Bench comes alive, shorthanded Hawks beat Heat to earn tiebreaker

Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins (20) celebrates with teammate Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) after their win in an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Friday, April 23, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Tami Chappel)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins (20) celebrates with teammate Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) after their win in an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Friday, April 23, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Tami Chappel)

Credit: AP

In one of their best wins of the season, the Hawks (33-27) overcame recent injuries to two of their top players to beat the Heat 118-103, getting the tiebreaker vs. Miami (31-29) in the process.

Next up, the Hawks host the Bucks Sunday.

Below are some takeaways from the win:

1. With the season tiebreaker vs. the Heat on the line, this seemed like the worst time for the Haws to be missing both Trae Young and Clint Capela, likely their two most indispensable players (Young suffered a grade 2 left ankle sprain and Capela came down hard on his lower back in Wednesday’s loss to the Knicks). But, the Hawks found a way to overcome it. They were also missing Kris Dunn (right ankle surgery), De’Andre Hunter (right knee soreness), Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness), all of whom have been out long-term, with Dunn yet to make his debut, and Tony Snell (right ankle sprain), who hasn’t played since April 9. The Hawks didn’t start a traditional point guard, but a backcourt of Kevin Huerter (11 points, six assists, five steals) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (team-high 21 points, 5-for-9 from 3, eight assists) got the job done, and rookie Onyeka Okongwu started at center and continued to show progress. Power forward John Collins had 20 points and eight rebounds and provided a steadying presence.

2. Despite being extremely shorthanded, Atlanta got great production from the supporting cast. The Hawks’ bench outscored the Heat’s bench 51-21. Backup guard Brandon Goodwin had 17 points (and four assists), including eight points in the final one-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter to give the Hawks a six-point lead entering the fourth. He added a layup at the 10:22 mark of the fourth to give them a 98-89 lead, as they started to pull away. That advantage grew further after a steal and five quick points from backup guard Lou Williams, who tallied 13 points off the bench. “We’re not looking for excuses,” interim coach Nate McMillan said. “We have injuries, we have legit injuries, and we had to have guys step up and play, and once again, they did their jobs.”

3. After missing six games with right foot soreness, Danilo Gallinari returned to action, so that was one small bit of positive news on the injury front. Even operating on a minute restriction, Gallinari brings more shooting prowess to the lineup. He was another guy that came off to bench and thrived, adding 17 points in 22 minutes, going 3-for-7 from 3-point range. Gallinari said he previously came down wrong on his foot, and although it’s not 100% better, it’s almost there.

4. In the final period, the Heat whittled the Hawks’ lead down to single digits, 109-100, with 3:50 to play. But, Jimmy Butler (19 points, seven assists) and Duncan Robinson (13 points, five rebounds) missed Miami’s next three shots — this was mostly an offense-first game, until the Hawks limited the Heat to 14 points in the fourth quarter to seal the win. McMillan credited Okongwu (six points, seven rebounds) for playing good defense on Bam Adebayo (16 points, five turnovers, five assists, three rebounds though he averages 9.3 per game), a player Okongwu often draws comparisons to, in the fourth. Even without Capela, the Hawks out-rebounded the Heat, 44-38.

5. The Hawks will have a tough challenge in trying to avoid the play-in tournament (7-10 seeds) without Young, who may take some time to heal from his sprain. But, Friday’s win was an encouraging sign that they can potentially pick up some good wins down the final stretch of the season, even with so many guys missing. “For us to be shorthanded and be able to do that tonight, against a very good Miami team, again, believe,” McMillan said. “Believe that what we’re talking about, if we do, and we do it together, you’ll give yourself a chance to win games.”

Stat of the game

51-21 (the margin between the Hawks’ and Heat’s bench production)

Star of the game

Goodwin (stepped up with 17 points off the bench, including a scoring burst to set the stage for the fourth quarter)

Quotable

“That’s my dream game, right there, just us being able to connect that second unit. Being ready.” (Goodwin on the bench’s success)