(Photo Credit: Scott Cunningham)
The Miami HEAT lost 121-114 to the Atlanta Hawks Monday night at Philips Arena to close out their six game road trip. The two teams combined for 141 points in the first half in a game filled with fireworks.
Impact Performance of the Night: Paul Millsap was held in check for pasrts of the second half, but he was still excellent for Atlanta, leading them with 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Millsap did most of his work inside on the HEAT, shooting 8-12 inside the arc after exploding from three-point range in the last meeting. Millsap presents a unique matchup in that he’s not easily defended by small forwards or power forwards. He was too much for the HEAT to handle in the first half and was integral in the Hawks’ scoring of 71 points in the half.
The Deciding Run: The HEAT took a 108-107 lead with 4:50 left in the game before Atlanta took control of the action. Five straight points at the free throw line got things started for the Hawks before they started doing their damage from the field. In the end, the Hawks closed on a 14-6 run to knock off the HEAT.
Play of the Game: LeBron James finished a circus shot while being fouled to pull the HEAT within two points with 1:12 left. Miami needed a stop on the ensuing possession to keep their hopes alive. On Atlanta’s possession, Pero Antic knocked Mario Chalmers to the floor on a screen, leaving Kyle Korver open in the corner. Paul Millsap kicked the ball out to him and Korver drilled a three, pushing the Hawks lead to five and putting an end to the HEAT’s chances.
Efficiency Rating: Offensive Efficiency: 113.6; Defensive Efficiency: 122.4
Trend to Watch: If nothing else, the HEAT were able to get their shooting back on track. Miami went nine straight games without double digit makes from downtown, their longest regular season streak since early last season. Against Charlotte, the HEAT had difficulty in creating open shots from the perimeter for anyone other than Chris Bosh, which was alarming. Those same issues did not pop up against the Hawks. Miami generated open looks early for Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen and Shane Battier and they responded in a big way. The HEAT made 11 threes in the first half and four more in the second. The total of 15 makes from three-point range is just one shy of the team’s season high set the second night of the season against the 76ers. It’s encouraging for the offense that the HEAT were able to create these looks even with Dwyane Wade missing from action. The shots were bound to fall at some point, as the HEAT’s struggles were a pretty clear outlier. Still, it’s nice to see those shots actually go down. It bodes well for the HEAT’s upcoming homestand.
The Takeaway: The HEAT’s offense was up the challenge against the Hawks, but the defense was still lacking. Atlanta made a number of difficult shots, but they were able to create a number of open corner threes, including the last one from Korver that ended up being the dagger. With Dwyane Wade out and mild foul trouble for a number of players, the HEAT were forced to play a number of lineups with little to no prior court time. It excuses some of the miscues, but on the whole the HEAT defense still needs to play better. Rotations were a step slow on a number of possessions and there were a few possessions with a clear lack of communication. Miami is about where they were defensively a season ago at this time. At about this juncture, the HEAT started playing better defense and there’s a good chance that happens again. It’s important to note that the HEAT are playing their second straight run of five games in seven nights and in Atlanta were wrapping up a six game road trip. That surely has had an effect on the team defense.
Notes: Chris Bosh finished with 21 points and seven rebounds. Mario Chalmers scored 17 points. Dwyane Wade and Toney Douglas were inactive.