Ten observations from Hawks 110, Heat 104 . . .
1. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer’s pregame words proved to be relevant: “I think we need to get a lot better defensively. That just really stands out. I think we are making some small steps forward offensively and it would be great if could see the same thing defensively.” Budenholzer didn't see it against the injury-depleted Heat until the third quarter, when the Hawks ran the Heat off the three-point line and help defenders rotated well. "It was 58-57 halftime, (and) if someone could play a little defense and get a few stops maybe you could get some separation," Budenholzer said. "That's what we did in the fourth quarter and we were able to kind of hold on down the stretch."
2. Atlanta's 29-19 advantage in that period wasn't enough for a comfortable W, though. The Heat whittled a 14-point lead down to four with 3:41 to play, again with less than two minutes left and cut the advantage to 102-101 with 1:05 left. The Hawks survived thanks in large part to Kent Bazemore: He made a jumper to put them up 104-101, forced a turnover by Wayne Ellington on the next Heat possession, and then converted on a strong drive to the basket for a 106-101 lead with 23.8 seconds left. Bazemore then forced a miss by Dion Waiters on the next Miami possession. Bazemore scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, when he also had two of his five steals.
3. Losing this game to the injury-depleted Heat would have been a tough blow for the Hawks after they got jobbed on a call in the loss at Memphis on Friday. Budenholzer: "Our guys are working hard. Their focus and their effort in practice, their spirit is good, the energy is good. You certainly want them to feel the success and the reward for the work that they are putting in."
4. Dennis Schroder (23 points on 19 shots) was getting to the rim easily to begin the game. When the Heat started trapping him, Schroder backed out to create space and then started the ball around the perimeter until it got to the open shooter. But Schroder over-dribbled and forced the issue on two disjointed Hawks possessions at winning time. Budenholzer had Schroder on the bench with the Hawks leading 106-101 and needing stops.
5. Public perception of the Hawks seems to be at an all-time low. Injuries left the Heat with just nine available players. Point guard Goran Dragic, their leading scorer, wasn’t among them, and neither were starters Hassan Whiteside or James Johnson. Waiters, probably the Heaat's best healthy player, missed shootaround because of a stomach bug. The Hawks were still 1 1/2-point underdogs.
6. DeAndre' Bembry had another rough game offensively--he's still having issues handling the ball under control in traffic. But Bembry helped to limit Waiters in the decisive third quarter and again late in the game. Taurean Prince and Bazemore did the same to Josh Richardson.
7. Delaney, not Isaiah Taylor, was the first point guard off the bench. Later Taylor checked in to play alongside Delaney. Delaney (11 points on six shots) had a good first-half run offensively and his on-ball defense was key.
8. The Hawks ran out to a 14-5 lead with Prince catching-and-shooting with abandon: he was 3-for-3 on three-pointers during that spurt, 4-for-5 in the first half. Budenholzer: "He's got a real comfort level offensively. We are wanting him to shoot a lot, catching and shooting whenever he has any daylight and then driving and finishing." Prince scored 16 points on seven shots in the first half and finished with 24 points on 12 shot. His development of a reliable three-point shot is one of the most significant developments for the Hawks. Prince: "Today I was more focused on just shooting the ball and not too much driving on for me tonight. Kent Bazemore, Dennis, Malcolm (Delaney)--they did what they had to do as far as the facilitating part and getting everybody involved.
9. The Hawks couldn’t open a big first-half lead because first Waiters and then Richardson lit them up. Waiters had eight points on four shots in the first quarter and Richardson, following up his career-high 28 points vs. the Clippers on Saturday, poured in 15 points on eight first-half shots. Those two combined for 59 points on 36 shots while their teammtes scored 45 points on 43 shots.
10. Miles Plumlee started at center in place of Dwayne Dedmon, as he has every game except one (at Cleveland). Budenholzer said Plumlee would be the default starter until Dedmon returns, certain matchuos notwithstanding. Plumlee played 23 productive and efficient minutes against the Heat: six points on five shots, four rebounds, two assists, one block, two turnovers. Two of Plumlee' three field goals came on lob dunks.
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