It was one the most entertaining games of the entire season to this point, but when Kyle Korver’s last-second attempt went begging, the Hawks fell just short of a road upset with a 121-119 overtime loss to the Miami Heat.
On the final play, the Hawks were inbounding with just 2 seconds remaining, after Miami’s Michael Beasley gave them the lead with 2 free throws. As Mike Budenholzer has been prone to do, he drew up a beautiful out-of-bounds play, creating a lob pass (yes, a lob pass) to Korver for a good look at the rim, but Kyle came up short, and Miami escaped with 2-point win.
It looked as if the Hawks would run away with this one in regulation, but they simply couldn’t close things out. With the Hawks holding a 3-point lead with about 8 seconds remaining, there was a very questionable foul call on Atlanta, as replay appeared to show little-to-no contact on Ray Allen, but that didn’t stop “Jesus Shuttlesworth” from heading to the line for 3 shots. As you’d expect, Allen knocked down all 3, and when Paul Millsap was mugged on the other end of the floor (only a slight exaggeration), the whistles were swallowed, and overtime was set.
Speaking of Millsap, this one had all the makings of a storybook game for the Atlanta power forward. Paul made a staggering seven three-pointers in the game (on 10 attempts), which easily doubled as his career-high, and he added 11 rebounds to go with his 25 points. Jeff Teague was also highly productive, as he led the team in scoring with 26 points while putting up 8 assists, and it was Teague’s aggressiveness that pulsed much of the late scoring push. Unfortunately, the career 80+% free-throw shooter did miss 4 consecutive free throws at one point, however, and those shortcomings left the Hawks yearning for extra points as regulation concluded.
Kyle Korver continued his legendary 3-point streak by making a triple in his 97th consecutive game. Kyle knocked down his first 3-point attempt of the game, continuing the streak at the 5:43 mark of the 1st quarter, and for good measure, he made another 3 on the next trip. On the night, he was (again) excellent with 15 points (on 5 threes), and his consistent ridiculousness with his jumpshot is must-see television at the moment.
Finally, Al Horford was his incredible self in this one, scoring 21 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, while flashing the defensive prowess that makes him an NBA All-Star. There was a standout play in the second half where Horford singled up on Lebron James (who was utterly fantastic in this game) and held him down in effortless fashion, and he was everywhere at times.
Speaking of James, it is undeniable that his greatness (along with some officiating woes) was the reason that Miami stole this one. The reigning league MVP scored 38 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and dished out 7 assists, but he seemed to make every single play down the stretch, scoring the final 8 points in regulation (including a crazy dunk over Paul Millsap) and he earned every bit of accolades.
The turnover bug plagued in the Hawks in the game, as well, as they forked the ball over 19 times in the game, bringing back some wary comparisons to the debacle in New York. While it clearly wasn’t at that level, the carelessness did cost Atlanta multiple possessions, especially in the first half, and when you’re playing against a Miami team, turnovers aren’t a luxury that can be afforded.
Even with Dwyane Wade in the lineup (and Chris Bosh, who exited early with injury), this was a very tough spot for Atlanta, and they did themselves no favors with a 13-0 deficit to start the game. Still, it is very encouraging to see the Hawks scratch and claw with one of the game’s elite, and to be frank, Atlanta would have won this game with a break (or a call) here or there in the late stages of the action.
The Hawks will now face-off with the Cleveland Cavaliers, after a small Christmas break, on Thursday at 7:30 pm. Stay tuned.