the quarter with a 41-24 lead.

The Hawks showed improvement in the second quarter, effectively limiting the Heat in transition. Throughout the game, the Heat maintained high defensive pressure on Trae Young. An example is this screen-and-roll by Jalen Johnson, resulting in a successful mid-range shot.

Nevertheless, possessions with offensive assertiveness were infrequent. The team struggled with turnovers, unable to cope with the defensive pressure. When playing against the Miami Heat, you need to be both assertive and decisive. For most of the night, the Hawks were neither.

Bam Adebayo showcased dominance throughout the game, excelling in every aspect and successfully converting every mid-range turnaround attempt. Additionally, he recorded an impressive stat line with 17 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks, establishing himself as the best player on the court for the majority of the game.

While it would have been preferable to witness a sharper quarter from the Hawks, they still managed to outscore the Heat 28-22 in the second quarter. Consecutive three-pointers from Dejounte Murray, followed by one from Jalen Johnson, brought the game within eight points. However, a three-pointer from Jaquez as time expired extended the Heat’s lead back to 11. Notably, the first three of the back-to-backs occurred just over a minute before the half, with the Hawks accumulating only 19 points in the second quarter up to that point.

Entering the third, the Heat’s defense persisted in stifling their efforts, even in transition. The Heat effectively guarded against multiple fast-break opportunities, leaving the Hawks unable to capitalize.

Dejounte Murray put together an impressive third, providing some life for the Hawks. He scored on all three levels, ending with eleven points in the quarter.

The Hawks trimmed the deficit to seven points with seven minutes remaining in the contest, yet the Heat consistently had a response. The Hawks, with an opportunity to reduce the deficit below seven, unfortunately, turned the ball over. Following the turnover, they missed a three-pointer, allowing the Heat an easy two on the counterattack. Subsequently, the Hawks experienced a sequence of four turnovers in a brief span, leading to the Heat extending their lead to 17. With 14 minutes remaining in the game, the Hawks had already accumulated 18 turnovers. Wesley Matthews contributed back-to-back threes late in the quarter, narrowing the lead to 11 entering the fourth.

Trae Young started the fourth quarter with back-to-back buckets, cutting the lead to single digits once again. However, the Hawks then struggled, missing four consecutive field goals. Bogdanovic managed to hit a three, bringing the deficit back to 10 points, but the same trend continued. The Hawks missed five consecutive field goals, allowing Miami to once again extend the lead to 16. The Hawks faced ongoing challenges, continuing to fail to capitalize on fast-break opportunities.

In the fourth quarter, Trae Young contributed 14 points, while Bogdanovic added 9 of his own. Despite closing the deficit to as little as seven points at various points, the Hawks were unable to overcome it. The slow start proved pivotal, with the Hawks outscoring the Heat 85-76 after the first quarter. Starting slow is one thing, but allowing an injury-riddled Heat team to score 41 points in the first quarter is another. Slow starts have become a common occurrence for Atlanta, and there’s hope for improvement as the season progresses.

The Hawks concluded the game shooting 38-for-87 from the field (43.7 percent) and 18-for-46 from three (39.1 percent). Young, Murray, and Bogdanovic accounted for 13 of the three-point makes, with only four players reaching double figures.

Trae Young finished with 27 points and 11 assists, shooting 7-for-19 (36.8 percent) from the field. Dejounte Murray contributed 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the field, including three steals. On the other end, the Hawks allowed 26 points to Bam Adebayo and 20 to Jamie Jaquez Jr. Duncan Robinson, Kyle Lowry, Haywood Highsmith, and Josh Richardson all landed in double figures.

When asked about handling the Heat defense, Snyder had this to say.

Trae Young emphasized a similar message in his post-game interview, saying this.

The Hawks registered 23 assists to 21 turnovers, reflecting the challenges they faced in ball control. They outrebounded the Heat 48-39. While fatigue might have played a role, it’s challenging to ascertain, especially considering the Magic’s victory over the Bucks with a similar turnaround as the Hawks.

The Hawks will start their in-season tournament play on Tuesday versus the Detroit Pistons.