The Miami Heat once again played down to the competition, faced a double-digit deficit for a large part of the game, and made a late comeback only to once again falter in the final moments of the game with a 123-118 road loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.
The familiar script also played out on the defensive end, this time allowing 41 points in the first quarter and 100 points after three quarters. The Hawks bench outscored the Heat’s reserves 56-45 and rookie point guard Trae Young flourished within the game’s relentless pace and small ball lineups to score 24 points and a season-high 15 assists.
In a wasted effort, Josh Richardson scored a career-high 32 points on 10-18 shooting from the field and 6-10 from 3-point distance, his second 30-point plus game in the last three games. Dwyane Wade had his moments as well, scoring 19 points off the bench, but took a few too many ill-advised shots down the stretch from deep that hurt the Heat’s chances. In a welcome sight, Tyler Johnson had a solid first half, finishing with 17 points on an efficient 6-11 shooting (and playing with a little more confidence in his game).
Justise Winslow replaced Goran Dragic, who was ruled out for the game earlier in the day with soreness in his right foot, and flirted with a triple double after an impressive offensive showing in the fourth quarter to help fuel the Heat’s late comeback. His final stat line of 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in his first start of the season helped replace Dragic’s production, but the team really could have used Goran’s creativity and court vision in such a high paced game.
In his season debut, Wayne Ellington scored five points in eight minutes but didn’t enter the game in the second half. Perhaps Erik Spoelstra is easing him back into the lineup but if the team continues to try to attempt to win relying primarily on their offense, they’ll need him up to speed quickly.
Ultimately the offense wasn’t as much of an issue as their defense, allowing more than 120 points in their third straight game — all losses. Erik Spoelstra found a combination that worked while Hassan Whiteside and Kelly Olynyk watched from the bench in the fourth quarter. Miami finally had their first lead since early in the first quarter after a pair of Tyler Johnson free throws to make it 111-110 with six minutes left in the game but Young and Vince Carter responded with timely baskets, and the Heat went scoreless in the last three minutes for another bitter loss.
Miami continues their road trip when they visit the Detroit Pistons on Monday night at 7:00pm.