Miami Heat Split Atlanta

Miami Heat Split Atlanta

They say a series doesn’t start until a team wins a game on the road. Well, the Heat did that on Sunday night, but it feels like this opening series with the Atlanta Hawks is virtually over now that the Heat have ended Atlanta’s home winning streak. After a tough 1-point loss on Friday night in game 3, the Heat responded in a major way and absolutely crushed Ice Trae and the Hawks in game 4. There was no tipoff delay for a suspicious package this time and the Heat fans were loud and proud at State Farm Arena. Those Heat fans seemed to get even louder as the hush of dejection settled over the Hawks fans in the 2nd half. The Heat defense proved to be too much and it’s clear that Jimmy Butler is the best player in this series, not Trae Young.

However, the Heat didn’t get off to a flying start in game 4. The 1st quarter was a low field goal percentage back and forth affair where the Heat were struggling to make outside shots and Atlanta, namely De’Andre Hunter, was bagging corner 3s like the assistants at Publix. This trend wouldn’t last however because Coach Spo made some interesting and unexpected lineup changes today that worked to perfection.

The first major change was Spo having a quick hook for Caleb Martin in the 2nd quarter when Caleb was clearly struggling with his shot. Atlanta started leaving Caleb open. This left an extra defender that was roving and packing the paint denying access to Jimmy Butler. It was like playing 4 on 5 and Jimmy needed someone to open up the driving lanes for him. Tyler Herro’s shot was off Sunday night, so the Hawks had no incentive to stop dropping their coverage into the paint. That was the situation on the ground until Spo surprised most people by pulling Caleb and inserting Victor Oladipo. This was the turning point of the game.

The Heat went on a run because even though Victor didn’t make a single shot in that stretch before halftime, he was the key that unlocked Fort Knox for Butler to get into the paint and dominate. Dipo’s drive and kick actions immediately started paying dividends. Victor attacked the paint with a ruthless ferocity that forced the defense to have to react to him. He consistently drew two defenders to him because his gravity was pulling their attention towards him and away from Jimmy. Oladipo was a +29 on the night and he only made 3 shots in the game because his presence on the court was a bigger impact than his shot making.

As the defense reacted to Dipo’s movement with the ball, he would kick it out to an open shooter. This forced the Hawks defense to scramble and then it was on like Donkey Kong. Rather than settle for the three like they were doing in the first quarter, the Heat were now quickly whipping the ball to Jimmy in or near the paint against single coverage and Jimmy Buckets abused whoever was guarding him down low. Size didn’t matter. Jimmy was putting guys on highlight reels. If the defender was bigger than him, he blew by them and hit reverse layups. If it was a smaller guard rotating on him, then he played bully ball and went through them to get and-1 scoring opportunities or raised up over the top of them to get clean midrange pull ups. Sometimes they fouled him on those jump shots too. Either way Jimmy was either getting the bucket or getting to the free throw line. Jimmy was money from the line too.

Momentum is a fickle disloyal thing, but once it’s on your side it feels like you can do no wrong because momentum has your back. When the offense got cooking in the 2nd quarter the Heat defense also turned up to broil. It was a perfect storm that must have felt like a blitzkrieg battle to the young Hawks. Suddenly they were overmatched and overwhelmed in a game that just a few minutes prior felt like they were in it to win it.

Miami had a 15-0 run going, the Hawks scored 4, then the Heat closed out the quarter on an 11-0 run. That’s smoking hot! That’s Miami in the summer hot. That’s all the baddies descending on South Beach for Memorial Weekend hot. All in all, the Heat went on a 26-4 run after being down 37-29 and went into halftime up 14 after holding the 2nd rated offense in the NBA to just 15 points in the 2nd frame. The Hawks didn’t know what hit them. The Atlanta fans looked like someone had punched them in the stomach and knocked the wind out of their collective souls. Mouths wide open without making a sound. This is what it sounds like when Hawks cry.

Miami Heat Split Atlanta

It was beautiful to watch. It was quintessential Miami Heat basketball and it showed why Erik Spoelstra is an absolute maestro on the sideline. Spo may be stubborn at times, but he’s not stupid. He is not afraid to make a change to the game plan. He is keen on making in game adjustments as he sees what is playing out before him. It’s one of his specialties. The greatest compliment of respect paid to Spo in the post-game pressers occurred when Trae Young admitted that he hasn’t been guarded consistently like this since high school. Thanks for the compliment Trae! Ice Trae is basically admitting that the Heat defense he is seeing right now is better than the Bucks defense he faced in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat will look to close out the series on Tuesday night in the building formerly known as American Airlines Arena. They gave the home fans an extra game. Hopefully we can close it out and attend to some injury concerns for Kyle Lowry with his hamstring injury and Bam Adebayo with his quad injury. The playoffs so far have been savagely unforgiving when it comes to health and injuries and some extra time to heal up can really help this team out. Especially since we run a high energy expending style of defense. We will need all of our guys, especially our Kentucky Wildcats (Bam and Tyler), to get all of these playoff’s nerves out of their systems so that they can give better performances against the 76ers in the next round. First things first though, let’s send the Hawks fishing on Tuesday.

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