The Atlanta Hawks entered Saturday evening just half of a game behind the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference standings, with a chance to pass them with a win. That did not happen however as the Heat took the 117-109 win behind a big night from star center Bam Adebayo.
The Hawks’ offensive attack, particularly in the backcourt, was slowed by Miami’s defense as Trae Young scored a season-low eight points. He and Dejounte Murray combined for just seven points in the first half as Atlanta saw themselves down 66-49 at the break. The game was essentially decided in the second quarter in a way as the Heat blasted the Hawks 37-23 and built a lead they would hold for the rest of the game despite Atlanta’s comeback efforts.
Atlanta won the third quarter 26-21 behind a strong close to the quarter by a second-unit lineup that featured a frontcourt of Jalen Johnson and Onyeka Okongwu. The young duo provided life on both ends of the court and kept the Hawks within striking distance of Miami entering the fourth.
The Hawks would get as close as five multiple times in the fourth quarter, but could not get any closer to threaten the Heat. Atlanta won their second consecutive quarter by outscoring the Heat 34-30 in the final frame, but it was not enough as Miami closed out the victory with strong play from Adebayo and Tyler Herro, who both scored in the double-digits in the period.
Young never really got going from a scoring perspective (2-of-13 from the floor), but did finish with ten assists and five steals in the defeat. Despite the lack scoring, head coach Quin Snyder still praised the star guards play after the game.
Shot wasn't falling, but Quin Snyder liked what he saw from Trae Young. pic.twitter.com/fQRqUnIzuI— Bally Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnBally) March 5, 2023
“He was great,” said Snyder of Young. “In the beginning of the second quarter, Trae defensively raised his level: he’s moving his feet, he’s talking.” Snyder added that when he sat Young a little longer than normal in the fourth that the star guard was supportive of the decision.
Miami scored 54 points in the paint as Adebayo and backup center Cody Zeller combined for 43 points in the win. Adebayo posted 30 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in what was a rather dominant performance. Clint Capela was effective offensively for the Hawks as well as on the glass, posting 16 points and 13 rebounds, but neither he or Okongwu did much to slow down Adebayo.
The best player in this game for the Hawks was probably Saddiq Bey, who got hot and scored 22 points off of the bench while shooting 4-of-8 from three-point-range. While Bey is still struggling on the defensive end for Atlanta, he has been a breath of fresh air offensively with his shooting.
Things could potentially get interesting in terms of if Bey may enter the starting lineup in the near future as the struggles of John Collins continued in this game. Collins finished with just three points and one rebounds to go along with four fouls in 16 minutes of action. No injuries have been reported, but Collins did not re-enter the game after picking up his fourth foul in the third quarter.
Another Hawks forward doing positive things in this game was Johnson, who had five points, four rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes as he seems to be in the rotation over rookie AJ Griffin at the moment. He also played solid defense and was part of the unit that brought Atlanta back within reach of the lead early in the fourth quarter. His energy, defense and passing make good things happen for Atlanta and it will be interesting to see if he earns more playing time going forward.
De’Andre Hunter scored 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting in what was a solid outing, while Murray was limited to just ten points as Miami truly put the clamps on the Atlanta backcourt in this one.
3 buckets in a row, Dre is heating up in the 4th ♨️ pic.twitter.com/JvLrhdDkBw— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) March 5, 2023
Murray was 3-of-14 from the floor and never got much of anything going. Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 13 points and was 3-of-5 from three-point-range. Onyeka Okongwu had a solid 15 points and four rebounds off the bench but did commit five fouls.
Jimmy Butler, who was seemingly quiet in this game, posted 15 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and two steals while playing his usual stout defense. Herro added 20 points, six rebounds and five assists in the win for the Heat, whom the Hawks will face again on the road on Monday evening. Atlanta will be more rested then and perhaps will have a better shot than on the back-to-back turnaround they faced in this spot on the road vs. a quality opponent.
The Hawks are now 1.5 games behind Miami in the standings and will need to win on Monday to get back the game they dropped here. A loss would obviously make it much more difficult to pass the Heat on the way to securing a top-six seed with so little time to go in the regular season. The season series is also on the line Monday as the Heat would take the set 3-1 with another win while Atlanta has a chance to even the series at 2-2.