Fourth-quarter collapses have been an issue for the Miami Heat all season, but that didn’t make their 111-110 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the final seconds of Game 3 on Friday, April 22 any easier to swallow.
Following the Heat’s 21-0 run in the third quarter, they entered the final 9:06 of the game with what seemed an insurmountable 14-point lead. But the Hawks closed the game on a 31-16 run, and star guard Trae Young’s running floater with just 5.5 seconds left to play ended up being the game-winning basket.
The latest Heat news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Heat newsletter here!
However, the Heat had one more chance to win, as All-Star Jimmy Butler had possession of the ball before the clock expired, taking a fadeaway three that bounced hard off the front rim.
Butler’s execution and decision-making on that final shot were questionable and instantly drew criticism from analysts across the league. While hitting a winning basket in the last seconds of a playoff game is a high-pressure, high-stress situation, Sun Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman doesn’t buy that Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra actually called for Butler to take that three:
The view here: How off an inbounds play with 4.4 seconds left down one do you not get something toward the basket, some type of pick-and-roll, something that involves multiple defenders and perhaps produces a foul during an NBA postseason that has gone whistle-happy? And that’s against a team lacking their defensive backstop.
Of course Erik Spoelstra has to stand by his player. But I find it very, very, very hard to believe that is what he drew up or what any coach would draw up: going east-west for almost the entire balance of the clock.
During his postgame comments, Spoelstra focused more on the difficulty of Young’s game-winning shot.
“You have to expect that on the road that leads aren’t always going to hold,” Spoelstra said, per Miami Herald‘s Anthony Chiang. “We just had to find a way and we didn’t. We had a one-point lead and basically under 20 seconds. Young got a little bit of an angle and was able to hit a tough runner. He makes that look easy. That’s not like the easiest shot going full speed and with the touch.”
Sirius XM Sports host Lance Medow credited the Hawks for blocking Butler. “Outstanding defense by DeAndre Hunter on Jimmy Butler on that final shot attempt,” Medow tweeted. “Played with his feet & kept his hands straight up..coaches should that use film as a teaching point.”
Bam Adebayo Blamed Game 3 Loss on the Defense Faltering
While it’s obviously disappointing that Butler’s final shot didn’t go in, and as the team’s max contract veteran he’s expected to make those kinds of baskets, the 32-year-old wing wouldn’t have been in that situation if the Heat’s defense didn’t fall apart in the fourth quarter.
In the final 12 minutes of the game, the Hawks shot 57.1% from the field and went 5-of-11 from beyond the arc.
“Just a lack of our defensive presence,” Heat’s starting center Bam Adebayo said during the postgame conference. “I feel like that was the reason why we were up so big. We were getting into the ball, being physical and just taking away, like, their easy gateways to get easy baskets. I feel like we let up a little bit.”
Adebayo himself has been struggling with the first round of the Eastern Conference playoff series. During the first three games against the Hawks, the All-Star has totaled just 28 points, shooting .450 thus far in the series.
While Twitter Slams Butler, The Heat Star Says He’s Already Focused on Game 4
After the game, Butler kept his emotions in check. “Missed a shot. As simple as that,” he said, noting his plan was simple: “Get free, shoot it, make it. I didn’t. I’ll make the next one.”
Game 4 of the Heat vs. Hawks playoff series is scheduled for Sunday, April 24 at 7 p.m. ET.
Heat fans, however, continued to stew, calling out Butler’s “f****** horrendous possession” on Twitter, and slamming the six-time All-Star for not passing the ball.