Hawks take down Heat as the Nate McMillan era starts out strong

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In what was an emotional day for the Hawks, they picked up a much-needed win in Nate McMillan’s coaching debut. Not much may have changed as far as the rotations go, but the removal of Lloyd Pierce following Sunday’s loss to the same Heat team certainly may have affected the Hawks’ mental state. 

First Quarter

To open things up for the Hawks, Tony Snell hit a corner three. Interestingly enough, Snell led the NBA in three-point percentage during February and started the game 3/3 from three in the first six minutes. Atlanta played very sound defense in the quarter, forcing tough shots late in the shot clock multiple times — a theme that would hold true throughout the game.

The Hawks clearly came out with a gameplan of working the shot clock and getting looks inside, as John Collins had multiple plays run for him early. He and Clint Capela dominated on both ends, controlling the glass not only in the quarter but all night. Bogdan Bogdanovic made his first appearance in what has felt forever with 4:49 and was fairly quiet until later.

Trae Young had a nice stretch of defense in the quarter, culminating in an excellent charge taken against Kendrick Nunn. Near the end of the quarter, Onyeka Okongwu flashed why the team picked him sixth overall with a tremendous offensive possession where he secured the offensive rebound, passed the ball out, and then fought for position to catch a pass for a tough finish inside. The Hawks finished the quarter up 23-17 due to a miserable shooting performance from Miami, who were 1/10 from three-point range.

Second Quarter

The second quarter felt like much of the same as neither team was able to make a shot. After over three minutes with only two points scored for Atlanta, Danilo Gallinari hit a stepback three to put the Hawks up seven with 8:39 left in the half. Through six minutes in the second quarter, the two teams combined for just 13 points.

Trae Young checked back in at 5:15 mark, with the Hawks leading 31-25. He scored his first points of the game about a minute later on his signature floater and followed that up with an assist to Kevin Huerter for a three-pointer, giving the Hawks an eight-point lead with 3:21 remaining, forcing a Heat timeout. After the break and a couple of possessions, the Hawks flashed some impressive playmaking as a team with a relay of passes from Trae to Bogi to Snell to Collins for an open corner three that he drilled. A few possessions later, Bogi would take his first shot in his return, a badly missed three-pointer. At the end of the half, the Hawks held a 44-37 lead.

Third Quarter

Trae Young opened up the scoring for Atlanta at the 11-minute mark with a deep three-pointer, his first of the night. This was immediately answered by the Heat’s Duncan Robinson, the sharpshooter from Michigan. From there, the Heat would go on a 9-0 run and take the lead with 7:49 to go in the quarter. Out of the timeout, Kevin Huerter had a tough finish to stop the run and put the Hawks back up 51-50. He would have another strong finish a couple of minutes later. 

At the 4:30-mark, the Hawks fielded a lineup of Young, Snell, Bogi, Gallo, and Collins. The Heat would take advantage of this defensively challenged group and go on an 8-0 run. Trae Young, to this point, still was struggling to find his shot and looked somewhat uncomfortable against the multiple looks the Heat threw at him. He’d be subbed out with two minutes in the quarter with just five points on the night. The Hawks would be outscored by 10 in the quarter and entered the fourth down 63-66 to the Heat.

Fourth Quarter

Gallinari quickly came out for the Hawks and tied it up with a three-pointer, his second of the night. A few possessions later, Onyeka Okongwu finished with a hook shot after a nice post move to give him his sixth point on three shots. Bogdan Bogdanovic would also provide the Hawks with a nice offensive boost in the fourth, hitting back-to-back threes and getting the Hawks back in the lead with 9:07 to go.

Atlanta continued to play solid defense in this game, but poor ball control threatened to give the Heat back-to-back wins. With 7:30 to go, Kevin Huerter tried to force a pass to Rondo on the wing but was picked off. This led to a fast-break layup from Gabe Vincent over Huerter, which tied the game. Coach Nate McMillan immediately called a timeout, and after the break, checked Trae Young back in the game.

From that point on, it was all Hawks, or more specifically, all Trae Young. The Hawks’ all-star point guard put on a show, scoring 11 straight points, including back-to-back-to-back threes. Simultaneously, the Hawks played phenomenal defense, holding the Heat to just one point over this stretch. It was ultimately a 13-1 run that put them up 12 with 4:40 to go. As Dominique Wilkins would say, Trae Young had a heat check a couple of possessions later, ending a magical run of three-point shot-making for the guard.

In a refreshing change-up for Hawks fans, Atlanta was able to hold onto this lead with a final score of 94-80. While the offense struggled at times, the Hawks were able to do just enough to get a win, which everyone in the organization and city will enjoy. Trae Young finished the game with another double-double, scoring 18 points with 10 assists on four made threes. Collins (17) and Huerter (16) were just behind him in scoring for the Hawks. Clint Capela, the big-man acquired from Houston for the 17th pick in the 2020 draft, did not disappoint either, finishing with 17 rebounds and disrupting shots all night.

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