Five takeaways from the choppy, seasick Game 3 between the Hawks and Heat that gave us a thriller and now…a series:
1. “Ice cream” is finally getting hot
For the first 11.5 quarters of this first-round series, Hawks star Trae Young was thoroughly on defrost. He was shooting less than 30% overall, a head-scratching 10% from deep, missing a signature moment, talking about the task of trying to best Heat coach Erik Spoelstra — then hitting Miami with a dope punch no one saw coming .
In the final three minutes on Friday, he bested the Heat 10-8, including the eventual game-winner by 4.4 seconds on a 10-foot floater. Better late than never for Young, who was a completely different player in comparison last postseason. If you recall, he turned villain in New York, then caused the bitter split between Ben Simmons and the Sixers, and then outplayed two-time MVP Giannis Antetekounmpo in Game 1 of the East Finals when he dropped 48 points before going mad from a ankle injury. Young was one of the league’s postseason poster faces.
Well, what happened between then and now?
As that streak began, Spoelstra seemed determined to constantly catch him and force the ball out of Young’s hands and put other Hawks on point, and it worked as Miami went 2-0 up and then a red-hot used third quarter to make 11 points in Game 3. Young was stunned at this point, but as is often the case with big goalscorers, he found a way, especially when it counted. He only made six baskets all game, but four in the fourth.
In doing so, he gave the Hawks hope — and something more to think about for the Heat as they reassessed their plans for him in Game 4. How can they steal the trust of a player who refuses to lose anything?
“I had no doubts that if I shot it, I wouldn’t (miss) it,” Young said.
2. Jimmy wasn’t a Herro
Jimmy Butler got the ball on Miami’s last two holdings, and on the surface, that seems fine and understandable. Butler came out of a 45-point Game 2, after all, and has a pretty solid record of being good in those moments.
But he missed both times on difficult fallaway jumps that weren’t even close. In that sense, he couldn’t match or surpass Young.
And in this game, in this situation, maybe Tyler Herro was a better option? The Hawks had nothing for Herro all game; He broke through their defenses, scored 24 points in iso games and was open on the ground in both of their last two drives. But he never got a look.
Considering he’s been the most reliable player on the roster this season and has a proven track record of stamping his favorite status for the sixth man of the year award, Herro has earned the right to have a game drafted for him in tense situations. Also, the Hawks put their top defenseman, De’Andre Hunter, on Butler for those last two trips — making it even more puzzling as to why Herro was ignored.
Broadly speaking, the Heat needs to address their late-game execution. In the last 10 seconds of the games where they were only three points or one behind this season, they are now shooting 1:13.
3. Kyle Lowry is limping home
Miami played the fourth quarter without Kyle Lowry and you’re wondering if that damaged the Heat’s lead and direction on the track. Lowry suffered an Achilles tendon injury and while he wouldn’t rule out playing on Sunday, those injuries are difficult.
With the sudden flare-ups of injuries to key players in the playoffs — Khris Middleton, Joel Embiid, Devin Booker, etc. — nothing is taken for granted. Especially with a 36-year-old point guard who relies on cunning speed.
In his place, Herro is getting most of the run at this point, but Miami really lacks a pure replacement; Gabe Vincent had three turnovers and five misses in six attempts in his stint on Friday. With Lowry in the treatment room, Miami lacked a reliable ball handler and decision maker when it came to responding to Young’s dying minutes’ exploits.
And so: For the next 48 hours, everything depends on Lowry’s healing powers. If it were mid-January, he probably wouldn’t play on Sunday anyway. And the Heat could lean on the side of caution anyway and take their chances as they’re still 2-1 up and any aggravation of a hamstring injury could linger.
4. Near Capella
The Hawks aren’t entirely clear yet; They still have to grapple with the uncertain status of their starting center Clint Capela, who is suffering from a hyperextended knee.
His knee was due to be re-examined before Sunday’s fourth game, so the Hawks are awaiting word from the medics on that. Meanwhile, they bought themselves some time by winning Game 3 when the Heat, and especially Bam Adebayo, missed a perfect opportunity to take advantage of his absence.
Here’s what’s odd: Without having to deal with Capela’s defense, Adebayo’s strike on Friday was rather tame; He never caused much trouble or destruction to the Hawks. Miami didn’t force him to feed the ball (he only made nine shots) and he made just one basket in a tight fourth quarter.
Even stranger, Hawks backup center Onyeka Okongwu had a bigger impact on the stretch with seven points in the fourth without missing a shot. And remember, this was against one player, Adebayo, who was (rightly) upset that he wasn’t a finalist for Kia Defensive Player of the Year.
If Capela returns to the lineup and injures Miami at pick-and-rolls with Young, the Heat could regret wasting the chance they had without him.
5. Maximum Player
Duncan Robinson opened the series ballistically by making eight of nine from deep and scoring 27 points in 23 minutes. In the two games since then, he has a total of six points.
This fits with his quirky and confusing career path. Robinson came out of nowhere to take a pivotal role in the Miami rotation, sinking 3-pointers and spacing the bottom. After shooting over 40% from that distance in consecutive seasons, he was awarded a five-year, $90 million extension last summer — the largest extension ever awarded to an undrafted player.
And then he fell to the ground, struggling with his shot and losing his spot on the starting lineup that season to Max Strus, who, much like Robinson, came from nowhere to earn it his Job. Strus gave Atlanta trouble on Friday by dropping 20 points and was a key figure in the third quarter (10 points) as Miami rushed back to take the lead.
So where does this lead? Well actually Miami is in a good place. Even when Robinson is struggling – and he’s virtually unplayable if he can’t hit 3-pointers – there is someone willing and able to fill that long-haul role. It essentially gives an extra layer of insurance in case one of them goes cold.
* * *
Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can email him here, his archive can be found here and keep following him Twitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.