Heat vs. Hawks Odds
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
|Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
The Atlanta Hawks host the Miami Heat on Wednesday night in the first meeting of the season between these Southeast Division foes. Atlanta will fly to Miami on Friday for the second game of a quick mini series between these teams.
The Hawks seemingly came out of nowhere last year after firing Lloyd Pierce midseason to eventually turn things around and win the Southeast Division. They then turned heads in the playoffs as they beat the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
However, the defensive strides that the Hawks made last year to become a contender have completely vanished as they went from a respectable 17th in Defensive Rating to a poor 28th in Defensive Rating this season.
Trae Young has been lighting up the scoreboard on offense, but can he carry this slumping Hawks team that finds itself in fourth place in the division to a much needed victory over the shorthanded Heat as slight favorites?
Let’s dive into this matchup.
Miami Weathering Injuries With Hot Shooting
If the Heat cover or win outright as short underdogs, it will be because Kyle Lowry and the Heat’s sharpshooters continue to step up in the absence of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
Butler (ankle), Adebayo (thumb) and KZ Okpala (wrist) remain out with injuries. Markieff Morris (COVID protocols) and Marcus Garrett (conditioning) also remain out. Dewayne Dedmon is questionable to return to action for the first time since suffering a knee injury on Dec. 23.
While Butler and Adebayo have been out, the Heat have had a handful of players step up. Defensively, Lowry leads the defense at the point of attack while P.J. Tucker has helped make up for Butler and Adebayo’s absence with his versatility. Caleb Martin has also played a significant role defensively in guarding opponents’ best wings on a nightly basis.
Around them, the Heat have had shooters like Max Strus, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and even Kyle Guy step in and excel. Gabe Nnamdi Vincent has also impressed defensively at the point of attack and offensively from beyond the arc when filling in for Lowry.
With Lowry leading the way, these Heat shooters have kept the offense afloat despite the Heat’s injury woes as they rank second in the NBA in 3s this season shooting 38.1% (excluding garbage time, per Cleaning The Glass).
Martin, Vincent, Herro, Strus, Guy and Tucker are each shooting at least 37% on 3s, and Tucker leads the NBA in 3-point shooting accuracy (46.9%) among players with at least 40 made 3s this season.
Hawks Getting Exposed on Defense
If the Hawks win and cover as short home favorites, it will be because Young has a big night while they collectively make their open perimeter shots against a Heat defense that is designed to limit shots closer to the rim.
Clint Capela (ankle) is doubtful to play Wednesday while De’Andre Hunter (wrist), Cam Reddish (ankle) and Sharife Cooper are all questionable. Hunter is seeking to return to action for the first time since Nov. 12, and the Hawks could desperately use his perimeter defense.
The Hawks will matchup against a Heat team that ranks dead last in the NBA in 3-point attempts allowed (43.2% of opponent shots, per Cleaning The Glass). The Hawks rank 25th in the league in 3-point attempt frequency (33.9% of shots), but they rank fifth (37.7%) in 3-point accuracy. If Young can get downhill into the paint consistently, the Hawks should have plenty of opportunities to fire away from beyond the arc against the Heat.
However, the Hawks need to step up defensively because although the offense has pulled its weight with the second-best Offensive Rating (113.6) in the league, their defense has been horrific.
The defense ranks 28th with a Defensive Rating of 114.6, but they have been at their worst lately on defense as they have a Defensive Rating of 125.5 over their last two weeks (six games), which ranks dead last in the league over that span.
The ugly Atlanta defense has been the worst in the league recently, and it is also a big reason why the Hawks rank 29th in the league in Spread Differential over the last two weeks as they are failing to cover the spread by eight points per game. The potential return of Hunter will help the defense, but it won’t help nearly enough.
The Hawks have serious issues defensively, and Eric Spoelstra’s Heat team is as good as any team in the league in exploiting defensive weaknesses and attacking those pressure points to create easy baskets. The Heat are better suited to hold Young in check this year with better defenders at the point of attack like Lowry and Vincent, and they still have more than enough offensive firepower with Robinson, Strus and Herro firing away from deep.
Expect the overachieving Heat to beat the underachieving Hawks in Atlanta regardless of whether the players questionable to play are active. I like the Heat to cover the spread of +2.5, but I’ll be riding with them on the moneyline at DraftKings at +120 (with value down to -120).
Pick: Heat Moneyline +120