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How the Hawks’ poor early defense led to another lopsided loss


Five observations from the Hawks’ 116-93 loss the Heat Wednesday night.

1. The Hawks suffered through another miserable first half. For the fifth straight game, they gave up at least 59 points in the first two quarters. The Heat scored 62 in the opening half, opened up a 16-point lead and were never in jeopardy of losing.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer hates allowing near 30 points per quarter. Teams are doing that with regularity of late.

“We talked about it a little bit before the game that maybe we could change that,” Budenholzer said. “I don’t think we finished either quarter well. The first quarter we finished with a couple turnovers and they scored. The second quarter, we cut it to nine, it was 50-41, we made a gamble and they made a three and then we made a couple turnovers and the game just got away from us.”

2. Paul Millsap said he shoulders much of the responsibility for the Hawks’ slow starts. They have allowed 37-point first quarters to the Wizards and Knicks before allowing 29 to the Heat in the last three games.

“I don’t know where to put the finger but we’ve got to come out with more intensity, come up more ready to play defense,” Millsap said. “I think the offense is okay but defensively we are not showing any type of intensity. We are not making it hard on them. I take a lot of that pressure. I’ve got to do a better job of leading these guys from the start.”

3. The early deficits – and there have been several others this season – have led to some lopsided losses. The Hawks have already lost six games by 20 or more points. That’s not good.

Millsap said a loss is a loss. The final margin doesn’t matter.

“A loss is a loss, to me,” he said. “Twenty points. Ten points. One point. It’s still a loss. We can’t look at it like a blowout. We’ve got to do a better job of coming out at the start of games.”

Dennis Schroder said the Hawks continue to search for consistency.

“We have to be more consistent,” Schroder said. “We are winning one game and then lose by 25, 20. We’ve just got to be better.”

4. There were some drama late in the game. That came when Hawks rookie Taurean Prince pulled the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside to the floor as he went up for a shot. The Heat’s James Johnson rushed Prince and the teams had to be separated. Johnson made another run at Prince and had to be restrained by Heat coach Eric Spoelstra.

“I don’t play the game of basketball to try to hurt somebody,” Prince said. “I was just doing what my coach told me to do and that was to put Whiteside on the line and not give him anything easy. That’s what I did.”

After a review, Prince was given a Flagrant Foul 2 and ejected. Johnson was given a technical foul and ejected and Dion Waiters was given a technical foul.

Budenholzer said a FF-2 was the right call.

“It did not look good,” Budenholzer said. “Unfortunately for Hassan Whiteside it’s a tough, bad fall. I think Taurean is just trying to wrap him up and not let him get an and-one. It ended up looking, and probably deservedly so, but there was nothing intentional, dirty or ugly. We hope Whiteside is fine. Taurean, wrapping up a guy is important and hopefully he can do it without that kind of fall.”

5. The Heat became the latest team to jump on the Hawks with 3-pointers. They were 3 of 7 in the first quarter. Those three came on consecutive possessions as the Heat turned a five-point deficit, 7-2, into a four-point lead, 11-7. It was a lead they would not relinquish.

The Heat were 5 of 10 from 3-point range in the second quarter.

“They certainly made some big 3’s” Budenholzer said. “Even late, when we felt like we might get in the game, Tyler Johnson hits a 3, James Johnson hits a 3 and (Goran) Dragic hit them all night.”

The Heat finished 12 of 32 from long range and the Hawks were 7 of 26.



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