Miami Heat (4-1) will take on the Atlanta Hawks (2-1) at Philips Arena tonight.
The Heat have won 5 straight games against the Hawks on the road, and will be looking to extend that streak tonight. In their last game, Miami blew out the Brooklyn Nets 103-73 at home. The Heat seem to have put their early defensive struggles behind them, as they held Phoenix and Nets to under 40% shooting in the last two games.
Atlanta succumbed to Houston and James Harden’s 45 points in their season opener, but have won two straight since. Hawks beat Oklahoma City Thunder away, and rallied at home to win against Indiana Pacers.
Atlanta made a huge move this off-season by trading Joe Johnson. The Hawks finally realized that while they were a solid playoff team, Joe Johnson wasn’t the guy that would get them over the hump. Even though the move was made with the future in mind, the Hawks are by no means a pushover this season. Al Horford is healthy, unlike the majority of last season, and will be looking to once again establish himself as an all-star center. The team also acquired a potent scorer in Louis Williams as well as players like Kyle Korver and DeShawn Stevenson.
Keys to the game
Miami have to continue playing well defensively and get into the open court. Even though the team showed improved defense in the last two games, Allen and Lewis remain liabilities on defense.
James is averaging 32.2 points per game in his last 9 games against Atlanta. James has been posting impressive numbers so far this season, being close to a couple triple-doubles, but hasn’t had a massive scoring night yet. Considering his efficiency against the Hawks, James could very well have his first 30+ point game this season. James needs to continue crashing the boards, as he is currently ranked 9th in the league in rebouding, grabbing 9.8 per game.
After bursting out for 40 points against the Nuggets, Chris Bosh scored 18 against Phoenix and only 8 points against Brooklyn. He should have a better shooting night tonight, but he really needs to rebound better. In Miami’s last two games Bosh only had 4 rebounds in each game.
Wade finally seems to have found some offensive rhythm, going for 10-14 shooting against the Nets. It is unlikely he will shoot the ball as well tonight, so it will be important for him to get to the line for more than the two free throws he had against Brooklyn.
Closing out on shooters will be extremely important for the Heat tonight, as Korver and Williams are lethal from 3-point range. Most of the Hawks’ offense will probably run through Josh Smith, so expect James and Battier to take turns on guarding the power forward spot. Horford can quietly score 20 or more points by being efficient in the post or grabbing offensive rebounds, so boxing him out will be important.