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Keys to victory: Can Whiteside frustrate the Hawks to keep Heat streak alive?

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Numbers can lie. Last time against the Hawks, Whiteside tallied 19 points and 25 rebounds in a loss.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In the Miami Heat’s last game against the Atlanta Hawks, Derrick Williams and Josh Richardson were starters with a combined -24 rating for the game. Hassan Whiteside more than held his own against Dwight Howard, but the Hawks were able to work around Whiteside’s dominance in the paint with a balanced 93-90 team win.

Per CBS Miami coming into this game, “Hawks C Dwight Howard is enjoying a streak of five straight double-doubles and is averaging 15.2 points on 72.5 percent shooting and 13 rebounds in that span.”

If Whiteside again can match Howard as he did before, the responsibility for a ninth consecutive win relies in stopping the other Hawk players with a collective team effort.

While Miami has won 8 in a row, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, without Okaro White, have lost 4 games in a row matching their regular-season loss total of 10 in the process, from all of last year. This is even with Briante Weber garnering the January D-League player of the month honor. The reasons for Okaro’s influence is a total mystery.

One thing does stand out though. The spacing on the court, both on offense and defense, has improved dramatically. Notice in this highlight how the Heat stayed in their spots, while the Brooklyn Nets collapsed into a small part of the floor leaving James Johnson all alone for a cut to the rim. Piece of cake for JJ.

The other teams are starting to notice the Heat’s success and will figure out how to stop them. Now it’s the coach’s jobs to keep one step ahead to devise counter punches. This is the difficult part – how to make a plan when the other team neutralizes your best weapon.