The Miami Heat had the fourth-ranked defense in the NBA this season, but with Kyle Lowry out injured and facing a Hawks team with Trae Young, that defense would be put to the test Sunday.
Miami aced that test.
Young finished with nine points and shot 3-of-11 (taking only one shot inside the arc), and the Hawks scored a season-low 86 points, finishing with a 97.7 offensive rating – scoring less than one point per possession.
Meanwhile Jimmy Butler dominated, scoring 36 points and adding 10 rebounds, sparking a second quarter run that decided the game.
Miami cruised to a 110-86 win and now leads this first-round series 3-1, heading back to Miami for Game 5 on Tuesday.
There was speculation online that Young’s foot was injured after Gabe Vincent accidentally stepped on it and rolled Young’s ankle in the first quarter. After the game, Young said it rolled a little bit, but he has played through worse. However, Hawks coach Nate McMillan was evasive after the game when asked if the limited use of Bogdan Bogdanovic in the second half was due to injury.
Atlanta got Clint Capela back for this game, but it didn’t help on the glass – Miami grabbed the offensive rebound and got a second chance on 28.8% of their missed shots (15 offensive boards).
The Heat started the game slowly (10-of-29 shooting) but flipped the switch midway through the second quarter thanks to Butler. He scored 13 points in the second and the Heat went on a 26-4 run to close out the half, when they led 55-41. That’s also when the Heat cranked up their defensive pressure and shot 5-of-22 to close out the first half.
The Hawks never threatened again.
Miami now appears headed for a second-round showdown against Joel Embiid and the 76ers (who are up 3-1 on the Raptors). Miami has an incentive to close this series out on Tuesday and get a break (likely until next weekend, at least) before the next series starts. That would give Lowry time to get right, the Heat will need him in that series.
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Heat defense shuts down Trae Young, Hawks; Miami cruises to win, 3-1 series lead originally appeared on NBCSports.com