Miami Heat’s quick tempo fades out in preseason loss to Hawks

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Aerial survey: Heat forward Chris Andersen looks to pass during the second quarter of Tuesday’s preseason game against the Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Aerial survey: Heat forward Chris Andersen looks to pass during the second quarter of Tuesday’s preseason game against the Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena. David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald

It took three games and a trip to Brazil, but the Heat may have finally found an iota of rhythm.

Unfortunately for Miami, the rhythm wasn’t without blues. Despite flashes of promising defensive progress and a late-game comeback attempt, the Heat (0-4) lost to division rival Atlanta (2-1) 109-103 Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“There is concern; we need to win a game,” Chris Bosh said. “I know it’s the preseason, I know that we’ve shown flashes and everything, but the object of the game is to win, and that goes from top to bottom, from the coaching staff to the players. Every time we step out there, we should play to win.”

Tuesday’s game was the fourth time coach Erik Spoelstra debuted a new group of starters this preseason, this time opting for Danny Granger at small forward and Norris Cole at point guard along with regular starters Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng.

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Despite the loss, the starting five set a quick tempo on offense and played some of the most polished defense the Heat has deployed all season.

“There was certainly a speed, quickness to the start of the game, and I really liked the way the ball was moving,” Spoelstra said.

“Then it started to flatten out there at the end of the second quarter. … And that, I believe, affected our defense, as well. It just took the spirit out of us, so one of the teaching points is offensively, even if we’re not playing the way we want to, we still have to hold the fort and defend.”

The starters held the Hawks to 42.5 percent shooting from the field and 22.2 percent from behind the arc during the first half.

The Heat was also able to stymie Atlanta’s second-half attack with Wade and Bosh back on the court in the fourth quarter.

Miami ended the night shooting 43.9 percent from the field. Notably, the team also made progress in its long-range game on the heels of first-time starter Granger.

The 6-9 forward led the Heat in three-pointers with three, and the team ended the night 11 of 25 from behind the arc, their best record in the category yet.

Small improvements notwithstanding, a few constants stood out Tuesday:

▪ Bosh once again proved himself the dependable team leader, pacing the team with 22 points in 30 minutes on the court.

▪ James Ennis flaunted some trademark sensational play when he got on the court late in the first quarter, subbing in alongside Andersen.

After stirring things up offensively and getting the second quarter rolling with a crowd-pleasing dunk, Ennis flailed in the second half.

The fatigued-looking newbie didn’t score a point after halftime.

▪ Youngsters Shabazz Napier and Shannon Brown very nearly pushed the game into overtime for the fourth time in a row.

Napier and Brown combined for 17 points in the fourth quarter.

Bosh, Wade return

Spoelstra said both Bosh and Wade requested to return to the game in the fourth quarter. Spoelstra said the two starters played about five minutes more than he planned.

Chalmers sits

Mario Chalmers sat with a sore hip, an injury he sustained during the team’s trip to Rio de Janeiro. Spoelstra said the guard would start if it were a regular season game.