After a thrilling win last night against the Indiana Pacers, the defending champion Miami HEAT must re-direct their energy tonight towards another possible playoff opponent with a road game against the Atlanta Hawks.
With one more victory, the Hawks can lock in the #8 seed and a date with the top team in the East, which is now once again the HEAT after Friday night's beat-down of the struggling Pacers. This is the final back-to-back set of the season for both teams.
The Hawks beat the Brooklyn Nets (something the Heat were never able to do this season) on Friday to maintain a two-game lead over the New York Knicks, who must root for the Heat tonight in order to have any chance of catching up with Atlanta. Paul Millsap, who has given the HEAT plenty of problems in his first year with the Hawks, was dominant against the Nets with 27 points and 10 rebounds.
Dwyane Wade appeared to have been resting up for the all-important Pacers game but he missed his ninth straight game with hamstring issues and it's likely he'll miss his tenth game at this point as well as all four games against the Hawks. Birdman and Udonis Haslem were brilliant in their return to action and will need to be called upon tonight as they look to contain Millsap.
The HEAT beat the Hawks on their home floor twice to open the regular season series, coasting to a 104-88 victory in November but needed overtime to squeak by them 121-119 in December - a game in which Millsap, Jeff Teague and Al Horford each scored 20+ points. The champs were then defeated in Atlanta 121-114 on January 20th. Millsap had another solid game against Miami, with 26 points and 7 rebounds as well as making 10-11 free throws, a sign he was asserting his dominance in the paint.
Greg Oden is questionable for the game with back issues. For the Hawks, their most significant injury remains the absence of center Al Horford, who tore his pectoral muscle and is out for the season.
The two teams face off in their fourth and final meeting at 7:30 p.m. at the Philips Arena, Atlanta.