The Miami Heat become ‘bone’, crashing the Atlanta Hawks’ party to take the 3-1 lead in the series

ATLANTA – There were plenty of signs pointing to a potential downturn for the Eastern Conference’s top-seeded Miami Heat in Sunday’s match 4.

Kyle Lowry was a late scratch due to a strain in his left hind thigh. The Atlanta Hawks’ defensive anchor, Clint Capela, returned from a hyperextended right knee to make his league debut. The State Farm Arena crowd, still hyped by Trae Young’s winner of last Friday’s game, seemed to end a beautiful spring weekend in The A with a series equalizer to their underdog Hawks, where the home team had won 21 of its last 24 games.

Instead, Miami dominated with its defense in a 110-86 victory in what was its best performance in the off-season so far – all things considered – to build a 3-1 lead over the No. 8-seeded Hawks.

“We have some creaky competitors in our locker room who love big challenges,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

Miami’s game plan was simple: Try to control the ball and contain Young. When the Heat came after 14 turnovers in Game 3 and played without their point guard in Lowry, the Heat showed a magnificent balance at the offensive end and finished with just seven turnovers, compared to 15 for Atlanta. Most of them came in the garbage era as Miami only had two errors as a team by the end of the third quarter as it had already built up a 19-point lead.

The Heat’s zero revenue in the first half was a playoff franchise record, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

“Everyone to a man in that locker room knew we could not have a turnover of 15-20,” Spoelstra said. “It would ignite this crowd, ignite that team, so we had to be very consistent with our execution without our quarterback.”

And Young, the breakout star in last year’s playoffs, continued to fight fiercely against Miami. As heroic as his last boom was in Game 3, the rest of the series has been a nightmare for the fourth-year guard. The Heat held him to nine points on 3-to-11 shooting with five turnovers on Sunday, reflecting his overwhelming efforts in Game 1 (eight points on 1-to-12 shooting) and Game 2 (10 turnovers and 2- to-10 shooting from 3).

“I have not been guarded this way … consistently since high school,” Young said afterwards.

Sunday marked the first game of Young’s four-year career – regular season and post-season combined – where all of his points came in at 3 points. It was also the first time in his career that he failed to attempt more than one shot from 2-point range. For the series, Young now has 24 turnovers and only 20 field goals scored.

Jimmy Butler, who led Miami by 36 points on 12-for-21 shots, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals, said it was Heats’ team approach that made the difference against the Atlanta star, rattling eight names – PJ Tucker, Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, Victor Oladipo, Max Strus, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Lowry – who have overshadowed Young 1-on-1 so far.

“You must always have your head on a swirl if you are him,” Butler said.

And Tucker, who had 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting, eight rebounds and three assists, said part of Miami’s plan was to target Young when it had the ball in attack.

“He’s too good of a goal scorer not to get him to work on defense,” said Tucker, who put Young up several times Sunday.

Vincent (11 points, four assists) started steadily in Lowry’s place, and Oladipo also benefited from the playing time opened up by the point guard’s absence. The former All-Star guard scored just six points on 3-for-10 shooting, but had four assists and more rebounds than Capela (eight to seven) when he made his postseason debut for Miami.

Miami surpassed Atlanta by 28 in the 23 minutes Oladipo was on the floor.

“He’s really worked hard, he’s made himself available,” Spoelstra said of Oladipo, who has missed most of the last three seasons due to knee and quadriceps injuries. “You do not love it that it is under these circumstances, but we knew something would happen – as it always does with every team in the playoffs – because of the energy he gives in this, he was prepared for it. “He gave us some really good two-way minutes.”

The Heat could close out the series in Tuesday’s game 5 and would play against the winner of the Philadelphia-Toronto series in the second round. The 76ers are up 3-1.

“Tonight was a good one, but we got another one that we had to get,” Butler said.

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