Furious starts to the season by Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade masked a lot of deficiencies for the Miami Heat, but some of this new team’s weaknesses are starting to show.
On Wednesday, the Heat was outrebounded badly by the Indiana Pacers. On Friday at Atlanta’s Philips Arena, Miami simply lacked the depth and defensive cohesion to compete with the Hawks.
With several players out due to injuries including Wade, the Heat couldn’t keep pace with a surging Hawks squad and lost in sobering fashion for the second game in a row. The Heat allowed the Hawks to shoot 56 percent from the field, and Atlanta had eight players with at least 10 points in its 114-103 home victory.
Wade missed the game with a hamstring injury and the loss of the Heat’s best wing player upset the team’s defensive rhythm. The Heat allowed a season-high 62 points in the first half and lost despite going 10 of 21 from three-point range. Mario Chalmers, Shawne Williams, Chris Bosh and Luol Deng all played well offensively and combined for 83 points, but the chemistry on the other end of the court was lacking.
“I guess it’s a process,” said Bosh, who finished with 20 points and eight rebounds. “At least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself to stay sane.”
The Hawks, who have now won four in a row, scored 20 field goals on 18 assists in the first half. Overall, Atlanta had 33 assists on 42 field goals. The Heat (5-4) trailed 35-23 after the first quarter.
Atlanta led by 16 points early in the third quarter, but the Heat had a chance to tie or take the lead at the end of the period. The game wasn’t close for long, though and the Hawks’ lead ballooned to 19 points midway through the fourth quarter.
“The first half was terrible,” said reserve Heat center Udonis Haslem, who played 18 minutes and had six points and six rebounds. “We made pushes but once a team gets going like that and the faucet gets going and the basket looks big, we just couldn’t get stops.
“If we come out tougher early, maybe they don’t get those shots down the stretch. I’m not worried about our offense. We got to get stops.”
Hawks players scored at will during key stretches.
Deng’s second three-pointer of the third quarter cut the Hawks’ lead to 79-75 with less than three minutes remaining in the period. The Heat then had a chance to make it a one-possession game, but rookie point guard Shabazz Napier dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds in transition.
The Heat never got any closer.
A three-point play by Hawks reserve Mike Scott ran the Hawks’ lead to double digits to begin the fourth quarter, and after several missed opportunities by the Heat, Scott drilled a turnaround 12-foot jumper to put Atlanta ahead 93-81.
Following a timeout, Haslem missed from close range, and Scott then drained another jumper to give the Hawks a 14-point lead. The field goal gave Scott 11 points and put seven Hawks players in double figures. Reserve guard Dennis Schroder then scored inside to give him 10 points.
The Heat started the fourth quarter 1 of 6 from the field.
Hawks forward Paul Millsap had 19 points, shooting 7 of 15 and 2 of 5 from three-point range. Al Horford was 8 of 10 for 19 points. Guard Jeff Teague had 16 points and Thabo Sefolosha and Kyle Korver had 12 points each. Reserve guard Shelvin Mack was 5 of 5 from the field for 10 points.
“They did a very good job of moving the ball,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Every time you turn your head they tend to break free…We didn’t really make a stand defensively tonight. We never got the defensive disposition we needed to win on the road.”
Mario Chalmers, who struggled at the end of the Heat’s loss on Wednesday to the Pacers, bounced back with a strong offensive performance off the bench. He led the Heat with 23 points and also had 11 assists. Williams had 21 points, going 5 of 6 from three-point range and Deng had 19 points.
James Ennis started in place of Wade, but the rookie only played five minutes in the first half.
“It’s a learning process,” Chalmers said. “We got new faces on the team, and people just got to learn different defensive assignments, and it’s all a learning process for us.”