Recap/Column: Why Can’t the Heat Beat the Hawks?


This article will serve as two things: a recap of last night’s Heat loss, and an overview of all three of this season’s Heat-Hawks match-ups, which the Heat have won none of.

These are the three final scores:

11/3: 123-118

11/27: 115-113

1/7: 106-82

Last night’s game was an obvious outlier. In both of the games in November, a noticeably worse time statistically for Miami, the games were close. With Miami on a tear recently, what went wrong?

It all starts with the shooting. The Heat attempted 34 threes. They made five. Every player that touched the floor (excluding Bam Adebayo) ((yes, even Hassan Whiteside)) attempted at least two threes. Kelly Olynyk attempted nine. He was the only player to make two. To drive the point home, the second three-pointer the Heat made was with 8:42 left in the third quarter. You get the point. The shooting was horrendous from the Heat’s perspective.

Looking away from the stat sheet (I’m not a big ‘eye test’ guy, but this needs to be said), the Heat were too overly aggressive in passing lanes. The Hawks lead the league in turnovers, and the Heat seemed to take that opportunity to reach in on every iso and dive for it on every pass. This left the Hawks with a lot of wide open looks, and a lot of makes. Nobody stayed in front of their man, and the Heat let up shooting splits of 47.3/41.7, both significantly higher than the season averages (43.7/33.6).

James Johnson’s -20 was the best +/- of the starting lineup, with Josh Richardson posting a game-worst -32. Atlanta’s Jeremy Lin had an offensive rating of 158 points. 41-year-old Vince Carter had an offensive rating of 144. Last night’s game is a night the Heat would like to forget.

Now, to the grander scheme: I’ll be comparing Miami’s season numbers to their Hawks-specific season numbers, and seeing where the major discrepancies lie. I will, of course, be doing it in list form. That’s on-brand for me.

Three-Point Shooting:

Not to beat a dead horse, but the Heat can’t make threes against the Hawks. Not just last night, but in general. They’re shooting 30.4% from beyond the arc on 37 attempts. They normally shoot 35.4% on 33 attempts. The Hawks defense allows 37% shooting from three, one of the worst opponent percentages in the league, behind the Magic and the Timberwolves. Are the Heat TOO wide open? Is that what it is?

Also, the Hawks shoot 40% against the Heat, way more than their usual 33.6%. We know the Hawks are too wide open. Last night specifically, Trae Young was perfect from beyond the arc on three attempts. He shoots just 29.3% on the season (to be fair, he’s a good shooter, he shoots a LOT of threes).

Turnovers:

I’m so tired of talking about the Miami Heat turning the ball over, but if they keep doing it, I’m going to keep talking about it. And, weirdly, they do it a lot against the Hawks. The Hawks average double digit steals against the Heat, while only averaging 8.7 on the season (they’re tied for eighth in the league in steals, which is impressive for a team with such a poor defense otherwise). The Heat average an extra three turnovers per game against the Hawks versus the entire league, and had a season-high 24 against the Hawks on November 27.

Rebounding:

The Heat are a top-five rebounding team. Whiteside and Adebayo are athletic and good at boxing out. The Heat let the Hawks grab at least three more rebounds per game than normal, and lose out on at least six more rebounds than normal. It’s not a huge discrepancy, but it’s hustle stats like that that make or break close games (i.e the two games in November that were both decided by five points or less).

I don’t know what to blame when it comes to the Heat’s failures against Atlanta. Atlanta has hit a rebuilding stage, and only won 24 games last season. They only beat the Heat once last year. They didn’t even draft Luka Doncic. I really just don’t get it. I’m gonna blame it on the three-point shooting. Are we all cool with that? Okay. I’ll have the preview for tomorrow’s game against the Nuggets soon.

Follow @miamisportswave on Twitter/Instagram and @vaughanjasu on Twitter for more Miami sports content.

Related:

This Week in Miami Sports: 1/7-1/13

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