MIAMI-- Ten observations from Heat 104, Hawks 93.
1. The Hawks would have been underdogs to win this game even with Dennis Schroder (their best player) and Ersan Ilyasova (a good shooter and solid defender) in the starting lineup. With those two out, and playing the second a back-to-back, the Hawks likely would need some bench production to have a chance. They got it in the third quarter from subs John Collins, Isaiah Taylor and Schroder’s replacement in the lineup, Malcolm Delaney.
2. The Hawks found their footing for a 10-0 run early in the third quarter that cut what had been a 21-point deficit to 11. They tied it 77-77 on Marco Belinelli’s jumper early in the fourth. But, like at Brooklyn, the Hawks couldn't finish the rally. Down the stretch the Heat played faster as the Hawks dragged, Goran Dragic made a few key plays and the Hawks couldn't keep Miami off of the offensive glass.
3. Heat reserve Wayne Ellington lit up the Hawks with six 3-pointers on eight attempts, including five straight makes during a first-half stretch. He tied the Heat franchise record for 3-pointers in a quarter with six, which also was a record for 3's in a half. Guys have hot nights sometimes but, in my (live) view, Ellington didn’t have to work hard to get his open looks. Coach Mike Budenholzer didn't see it that way: "I thought it was a lot of shot-making. Wayne Ellington's very gifted coming off the pin-downs. I thought our guys were doing everything they can to stay with him. He's got a little pump-fake game, so maybe he shook loose on a couple of those."
4. Another productive night for Collins: 14 points (on 11 shots), 11 rebounds, two assists, no turnovers in 18 minutes. But James Johnson was the latest beefy big to demonstrate the challenges Collins will have guarding certain matchups. Budenholzer had Dedmon on the floor at the finish and he produced two rebounds and a missed FGA over 10:17 of the fourth.
5. Schroder’s ability to get to the basket is what makes the offense go It was clear early that Kent Bazemore (20 points on 17 shots, four assists, one turnover) would take on that attacking role. He was driving off pick-and-rolls, shooting pull-ups on one bounce and creating space in isolation. Bazemore has a nice feel on pick-and-rolls and Dedmon and Collins are capable roll men. Bazemore also was physical on drives to the basket while earning 10 free throws.
6. Taurean Prince (20 points on 14 shots, seven rebounds, three steals) muscled his way to the basket as usual and also was 2-for-3 on three-pointers. But, by my count, four of Prince's seven turnovers were the result of his getting off balance while trying to bully his opponent. Prince somehow didn't earn any free throws in spite of all of those strong drives.
7. Josh Magette got a DNP as Taylor logged 13 minutes. During his first-half stint Taylor seemed focused on play-making rather than scoring—perhaps a little too much. He dropped off a nice pass to John Collins on a screen-roll but later turned the ball over trying to do the same when he had an open look at the basket. But Taylor’s speed really shows up on defense. Budenholzer on Taylor: "He's got great speed, great athleticism
8. Budenholzer said the Hawks fouled too much in their last two games. The Hawks didn’t foul much against the Heat — three in the first half, 14 for the game until putting the Heat on the line in the final minute. "I think there were a lot of positives from that specific area tonight," Budenholzer said.
9. Getting back on D was a pregame point of emphasis for the Hawks, yet several times in the first half the Heat got open looks because the Hawks weren’t set defensively early in possessions. Hawks players sometimes seemed confused about who had who.
10. Schroder was walking with a shoe on his injured left foot before the game, a sign that the swelling wasn't that bad. He said he "probably" would return to the lineup on Friday for the home opener against the Nuggets.
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