ATLANTA -- After a torturous two-plus hours of watching the Hawks hand it to them in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first round series, the Miami Heat were forced through one final indignity Sunday night. With 6.4 seconds left, and the score 90-64, the ball went out of bounds, forcing the final media timeout of the game. For two and a half minutes, T-shirts were shot into the crowd, the A-Town dancers pranced on the floor and the Chick fil-A cow handed out goodies to fans near the Heat bench.
With no strategy to discuss, the players and coaches just stared at each other, or the floor, waiting to complete the final seconds of a nightmare start to the playoffs.
And as uncomfortable as that final timeout was, the 72-hour wait between Games 1 and 2 has to be equally uncomfortable for the Heat. They have no shortage of things to work on, but the best medicine is to get back on the court.
"I can't wait to get back out there and get back to work," said Heat veteran Udonis Haslemafter the game, who, along with Dwyane Wade instituted a no-clubbing policy for the team's four-night stay in Atlanta. "It is frustrating."
Frustrating from the Heat's perspective was their lack of intensity and energy in Game 1, which tilted in the Hawks' direction early in the second quarter and never came back.
"We should understand the intensity that this series is being played at," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
If the Heat are to make this a series, several areas need to be addressed heading into Game 2, most notably Miami's ability to defend the paint in the halfcourt and create second-chance opportunities. Hawks guard Joe Johnson, one of six Atlanta double-figure scorers with 15, said his team was "getting into the paint at will." The Hawks had 28 points in the paint in the decisive first half, plus another nine points at the line that were the result of Hawks penetration. Miami was worried about the Hawks' transition game, but it was the execution in the halfcourt that put the Hawks out in front before the running game pushed the game out of reach.
At the other end, the Heat must find a way to get to the offensive glass. Throwing out the stats from the meaningless fourth quarter, the Heat grabbed just three offensive rebounds off 32 missed shots and had no second-chance points.
"We had to find a body and get them off the offensive boards because Jermaine O'Neal is a good offensive rebounder, as well as Haslem and [Michael] Beasley," said Josh Smith, who had 10 boards and a game-high 23 points.
Beyond the X's and O's, however, the Heat must figure out just how they won 43 games this season. Wade had little help from O'Neal on Sunday, and rookies Mario Chalmers and Beasley were the anti-Derrick Rose, combining to shoot 8-for-25 with five turnovers in their playoff debuts.
"It is basketball. We can't overthink it," said Wade, who committed eight turnovers. "We just have to come out and play ball. We have to let it go. They won one game. We understand one day is different from the next day. All you can do is come back."
The Hawks' confidence, meanwhile, is "through the roof," according to Smith, and the team is desperate to prove stretching the Celtics to seven games last year in the first round was no fluke.
"The guys are hungry," said Hawks coach Mike Woodson. "I've said that since training camp. The Boston Celtics showed us how to play playoff basketball last year."
The Hawks get another chance in Game 2 to show how much they learned.