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! The HEAT defeated the Hawks 108-90 in their last meeting on Feb. 24. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: What did we learn from Miami’s home-opening victory over Indiana?

Couper Moorhead: On the HEAT’s side, their 37-19 second quarter was as close as we’ve seen them approach the combination of team defense and offensive flow that they so consistently had during last season’s second half. They got good shots, they hit those shots and they were flying around getting stops. And the offense, with the exception of a bit of stagnation in the middle of the fourth quarter that allowed Indiana to briefly make it a one possession game, generally looked like what it’s expected to look like.

There’s a bit more to talk about on the defensive end. With Whiteside out Miami didn’t have a big body to soak up drive after drive but with all the athleticism they can put on the floor they still defended the rim remarkably well. The issue, then, was less the percentages and more the volume being allowed in that highly efficient zone. Now, Erik Spoelstra said again that there’s work to be done on the defensive end, but there might be something happening on that end of the floor that doesn’t have much to do with Miami at all. So many teams around the league, Indiana included, appear to be prioritizing high-pace and early offense that we might be in the early days of a new league-wide trend – one that could require a strategic response beyond what teams are accustomed to doing. Or, this could all be the result of the shorter preseason. Either way, the HEAT will surely adjust – it just might be about more than simply tightening things up when defending in transition.

Joe Beguiristain: We learned that the HEAT are still capable of being a strong offensive team even without Hassan Whiteside in the pick-and-roll game. On Saturday, five Miami players scored in double-figures, including Goran Dragić, Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Josh Richardson. The one guy I want to highlight out of that group is Olynyk.

As a whole, the 7-footer has made a seamless transition into the offense thanks to his ability to move off the ball for open threes, execute screen handoffs and finish plays around the rim. Against Indiana, Olynyk was the catalyst in the 37-19 second quarter that Coup mentioned above, as he helped Miami capture a 13-point lead at halftime. Although the Pacers came into the contest with one of the worst defenses in the league, the fact is Miami executed and did what it was supposed to do offensively. 

Things were a bit tougher on the defensive end without Whiteside, but the HEAT had a few good sequences they could build on. In particular, Jordan Mickey showed quick feet on a handful of pick-and-rolls, so hopefully he can do the same on Monday if he indeed gets the start once again.  

2: How is Atlanta different this year and how do you think their new look will affect this matchup?

Couper: While it’s been a gradual process that didn’t just happen this past summer, this Hawks team could be seen as marking not just the transition from the team that won 60 games a few years back but the beginning of an entirely new era. First, DeMarre Carroll left, then Al Horford and Jeff Teague in free agency, then Kyle Korver in the middle of last season and finally Paul Millsap during the most recent free agency. Dwight Howard, too, was traded to Charlotte and Tim Hardaway Jr. signed with New York. This is a team that appears to be fully committed to developing their youth.

As we mentioned regarding the league trend, Atlanta also seems to be committed to speed and spacing. All of their bigs are shooting threes, including Dewayne Dedmon, all of their bigger forwards and wings are capable of doing the same while handling the ball and they’re getting up the floor whenever possible. Which means, just like Indiana and Orlando, this will be another test of Miami’s transition defense.

Joe: For starters, Atlanta traded Dwight Howard to Charlotte for Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli and the 41st overall pick in the 2017 Draft (which ended up being Tyler Dorsey). Then in free agency, perennial All-Star Paul Millsap signed with the Nuggets. As you can see, that leaves some tough shoes to fill in the frontcourt.

In their stead, Head Coach Mike Budenholzer has rolled with Ersan İlyasova and Dewayne Dedmon, but veteran Mike Muscala and rookie John Collins have also gotten some burn off the bench. Collins looked quite impressive on Sunday against the Nets, as he notched his first career double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. With this being a back-to-back for the Hawks, perhaps we’ll see a little more of Collins and Muscala.

Another thing to take note of is the availability of Dennis Schröder, who hurt is ankle against Brooklyn and had to exit the game. Atlanta is a little thin at point guard, but it looks like Malcolm Delaney will start if Schröder is out.

3: If Miami is again without Hassan Whiteside, do you see them changing anything headed into tonight?

Couper: The answer for Erik Spoelstra on Saturday night was to insert both James Johnson and Jordan Mickey into the starting lineup, moving Kelly Olynyk back into a backup role. Mickey only played 13 minutes, essentially shifts at the beginning of each half, but his floor spacing enabled Johnson to essentially be a playmaking center, both handling the ball at times and being a dynamic screener in pick-and-roll. It did leave Miami a little undersized, but without Myles Turner the Pacers weren’t exactly starting oversized lineups just as the Hawks aren’t expected to tonight. While Spoelstra will surely experiment as the weeks go on, as long as something is working he typically sticks with it.

The question, then, would be what the starting lineup looks like when Whiteside does make his eventual return if Johnson ends up developing some chemistry with the Goran Dragić -Dion Waiters duo.

Joe: I don’t. Mickey and James Johnson worked well in the starting lineup, and Erik Spoelstra stated after Saturday’s game that he thought Olynyk looked really comfortable with the second unit. All that leads me to believe that things will stay the same if Whiteside can’t play.

Johnson did a nice job of making up for Whiteside’s absence against Indiana, as he led the team with five blocks. Whether he was coming over to help in the halfcourt or making plays in defensive transition, he was doing all he can. That’s why he is one of the team captains.  

INJURY UPDATE: After Monday's shootaround, Coach Spo said Whiteside (knee) will not play and the lineup will remain the same from Saturday.



Feb. 24 – HEAT at Hawks

Feb. 1 – Hawks at HEAT

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT and Hawks split the season series last year, with each team winning on the road and at home. 
  • Miami is 1-1, while Atlanta enters the contest at 1-2.
  • This is game two of the HEAT's longest homestand of the season.


Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 103.9 (15)
  • HEAT Defense: 106.7 (20)
  • Hawks Offense: 98.2 (23)
  • Hawks Defense: 105.9 (17)

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