The Heat Torched The Hawks To Take Game 1 Of Their First Round Series

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The Atlanta Hawks fought their way into the 8-seed in the East by beating the Hornets on Wednesday and then the Cavs on Friday, earning them a trip to Miami for a quick turnaround as the 1 p.m. tipoff on Sunday against the Heat.

Both teams came out sluggish, struggling to establish an offensive rhythm as they combined to go 3-of-15 from the floor out of the gates. Atlanta made just three field goals in the first quarter but managed to stay within six points of the Heat going into the second, which gave false hope they might eventually figure something out against Miami’s swarming defense. While that never happened, Miami was able to find a spark for their offense in the form of Duncan Robinson, who came off the bench and lit up the Atlanta defense to help the Heat open up a 19-point halftime lead.

On the other end of the floor, the Heat were relentless against Trae Young, forcing the Hawks’ star into one of the worst performances of his young career as he went 1-for-12 from the field (0-for-7 from three) and finished with eight points and six turnovers on the afternoon. Miami’s ball pressure and aggressive switching gave Young problems, as he could not exploit Miami’s bigs as he’s used to, with Bam Adebayo and PJ Tucker capable of staying in front of him and using their length and quick hands to disrupt his rhythm — and when he stayed away from screens, Kyle Lowry was there to pester him.

None of the other Hawks fared any better against the Miami defense, and that will be the thing to watch going forward in this series, as someone other than Young is going to have to find some success creating for themselves and others given the amount of attention the Heat are giving Young.

The second half saw more of the same, with ferocious defense from Miami and tremendous shooting. Tucker joined Robinson in having a big night from distance, hitting all four of his threes (all from his favorite spot in the corner) as any inkling of a run from Atlanta was snuffed out quickly by a Heat answer.

As Miami opened up a 30-point lead in the second half, it was on the backs of more outrageous shooting from Robinson, as well as Jimmy Butler getting loose as he put up 21 points in 33 minutes of action.

By the mid-fourth quarter the Heat finally called off the dogs and coasted to a 115-91 win, with Atlanta putting forth arguably its worst offensive performance of the season, shooting 39.2 percent as a team, including 28.6 percent from three that seemed worse than that final number indicates. Miami, on the other hand, shot 52.4 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from distance, which are insurmountable shooting percentages for any team to overcome.

It seems likely Atlanta won’t shoot that poorly and Miami won’t shoot that well going forward in the series, but it’s notable the difference in shot quality from both teams. The amount of work it took for the Hawks to get a good look in this game was rather staggering, particularly for Young, while the Heat were much more consistently able to create open shots and get good looks at the rim.

How Atlanta adjusts after seeing how Miami is going to attack Young will be fascinating, as nothing about their defensive effort seemed all that unsustainable. Shooters around Young will need to be better and Nate McMillan tried to work Young off the ball more in the second quarter, offering a glimpse at how they might try to free him up for better looks by taking the ball out of his hands to start possessions. On the other side, Miami will feel very good about its gameplan and will simply look to keep things rolling in Game 2 on Tuesday night.