Observations from watching Hawks at Heat on TV. . . .
The Heat could clinch a playoff berth with a victory. The Hawks sent out a lineup that included their fifth big man and their fifth wing (who was a 10-day guy two days ago) and coach Mike Budenholzer apparently benched starting forward Taurean Prince for the second half. But the Hawks pushed the Heat, who almost waited too long to take the visitors seriously. The Hawks played with pace, shared the ball and took control of the game with an impressive stretch of play to begin the fourth quarter. The Heat responded with a better surge to get that postseason bid, if just barely.
Atanta's 11-0 burst in the final period included a pair of Tyler Dorsey three-pointers, a nice runner by Isaiah Taylor, and a three-pointer by Mike Musacala. That run gave the Hawks an 89-80 lead with 9:15 to go. The Heat were down 91-84 when Heat coach Erik Spoelstra sent in Hassan Whiteside, who had complained to media after not playing late in the loss to the Nets. The crowd got into it and the Heat played with more zip. Miami closed the game with an 11-0 run.
Tyler Johnson's three-pointer got the Heat within 98-97 with 1:29 to go. Taylor converted tough chances at the basket all night but couldn't make one with the Hawks up 98-97. After Whiteside's putback put Miami ahead, Damion Lee missed on a wild drive. The Hawks got another chance but Lee got his shot blocked by Josh Richardson while trying another drive. The Heat finally closed out the game when Richardson blocked John Collins' three-point try at the buzzer.
The Hawks didn't always play clean down the stretch but they showed some grit. For example: a sloppy possession ended with a hurried pass to DeAndre Bembry well behind the three-point line at the end of the shot clock. He calmly stepped up and made the three-pointer for a 98-90 lead.
Budenholzer didn't play Prince after halftime. The Hawks didn't announce an injury. Prince finished with 10 minutes played. Budenholzer also didn't use wing Antonius Cleveland, who was available to play for the first time with the Hawks (he last played on Dec. 18 for the Mavericks). That made for a seven-man Hawks rotation in the second half.
Dewayne Dedmon (rib) was a late scratch. Fox Sports Southeast reporter Andre Aldridge said Dedmon decided he couldn't go after warming up. That left the Hawks with 10 available players because Tyler Cavanaugh, Josh Magette, Jeremy Evans and Andrew White were with Erie for a G League playoff game. Budenholzer ended up using an eight-man rotation.
Despite those two errant drives, Lee continued to make his case for being on an NBA roster this summer. He had 16 points on 19 shots, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals. Lee was trying to make something happen on those drives but those are tough shots with Miami's shot blockers roaming the lane.
Collins was limited to four minutes in the first quarter because of foul trouble (his second foul cost Tyler Johnson a tooth). Collins was a problem for the Heat once he returned: 19 points on 14 shots, 10 rebounds). In the first half Collins had 11 points on eight shots, including a pair of three-pointers, and six rebounds. Collins' third three-pointer, on a nice drive-and-whip to the corner by Taylor, tied the game 78-78 at the end of the third quarter.
Taylor had a nice game: 15 points on 14 shots, nine assists, four turnovers. The Heat had to respect his speed and that opened up passing lanes. Taylor still is a poor three-point shooter but he gets to the rim a lot (95th percentile in frequency entering tonight, according to Cleaning the Glass), converts those shots at a decent rate (45th percentile) and earns a lot of free throws (96th percentile). There's potential there.
The Hawks led 56-51 at halftime despite poor shooting. They collected eight of Miami's 26 misses and earned 12 free-throw attempts (10 makes). The production was spread throughout the roster. Miles Plumlee, Lee and Dorsey each had two offensive boards in the half. Lee earned three first-half free throw attempts and four players had two: Collins, Dorsey, Muscala and DeAndre' Bembry.
About the Author
Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010.