Atlanta Hawks guard Tyler Dorsey tries to get through the defense of Miami Heat guard Wayne Ellington (2) and forward Josh Richardson, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 4, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
The Heat played with purpose for only the final eight minutes or so against the Hawks on Tuesday, but that was enough for a victory over their shorthanded-but-spirited opponent. The Heat clinched an Eastern Conference playoff berth with that victory but still can earn a seed as high as sixth. The Heat were short-handed for the rematch but seemed to take the Hawks more seriously this time. It also helped that they were making shots: 17-for-38 on three-pointers. The Heat were blocking them, too: 10 rejections spread among five players.
But it was another good night for the Hawks in terms of the draft lottery race. The loss to Miami, plus the Magic's victory over the Mavericks, left the Hawks (22-57) two games clear of the Mavericks (24-55) for the NBA's third-worst record. With three games to play, the Hawks are in good position to finish in the bottom three of the league standings and thus have at least a 50/50 shot at a top three pick.
Kelly Olynyk spurred the Heat's second-quarter surge with four consecutive made three-pointers, three of them on nice play actions and another on a secondary transition look. Olynyk scored 15 of Miami's 30 points in the period on just seven shots. The Heat outscored the Hawks 30-18 in the period for a 53-47 halftime lead.
The Heat kept burying three-pointers early in the third quarter. Later in the period they used that threat to set up drives and cuts. Justice Winslow hurt the Hawks on drives while scoring 10 points on seven shots in the quarter. Rodney McGruder hurt the Hawks inside and outside while scoring nine points on five shots in the period. The Heat's lead swelled to as many as 18 points and they led 84-68 entering the fourth. The Hawks had no response. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer: "The guys are still trying. They are busting it at both ends. Sometimes it just doesn't work out, not for lack of effort and hustle."
Hawks wing Taurean Prince was in the starting lineup after his second-half benching at Miami. Like what happened after his last benching, Prince responded with an aggressive game. He began the game 5-for-5 from the floor with a pair of threes and one made free throw. Prince finished with 20 points on 14 shots and four assists, but just one rebound, in 24 minutes.
Antonius Cleveland (ankle) made his Hawks debut. He last played on Dec. 18 for the Mavericks and had been recovering from ankle surgery. "I felt good," he said. "I was able to run normal speed." Cleveland is a long, bouncy athlete. Budenholzer: "On hos rebounds he showed his length and athleticism. He's still trying to get comfortable for us." Soon after entering the game, Cleveland made a 26-footer to give the Hawks a 29-23 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Damion Lee scored the first seven points for the Hawks (he missed a free throw for a potential four-point play). He finished with 15 points on 13 shots.
The Hawks recalled four players from Erie: Josh Magette, Tyler Cavanaugh, Jeremy Evans and Andrew White III. Only Magette got minutes during the competitive portion of the game. He was very good in seven minutes of the second quarter: five points on two shots, two assists and effective defense against Tyler Johnson, who tried to bully him.
The Heat turned Mike Muscala loose on the perimeter last night and he went for 13 points on 10 shots (3-for-8 on three-pointers). This time Heat defenders were more mindful of Muscala and he missed all seven of his shots, including three unsightly three-point tries.
Hawks wing DeAndre' Bembry (abdominal) didn't play because of the back-to-back, Budenholzer said. After securing the playoff berth the night before, the Heat rested starters Goran Dragic and James Johnson and reserve Dwyane Wade. Ex-Hawks forward Luke Babbitt started for the Heat. He'd played in just eight games since March 1.
About the Author
Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010.