It’s a matchup of two Southeast division rivals as the Atlanta Hawks travel down to South Beach to face off against the Miami Heat.
With their young guys showing signs of improvement, the future is bright in Atlanta. Trae Young’s notable growth was on full display in Friday’s loss to the Bulls. He exploded for 49 points, 16 assists, eight rebounds, and six three-pointers in a spirited shortcoming, making him the first rookie in NBA history to record 45+ points and 15+ assists in a single game. Taurean Prince will not play tonight, as he and his partner are expecting a child. Tonight’s contest will be the Hawks’ third game in four days. Atlanta is 3-7 when playing on no rest.
The Heat are getting healthier and have looked impressive over the last three games. During this stretch, Miami has beaten the Warriors, dominated the Nets, and lost a heartbreaker to the Rockets. With the NBA’s highest payroll, the Heat are desperate to make up ground and grab one of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spots. Goran Dragic (knee) and Hassan Whiteside (hip) are questionable for tonight’s game. Miami will play on one day’s rest (16-21 in such situations).
Miami comes in rested and clicking on all cylinders. On the other hand, Atlanta is coming off Sunday’s win over the Bulls that followed Friday’s taxing loss in four overtimes.
Atlanta plays fast. The Hawks rank first in possessions per game (108.2) and second in pace (104.37). Atlanta also utilizes this frantic pace by scoring in transition. The Hawks are ninth in fast-break points per game (15.3) and 10th in fast-break efficiency (1.86).
Playing at this type of pace can benefit a younger team. A faster tempo leads to more opportunities to develop. However, allowing young players to play through their mistakes also has its downside. Atlanta ranks dead last in turnovers per game (18.0), turnovers per offensive play (15.1%), and turnover percentage (17.1%).
Much of the Hawks’ offense is also predicated on the three-point shot. Atlanta is fourth in three-pointers attempted per game (35.5) and fifth in percentage of points from threes (33.6).
Miami utilizes its size and athleticism by playing a physical brand of basketball that fuels their success on both ends of the court. Miami is seventh in percentage of points in the paint (45.9) and 13th in points in the paint per game (48.7). On the defensive end, Miami holds down the interior with elite shot-blockers. The Heat are third in opposing points in the paint per game (42.8), sixth in blocks per game (5.6), and second in opposing field-goal percentage within five feet of the basket (56.5).
Miami’s dominance inside is further evident through its impressive rebounding numbers. The Heat are fourth in rebounds per game (55.9), ninth in defensive rebounding percentage (77.9), and fifth in offensive rebounding percentage (25.4). Miami’s success on the offensive boards has translated into the sixth-most second-chance points per game (14.3).
In the absence of a true go-to scorer, Miami relies on crisp ball movement to create three-point shots. Thus, the Heat are ninth in percentage of points from threes (32.8) and second in percentage of assisted three-point field goals made (89.3).
Atlanta will struggle to play its desired brand of up-tempo basketball. The combination of Miami’s proficient transition defense (10th in opponent fast-break points per game) with Atlanta’s fatigue will prevent the Hawks from excelling in a fast-paced affair. Atlanta’s weak three-point defense (23rd) will flounder against Miami’s precise ball movement.
Additionally, Miami’s size will overwhelm Atlanta. The Heat have a variety of big, physical defenders to bother Young and John Collins. The Hawks are also a poor rebounding team vulnerable to giving up offensive rebounds. Atlanta ranks 27th in opponent second-chance points per game (14.5). Look for Miami to have a big night on the offensive glass.
The opening line for this game was -7.5 Miami. Despite minimal injury news and a relatively even split of public betting action, the line has shifted up to -8.5. The one-point movement indicates that the sharp bettors have initially side with the Heat. Miami has fared well against the spread over the last seven, going 5-2 ATS. Atlanta has conversely struggled, going 2-8 ATS in its last 10 games playing on no rest.
With the sharp’s backing and its recent success against the spread, Miami receives the edge.
Atlanta will be fatigued on the backend of a back-to-back and its third game in four days. The Hawks will struggle to play their up-tempo style of basketball and will look lost playing at a slower pace. Furthermore, a tired Atlanta squad will have very few answers for Miami on the offensive glass. Take the Heat at -8.5 as they continue their recent success against the spread.