Miami Heat

Rebounding problems spell trouble for Heat against Atlanta Hawks

Three-point threat: Kyle Korver gives the Hawks instant offense, especially from long range.
Three-point threat: Kyle Korver gives the Hawks instant offense, especially from long range. NBAE/Getty Images

There’s a billboard of Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver along one of the asphalt tentacles that shoot out from this city like some angry sprawling beast.

Roaming “the perimeter” reads the highway advertisement, and Korver’s wholesome face is enormous and staring down at thousands of commuters stuck in traffic as they beat it out of the city and back to the suburbs. Now in his 12th season in the NBA, Korver’s range is legendary throughout the league, and his ability to shoot the ball has helped second-year Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer transform his team into something patterned off the San Antonio Spurs.

Budenholzer was with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich from 1996 to 2013 before moving to Atlanta at the height of the Heat’s reign. That was a gamble for a first-year coach, but now the Heat suddenly is vulnerable, and never was that reality more obvious than on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The Heat’s 81-75 loss to the Pacers came on the same night the Hawks battled back from a 13-point deficit against the Utah Jazz. A strong effort both inside and from the perimeter by Hawks forward Paul Millsap put Atlanta back in the game, and then the dead-eye shooting of Korver did the rest.

Korver’s deep three-pointer with a minute left originated from somewhere in Kennesaw, Georgia, gave the Hawks a one-point lead.

“He’s one of the greatest,” Heat center Chris Bosh said. “That’s a problem, and you think you know how to get it done, but he still finds a way to get open. And he has been doing that for a very long time.”

If the first two weeks of the NBA season have proven anything about this new Heat team, it’s that Bosh and Dwyane Wade can’t take any nights off. Bosh scored nine points and had two rebounds against the Pacers, and that poor performance, coupled with Miami’s overall lack of rebounding, doomed the Heat.

The Pacers outrebounded the Heat 53-28, including 16-6 on the offensive glass. Indiana converted those offensive rebounds into 19 second-chance points.

The Hawks and their perimeter shooting could easily turn that large number of offensive rebounds into 30 second-chance points or more.

Korver is always roaming the perimeter for the Hawks, and limiting his chances is so important to the Heat’s game plan that Bosh actually knows Korver’s shooting percentage without the use of notes or a scouting report.

“We can’t give up offensive rebounds [Friday], because if we do that’s a 55 percent chance it’s going to be a three,” Bosh said.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra attributed the Pacers’ second-chance points to a lack of hustle. That’s a sign that the Heat’s grueling schedule at the beginning of the season is finally taking a toll. Another indicator of fatigue: the Heat shot 8 of 18 from the free-throw line Wednesday. Given the obvious signs of tired legs, Spoelstra kept practice light Thursday with a focus on reviewing film.

“The second chance, the second life, the loose balls, that really became the difference in the game,” Spoelstra said. “That’s going to happen. Welcome to the Eastern Conference.

“It’s not always going to work out smoothly, ball moving, everyone in great rhythm like it was in Dallas. There are games you’re going to have to develop some team and collective grit and figure out how to win. And those can be very gratifying at the end, particularly when you don’t play great.”

Friday: Heat

at Hawks

When/where: 7:30 p.m.; Philips Arena, Atlanta.

TV/radio: Sun Sports; WAXY 104.3 FM, 790 AM and WAQI 710 AM (Spanish).

Series: Heat leads 57-42.

Noteworthy: The Heat’s Justin Hamilton (left adductor strain) and Danny Granger (left hamstring strain) are questionable. … The Hawks have won three in a row and are ranked third in the NBA in assists (23.9 per game). … Paul Millsap posted 30 points, 17 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in 40 minutes against the Jazz on Wednesday. He is the only player in the league to have at least those totals in a game this season.

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