The Hawks and Heat were both nursing injuries but only one team didn’t let that show, and Miami won the game handily 104-88.
Dwyane Wade sat out the game with a sore right knee, while Millsap and Lou sat out as injury precautions for Atlanta. Without the services of Millsap and Lou, the Hawks had to rely heavily on Jeff Teague and Al Horford. It soon became clear that Tuesday night was a bad night for them to combine for only 19 points and 10 turnovers.
The Hawks started quick despite a changed starting lineup with Gustavo Ayón next to Al Horford. In continuing with new lineups, coach Mike Budenholzer ran out an interesting Mack-Jenkins-Martin-Scott-Antic quintet in the first quarter. Surprisingly the results were decent, and it held onto the early lead behind a last second fallaway jumper by Mike Scott to give the Hawks a 25-24 lead.
In short, the first 18 minutes could not have been scripted better. Balanced scoring. LeBron kept in check. No drop off of ball movement from the first team to the second team.
The Heat came back in the second quarter on the backs of the Hawks’s live ball turnovers. It goes without mention that the Heat thrive on fastbreaks. There’s no slowing down LeBron James once he gets sprinting across halfcourt.
In addition, the Hawks had limited the Heat’s second chance opportunities in the early going, giving up only 2 offensive rebounds in the first half, but that would soon change.
The second half was bad. Baaaaad. The Hawks dropped the ball like it was hot, and out of discouragement, their shot selection eroded.
Ball movement is one of the pillars of this new Hawks offense, but it can become a heel against a ball-hawking team. Miami loves to play passing angles in hopes of picking off lazy passes to start a fast break, and as veterans of this strategy they’ve become extremely adept at not completely gambling and finding themselves out of defensive position. Strangely, Al Horford was the main perpetrator of poor ball security, logging six turnovers in the first half alone. He set a new career-high with seven turnovers.
It looked like two different games: before midway through the second quarter and after it. Before it, the offense was a humming machine, efficient spacing the floor and whipping the ball around to move the Heat defense. After it, the offense was a stumbling wildebeest, with no attention paid to the many Heat defenders jumping passing lanes. It’s a lesson in anticipation the young Hawks had to learn, so let it come early on in the season so they can move past it and grow as a team.
The Hawks came into Tuesday night leading the league in assist to turnover ratio, but I suspect after a unsightly 24 turnover performance that won’t continue to be the case. It’s just one game, and against presumably the best team in the league, but to show the ability to play good basketball and then lose it in the blink of an eye is very discouraging. There’s no way to regain offensive rhythm when the other team is collecting the ball and lobbing it forward every third play.
I don’t feel like discussing this one further. It’s one data point in what will be a sample set of 82. Call it an anomaly and move on.
The Hawks welcome Josh Smith back to Philips Arena Wednesday in a matchup with the Detroit Pistons.
Tags: Atlanta Hawks