The Miami Heat (15-14) visit the last-place Atlanta Hawks (6-23), in Atlanta, for the first game of a brief two-game road trip, which then takes them onto Boston for a Celtics matchup on Wednesday evening.
Coming off their first win this season in the second game of a back-to-back set, a 90-85 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami may have found their defensive identity in the last 5 games.
When: Monday, December 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA
TV: Fox Sports Sun
Radio: WAXY 790AM, WAQI 710AM (Spanish)
Win probability: ESPN predictor gives Miami a 53% chance to win the game.
HEAT: Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Jordan Mickey, Kelly Olynyk
HAWKS: Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, Ersan Ilyasova, Miles Plumlee
HEAT: Rodney McGruder (out, tibia surgery), Okaro White (out, foot surgery), Hassan Whiteside (out, knee bone bruise), James Johnson (out, ankle bursitis), Justise Winslow (probable, knee strain), Goran Dragic (questionable, elbow), Dion Waiters (questionable, illness)
HAWKS: Dewayne Dedmon (out, leg), Mike Muscala (out, ankle)
Atlanta is 2-8, and Miami 5-5 in their last 10 games. The Hawks are 3-10 at home, while the Heat is 9-7 on the road. Miami has won 4 of 6 against their Southeast Divisional rivals, and 9 of 16 games against Eastern Conference teams. Hawks have lost 4 of 5 against Southeast Divisional rivals, and 17 of 21 games against Eastern Conference teams.
Atlanta Hawks have the worst record in the NBA at 6-23. Quite a change from the 2014-15 season when Mike Budenholzer lead the team to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 60-22 record. Hawks are one of the founding members of the NBA from the 1949-50 season, with Red Auerbach as coach that first year.
Dragic leads the Heat in points per game (16.6) and assists (4.4), Richardson in steals (1.2), Whiteside in rebounds (12.7) and blocks (1.6). Schroder leads the Hawks in points per game (19.7) and assists (6.7), Bazemore in steals (1.8), Dedmon in rebounds (7.8), John Collins in blocks (1.0).
Zach Lowe did mention to keep an eye on Prince.
“They're 6-22, and their exciting rookie -- John Collins -- missed two weeks before returning Thursday. But keep an eye on Prince. He's shooting 41 percent from deep, and looking more comfortable attacking off the dribble as a secondary ball handler -- exactly the kind of progress the Hawks wanted in Year 2:”
In their four wins out of their last five games, the Heat held opponents to under 90 points in three of them. Despite missing Whiteside, the Heat allowed on average per game for last 5 games, a NBA lowest 91.2 points, 38.8 rebounds, 33.2 fields goals made, 77.6 field goals attempted.
Among Heat players during that time frame, the top three defensive ratings belong to Winslow (84.7), Dragic (87.6), and Mickey (92.5). The top 3 Player Impact Estimates (PIE) go to Mickey (18.8), Winslow (14.8), James Johnson (14.6). Playing weaker teams helped pad the stats, but lately the Heat has shown a lot of grit without Whiteside on the court.
Lowe believes, “They[Miami Heat] have another gear in them, somewhere.”
This game is the second of a 4-game season series versus Atlanta. The Heat defeated the Hawks at home 104-93, with Jordan Mickey starting at center.
Despite blowing a 21 point lead, Miami was able to hang on and put the Hawks away for their second win in a row.
Richardson, sporting a throwback hairstyle for that game, lead all scorers with 21 points, and Wayne Ellington chipped in with six 3-pointers.