Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 115-113 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
1. This was a really painful loss for the Heat (7-13). The Heat fell to the struggling Hawks (5-16) for the second time this season.
How painful was it?
Atlanta entered with a 4-16 overall record and 1-9 road record.
Atlanta entered with the league’s worst net rating, which is a fairly accurate indicator of how good or bad a team has been. So, in other words, the Hawks came in as the worst team in the NBA.
Atlanta committed 24 turnovers and won, which is a hard thing to do. Teams that have committed 24 or more turnovers in a game have posted a 9-34 record since the start of the 2016-17 season.
The Heat rallied from a 19-point third quarter deficit to take a one-point lead with 5:04 to play, but still lost.
Down by two points with 14.4 seconds to play, the Heat found Josh Richardson for a wide open three-pointer with 1.1 seconds remaining. He missed a shot he’s made more often than not, as he entered shooting 62.5 percent on wide open threes this season.
“We couldn’t get a better look than that and whenever you get in these close games, it never is about that last shot,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I mean, it is, but it’s not. We executed that well, but if we would’ve come back and gotten this game somehow, we would’ve stolen it. They outplayed us for the large majority of the game.”
The Heat is now 7-13 this season, which is the sixth-worst record in the NBA. And after playing the next three games at home — Friday vs. New Orleans Pelicans, Sunday vs. Utah Jazz and Tuesday vs. Orlando Magic — the Heat hits the road for a six-game West Coast trip.
This could get even uglier if Miami doesn’t turn things around fast.
“You’ve got to because nobody’s worried about you, nobody’s feeling sorry for you,” Richardson said when asked if the Heat will be able to put Tuesday’s loss in the past. “The next team is coming in, trying to beat you just like the last team did, so you’ve got to keep it moving.”
2. Turnovers continue to plague the Heat. After committing a season-low seven turnovers in Sunday’s loss to the Toronto Raptors, Miami reverted to its mistake-prone ways.
The Heat finished with 20 turnovers Tuesday. Atlanta scored 26 on those mistakes.
Miami is averaging the fourth-most turnovers in the NBA at 16.1 per game.
“It’s at the top of the list of things that have been hurting us and preventing us from having a better record,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve addressed it. We’ve worked on it. It’s just something that is going to have to get better.”
That’s just too many empty possessions for a Heat team that’s struggling to find efficient offense. Miami has the worst team shooting percentage (43.5 percent) and the fifth-worst offensive rating (scoring 105.4 points per 100 possessions) in the NBA.
The Heat is now 0-4 this season when committing 18 or more turnovers in a game.
3. Miami’s free-throw shooting is an issue. For a Heat team that’s struggling offensively (as documented in the previous takeaway) and needs every point it can get, this isn’t ideal.
Miami shot 20 of 30 from the foul line Tuesday, with center Hassan Whiteside playing a big part in those struggles with a 1 of 7 free-throw effort.
The Heat now owns the third-worst free-throw percentage in the league at 70.5 percent. That’s a lot of points at the foul line Miami is missing out on.
It could be time to label this roster as a bad free-throw shooting team. In the first two seasons the core of this group has played together, the Heat finished 2016-17 with the league’s worst free-throw shooting percentage at 70.6 percent and 2017-18 with the ninth-worst number at 75.5 percent.
4. Hassan Whiteside recorded his 14th double-double of the season Tuesday, but don’t let the numbers fool you. While the Heat’s starting center finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 25 minutes, he spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench after struggling at the free-throw line and, at times, not playing with his usual force.
Want a surprising stat? Whiteside has not played a single fourth-quarter second in three consecutive games. For the highest-paid player on the roster, that’s somewhat alarming.
Whiteside’s fourth-quarter playing time was a topic of conversation last season, too, when he was 11th on the team in average fourth-quarter minutes played per game at 5.9. Reserve centers Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo finished ahead of him.
Whiteside has averaged more fourth-quarter minutes than them this season at 6.8, but Olynyk and Adebayo have played ahead of him recently.