Five observations from the Hawks’ 108-90 loss to the Heat Friday night.
1. The Hawks were done in by a poor second quarter. The Heat scored 38 points in the period as they shot 52 percent from the field. The killer was the 7 of 10 performance from 3-point range. Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson each had two.
“The second quarter, 38 points defensively, you look at the clips at halftime and a lot of it is basic transition defense,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “They were getting inside us and finishing in the paint. They were getting inside of us and hitting open 3’s. We have to do a better job of keeping the ball in front of us. It was an ugly game for us.”
The Hawks tried a defensive strategy to switch on pick-and-rolls in order to keep the Heat in front of them. It didn’t work.
“They were able to knock down those 3’s on the switch,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “When we switched they did a good job of probing and picking and choosing when to drive. They’ve got tremendous drivers on that team with (Goran) Dragic and Dion (Waiters) and Tyler Johnson. Everybody can drive on their team.”
2. The Hawks had just 14 assists. Some of the offensive distribution woes could be blamed on playing with one true point guard in Malcolm Delaney. With Dennis Schroder out on suspension, the Hawks tried to use a combination of Kent Bazemore, Thabo Sefolosha and Hardaway to run the offense. It was ineffective.
“I don’t think it was that necessarily,” Budenholzer said.
The Heat had 30 assists on their 40 field goals. They held a 19-6 lead in assists in the first half.
3. The Hawks didn’t just have trouble defending the 3-pointer in the second quarter. It was a whole-game issue. The Heat made 17 of 37 (.459), a better shooting percentage that from the field at 40 of 90 (.404). The total 3-point numbers going 3 of 11 from long range in the fourth quarter. Through three quarters, the Heat were 14 of 26 (.538).
“You have to give them credit,” Sefolosha said. “They played well from start to finish. They are moving the ball pretty well. They were able to drive and kick, drive and kick and find the open man.”
4. The Hawks need to be better in the stretch run to the playoffs. They sit fifth in the Eastern Conference but are now 1-1/2 games behind the Raptors, who defeated the Celtics. With 25 games remaining, there a now signs this team can put together a significant winning streak and build momentum. This was not the way the Hawks needed to come out of the All-Star break.
“Sometimes coming out of the break, things are ugly,” Budenholzer said. “I’ve seen it both ways. Obviously they were sharp and great. We have to play a lot better tomorrow night. I thought we practiced well this last couple of days. We just weren’t very good tonight.”
Another chance to start moving in the right direction comes Saturday. The Hawks have little time to think about the poor effort with the Magic awaiting in Orlando.
“I think after a game like this it probably helps,” Sefolosha said of the short turnaround. “We don’t want to have this linger in our mind for too long.”
5. Ersan Ilyasova made his debut with the Hawks when he entered the game with 1:01 left in first quarter. He finished with nine points, all in the fourth quarter, on 3 of 7 shooting his 16:12 of playing time.
“It’s all about rhythm,” Ilyasova said of working his way into a new team. “When you find a rhythm the basketball instincts kick in and you are able to knock down shots.”
Budenholzer sees Ilyasova with a bigger role as he gets acclimated.
“We feel like he is going to be a big part of our frontline rotation,” Budenholzer said before the game. “We expect to put him in tonight and play him. We’ll monitor and ease him in. I think he’s going to be backing up Paul (Millsap) and we can play smaller groups with him and Paul playing together.”