Hawks encouraged despite loss to Heat

ATLANTA – The opportunities for the Atlanta Hawks won’t come much more gift-wrapped than they did on Friday, but in the end it was the Hawks who gave the game away.

With the defending NBA champion Miami Heat entering Philips Arena minus Dwyane Wade, as he had an illness, the Hawks had a chance to take a four-point lead in the final minutes of regulation and a victory would have put them into first place in the Southeast Division over their rivals.

But the Hawks let too many chances slip away and the Heat walked away with a 95-89 victory.

Hawks forward Kyle Korver came out on the wrong end of two of those missed opportunities. With 3:02 left and the Hawks up 87-85, Korver had a fast-break chance but missed his lay-up. He grabbed the rebound but ended up in awkward position along the sideline facing the Heat’s bench and fell out of bounds. The Hawks felt Korver was bumped. From that point, Miami outscored the Hawks 10-2 to finish out the game.

“I thought there might have been some contact,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “The refs didn’t thinks so, but that was just one play. It wasn’t the play that decided the game. Going down the stretch, you have to come up with some plays. We just didn’t come up with enough plays going down the stretch. They did.”

Korver, who got off to a slow start in his first two games, followed up Wednesday’s 13-point effort with 11 points, making 3-of-7 three-point shots but he missed the one big two-footer. He said he thought he got bumped when he fell out of bounds but refused to make excuses.

“I missed the lay-up, first of all, shouldn’t have even been in that situation,” he said. “I’ve got to finish that. There was a scramble and I was kind of off balance and I thought I got pushed in the back but they thought otherwise.”

Later, coming out of a timeout with 46.3 seconds left, Chris Bosh tipped Josh Smith’s alley-oop pass to Al Horford that could have tied the game at 89-89. Horford called that play “a big difference,” as the Heat moved to 5-1.

On a night when Jeff Teague made 7-of-8 shots for 20 points to go with 11 assists and reserve Anthony Morrow made 6-of-11, including both three-pointers, for 17, the Hawks were hurt by a couple of cold shooters. DeShawn Stevenson went 1-for-7, missing a three-pointer with 1:06 left and the Hawks trailing by two. Lou Williams went 0-for-6 from the field and Josh Smith shot 6-for-19 and went 1-for-5 from the foul line.

“I have to be better offensively for this ballclub,” Smith said. “As a leader, I have to be more efficient. I have to be better at the free-throw line and I apologized to all my teammates because that was a just a poor effort offensively by me.”

Nonetheless, the Hawks (2-2) found positives in the fact that they fought back throughout the game. They trailed by nine – their largest deficit of the game — with 7:53 left in regulation, but came back to take the lead 87-85 with 3:26 left on a fast-break basket by Horford, who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

“I think we were encouraged to see the potential we have,” Horford said. “We played well. We just need to be more consistent throughout.”

Smith, who took a hard charge from LeBron James (21 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists), suffering a knee bruise in the process, sounded a similar message, especially considering how many new faces the Hawks have added following their offseason makeover and how little time they have had together so far this season.

“I like where we’re at, though, I love where we’re at,” Smith said. “We just have to keep on this pace and we’ll be fine.”