The Miami Heat welcomed Dwyane Wade back from injury, but still didn’t have nearly enough firepower to counter the Atlanta Hawks in a 99-86 loss on the road Friday.
Without injured big men Hassan Whiteside and Chris Andersen to protect the rim, the Hawks easily attacked the Heat all night long in the paint and topped it off with red-hot shooting from outside. Combined with Atlanta’s excellent spacing, precision passing and tight defense, they outplayed Miami on both ends to build a lead they would steadily increase through the first three quarters.
Atlanta led by as much as 25 points near the end of the third quarter, boosted by an 11-0 run led by point guard Dennis Schroder, who expertly orchestrated his team’s offense in starter Jeff Teague’s injury absence. The frontcourt of Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll were simply too much to handle for the shorthanded Heat.
A 7-0 run by the Heat midway through the fourth quarter with a quicker, smaller lineup of Mario Chalmers, Tyler Johnson, Michael Beasley, James Ennis and Henry Walker managed to cut the deficit to 12 with a chance to cut it to single digits. But it was too little, too late as the Hawks made enough plays with time running out on the Heat to notch their 55th win of the season and sweep the regular season series.
Luol Deng led the Heat with 17 points and 10 rebounds but the starting backcourt of Wade and Goran Dragic only produced 19 points and four assists.
The Turning Point
The Heat fell behind quickly by missing seven of their first eight shots and were forced to play catch-up the rest of the way.