Hawks vs. Heat Game Preview

Ben Ladner

After two unsuccessful attempts at beating the Miami Heat, the Hawks will travel to South Beach Tuesday night with a chance to snatch their first win of the season against their divisional foe. Miami has regressed slightly to the mean after a dominant start to the year, and their point differential suggests the Heat may not be quite as good as their 17-6 record. Still, the Heat remain near the top of a surprisingly competitive Eastern Conference thanks to a menacing defense and equal-opportunity offense.

Game Time: Tuesday, December 10, 2019, 8:00 p.m.

Location: American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL

TV: FOX Sports Southeast, FOX Sports Sun

Streaming: NBA League Pass, FOX Sports Go

No Miami player attempts more than 14 shots per game, and most everyone in the rotation is a threat to positively impact the game. The operation runs through Jimmy Butler – who provides scoring, defense, and playmaking when others can’t – but can take detours through Kendrick Nunn, Goran Dragić, or Bam Adebayo when necessary. Miami has versatility at every position, which gives it few weaknesses on either end of the floor. Nearly every player – including big men – can pass and handle the ball adequately while four players shoot over 39 percent from 3-point range. Adebayo is one of the NBA’s most adaptable defensive centers while Butler has the agility and strength to slide into any defensive role the team needs.

As a team the Heat rank third in the NBA in effective field goal percentage and eighth in opponent shooting. They clean up the defensive glass and constantly get to the foul line. But while Miami shoots the ball well, its offense is weighed down by the highest turnover percentage in the league. The Heat turn the ball over on a league-high 17.6 percent of their possessions – just behind the Hawks – which has dragged their offense outside the top 10 in efficiency.

The first two meetings between the two teams were consecutive games in late October, both of which the Heat won. But it’s difficult to derive much meaning from those contests because Trae Young played only 11 minutes in Miami before missing the entirety of the game in Atlanta; John Collins also played both games while Miami’s Justise Winslow played in one. Each side will look different, at least to some degree, with different personnel. The Heat won’t be quite as versatile or tenacious on defense without Winslow, while Atlanta ought to be more dynamic with Young in the lineup. The Hawks struggles mightily to score without Young, and the Heat’s relentless and physical defense made it all the more challenging for the Hawks to score. Miami will have more to account for on Tuesday, and Kevin Huerter’s increased availability should unlock Atlanta’s offense.

Regardless of who plays, the Hawks are in for an unpleasant 48 minutes. The Heat pull opponents into a slog and don’t release them until the final buzzer. Atlanta will be better prepared for it than it was last time, but preparation can only help a team so much in this sort of bout.