Miami Heat still searching for answers after crushing loss to Hawks

The Heat made a major change to the starting lineup, but it wasn't enough in the end.
Atlanta Hawks v Miami Heat
Atlanta Hawks v Miami Heat / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

The Miami Heat had their honorable night spoiled when the Atlanta Hawks took a 109-108 victory on Friday.

Miami celebrated the jersey retirement of hometown legend Udonis Haslem, but couldn't cap off the game after losing in the final seconds. Hawk guard Dejounte Murray hit a go-ahead three, leaving the final shot in the hands of the Heat, which they were unable to convert on. 

Their poor play from the matchup against the Toronto Raptors just a few days ago was replicated in the first quarter. Miami started the night shooting 1 of 8 from beyond the arc. Atlanta held the lead for much of the first half, taking advantage of scoring opportunities through fastbreak points and second-chance shot attempts. 

Duncan Robinson helped dig the Heat out of their hole, scoring 11 points in the second quarter with a 3-for-4 split from distance. Miami headed into the locker room down, 57-56, surging through a 10-point deficit. The 3-ball was in favor of the Heat in the second quarter, helping Miami get back within striking distance.

Miami’s starters took over in the second half. The Heat jumped the break with an 11-2 run, taking its first commanding lead of the game. Head coach Erik Spoelstra played with a heavy dosage of Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo, getting the lineup back in order. Butler finished the game with an efficient 25 points on 8 of 10 from the field and Herro matched that with 25 of his own, knocking down four triples.

After holding the lead for the majority of the second half, Miami collapsed in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Atlanta was aggressive in getting to the basket and forcing the referees' whistle. The Hawks kept their poise, even with leader and starting point guard Trae Young out for the game due to illness. Murray and Saddiq Bey were focused on attacking the Heat late in the game, rather than playing back and letting Miami pick their shots. 

It’s clear that Spoelstra is still searching for reliable lineups. The Heat are playing with one of the healthiest teams they’ve had all season, but constant injury woes have driven the coaching staff into a difficult situation. Spoelstra and his assistants know who to rely on as go-to playmakers, yet sparks off the bench haven’t been consistent. 

The Heat opened the game with their 23rd different starting lineup, moving Kyle Lowry to the bench and starting Herro, Caleb Martin, Butler, Nikola Jovic and Bam Adebayo.

Miami was testing the waters throughout the game to see what lineups meshed. A player like Josh Richardson had trouble sharing the court with Herro because of a dominant ball-handling role by Herro. Haywood Highsmith, who’s been an important piece to the Heat’s success, played just 10 minutes, while Kevin Love recorded just under 12 on the night. 

The Heat need to find some sort of comfortability in different lineups, or have certain leaders for groups on the floor. It’s great to see Miami’s depth and versatility, but there hasn’t been steadiness on either end of the floor.