Atlanta Hawks at Miami HEAT Game Preview
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Atlanta Hawks Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What did you take away from Miami’s blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets?
Couper Moorhead: It was one of Miami’s most convincing victories since the calendar switched to 2019 and their third 20-point victory this season over a team currently in the playoff race. After struggling from three against the Nets for the past two seasons, the HEAT broke through and hit 14-of-34, including 6-of-10 shooting from Derrick Jones Jr. and Rodney McGruder. Along with a season-high 36 assists, it was a complete showing top-to-bottom for the roster and it couldn’t have come at a better time as it pulled them within a half game of the No. 8 seed in the East, where Charlotte and Orlando are currently tied.
Joe Beguiristain: Above all else, it was good to see the HEAT maintain a big lead and earn a wire-to-wire victory over a solid Nets team. Now, Brooklyn was on a tough back-to-back, but that’s just the nature of the business.
In particular, Kelly Olynyk continued his offensive onslaught since becoming a starter, as he kept the Nets guessing all evening and racked up 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting, six boards and four assists. As a team, Miami recorded a season-high 36 assists, with Josh Richardson and Dion Waiters leading the way with seven apiece.
On the flip side of the ball, Bam Adebayo and KO fared quite well in the HEAT’s zone defense. In fact, Adebayo contested a game-high 18 shots, while Olynyk led all players with five deflections.
Long story short, Miami had it all going on.
2: What about the Hawks has given the HEAT some trouble this season?
Couper: While Miami couldn’t get much going offensively in their 24-point loss in Atlanta back in January – probably their worst shooting game of the season at 5-of-34 from deep – the other two losses were extremely close affairs. Miami didn’t have much trouble scoring the ball in those games, so it was on defense where issues cropped up. Similar to Brooklyn, Atlanta, when relatively healthy, has a deep stable of capable NBA players that they can mix-and-match to whoever they are playing that night, which includes the Bazemore-Prince-Bembry-Carter wing rotation that doesn’t usually feature all four playing well at once but one or two have had success in each of the wins over the HEAT. The Hawks also take a ton of threes which increases their game-to-game variance, so even though they aren’t an elite offense on paper they certainly have the capacity to explode on any given night. Couple those capable rotation players and high-volume shooting with a dynamic rookie point guard in Trae Young, who can both shoot off the dribble, hit floaters in the lane and find teammates no matter where they are, and that’s the profile of a team that’s beaten Miami three times this year.
Also like Brooklyn, the Hawks played Sunday afternoon in Chicago after playing a quadruple-overtime game on Friday, and have an extensive injury list at the moment. If they don’t have the legs for their shooting like the Nets didn’t, that should prove beneficial for the HEAT.
Joe: Generally speaking, it’s been their speed and ability to force turnovers.
The HEAT have averaged 17.3 turnovers and 102.83 possessions in the three games against the Hawks this season. But on the bright side, those numbers weren’t quite as high in the most recent meeting between the two on Jan. 6.
Despite its poor record, Atlanta is a team that can also put points on the board. All told, the Hawks have scored 114.8 points per 100 possessions over the past six games, which is sixth-best in the league over that span. As for how they’re doing it, look no further than Trae Young.
After struggling to score efficiently early on in his rookie campaign, Young started to pick things up in mid-January. And now that’s culminated in the best stretch of his career, as he’s averaging 32.0 points, 9.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds on 48.4 percent shooting, including 51.0 percent from beyond the arc, in his last six.
That’s quite impressive.
3: What about Miami’s recent offensive surge is going to be the most sustainable?
Couper: The HEAT are currently on the second-longest streak in franchise history of shooting 40 percent or better on at least 25 attempts from deep. If they make it to a fourth game, they’ll tie the longest streak. As has been the case almost all season, the rate at which those deep shots fall might be the most important overall indicator of the HEAT’s offensive health given that they generally consistently create the same quality of looks game-to-game. But shooting comes and goes. What’s been encouraging is that the HEAT have topped 28 assists in three of the last four games and their lineups with Kelly Olynyk at center of late have been as potent as expected on the scoring end while holding up the bargain on defense. Olynyk, for his part, hasn’t just been a floor spacer, either. He’s been taking advantage of mismatches when he gets them by sealing the defender and making himself available in the paint, and off the ball he’s been roaming the baseline like a classic dunk-target, dipping into the paint whenever the defense overplays another action. Having Goran Dragić back of course help any offense, but when Olynyk is playing like this, even if he isn’t scoring a ton every night, it can be relatively transformational for an offense that has struggled at times this year.
Joe: As I’ve mentioned previously in this space, the HEAT will always give themselves a chance to light it up from deep if they move the ball and stay true to their identity. That’s been the case over the past four games, as Miami has tallied the eighth-highest assist percentage (65.3) during that span.
Since returning to the lineup from left knee soreness, Justise Winslow has played a big role in keeping the HEAT’s offense sharp. Most of all, he’s shown great chemistry with Olynyk on pick-and-rolls and made some great feeds to the big fella. In 65 minutes on the floor together over the past three games, the Winslow/KO pairing is outscoring the opposition by 11.2 points per 100 possessions.
- The HEAT have dropped the previous three matchups with the Hawks this season.
- Miami is 28-34, while Atlanta enters the contest at 22-42.
- Dwyane Wade needs just two blocks to surpass Michael Jordan for the most by a guard in NBA history.
- Trae Young is averaging 18.3 points and a team-high 7.8 assists per game.
- Goran Dragić (Left Calf Strain) and Hassan Whiteside (Left Hip Strain) are questionable.
- HEAT Offense: 106.8 (23)
- HEAT Defense: 107.5 (8)
- Hawks Offense: 106.7 (25)
- Hawks Defense: 112.8 (27)