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Hawks early deficit leads to another loss

Another miserable defensive first half.

Perhaps the Hawks were still slowed from a four overtime affair three days ago. But the Heat left them in their dust from nearly the start.

The Heat led by as many as 26 points en route to a 116-93 victory Wednesday night at American Airlines Arena. They scored 62 first-half points and led by as many as 16 points before ensuring there would be no Hawks comeback.

Over the past five games, the Hawks have allowed an average of 63 points in the first two quarters. Not Hawks basketball. The Hawks are 2-3 in those games with the wins being a dramatic comeback against the Bulls and a multiple overtime win over the Knicks. They could not come back against the Clippers, Wizards and now the Heat.

The Hawks (28-21) are 6-5 since a seven-game win streak. They had a chance to move a season-best nine games over .500. Additionally, the Hawks slipped a half-game behind the Wizards for first in the Southeast Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer pulled his starters late in the third quarter of the rout.

Kent Bazemore led the Hawks with 14 points. Dennis Schroder added 12 points. Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard combined for 15 points on 6 of 18 shooting.

The Heat (20-30) won their ninth straight game and have crept back into the playoff picture. Goran Dragic led all scorers with 27 points. Dion Waiters had 20 points and Hassan Whiteside had a double-double of 18 points and 18 rebounds.

The Heat took a 62-47 advantage into intermission. They were 8 of 17 from 3-point range in the first half. James Johnson (13 points), Dragic (12) and Waiters (12) all scored in double figures.

Budenholzer gave the Hawks two days off after the epic overtime battle saw four starters reach career-highs in minutes played. Several players insisted they had fully recovered but can be questioned after the poor start. The Heat played key players into the fourth quarter.

The Hawks held a considerable margin in points in the paint, 108-72, in two victories over the Heat this season. It prompted Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to say before the game, “They’ve absolutely dominated us in the paint the two games. Pummeled us.”

On Wednesday, the held a 54-36 advantage in the key statistic.

There were fireworks late in the game with Taurean Prince pulled down Whiteside going for a rebound with 5:53 remaining. Johnson rushed and shoved Prince. The two had to be separated again later. Prince was assessed a Flagrant Foul 2 and ejected. Johnson was given a technical foul and ejected. Waiters was also given a technical.

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