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NBA Playoffs Preview Guide: #1 Miami Heat vs #8 Atlanta Hawks - 1st Round

The Heat begin their title quest with a first round matchup against the underdog Hawks.

Atlanta Hawks v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

After several days of anticipation, the Miami Heat finally have a first round opponent for the 2022 NBA Playoffs when they face the Atlanta Hawks with Game 1 set to tip-off at 1:00pm EST at the FTX Arena.

Miami is going for a decidedly retro “White Hot” theme recalling the Big 3 era as they get set to open their playoff series against the Hawks this weekend.

Whether or not this forecasts a deep playoff run remains to be seen, but the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference should be able to handle a team that has (so far) experienced a step back from last season where they reached the conference finals. Miami took the season series 3-1, and had two late-game opportunities to win the single game they lost.

Atlanta is officially the No. 8 seed after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road last night led by who else but point guard Trae Young, who put the entire team on his back to lead his team to victory by scoring 32 of his 38 points in the second half — including 16 in the third quarter. Bogdan Bogdanovic added 19 points while Clint Capela was lost to injury after attempting to commit a (flagrant) foul. The center hyperextended his right knee in the first half and will be out for a significant portion of the series, if he is even able to return — though MRI results revealed no structural damage.

While Cleveland seemingly had no answer for Young on Friday night, Miami’s coaching staff led by Erik Spoelstra can count on several different methods to counter the All-Star guard’s myriad of offensive maneuvers. Atlanta has good shooters like Bogdanovic, but hardly anyone that can truly be a difference maker throughout a seven-game series. Without Capela and possibly John Collins (who is listed as questionable for Game 1), coach Nate McMillan will have no choice but to use small-ball lineups — which has been shown to be an effective strategy against the Heat, especially with such a capable ball-handler and scorer as Young is.

So clearly the key to advance to the second round comes down to how much they can contain Young, likely by throwing waves of defenders on him to wear him down. The All-Star is not exactly known for his defense, so how effective his offense can be against one of the best defensive NBA teams will determine how long the series will last.

Miami — who won the season series 3-1 — will counter with Jimmy Butler, who averaged 18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists in his three games against the Hawks this season. Bam Adebayo only ended up playing twice against the Hawks, averaging a robust 22.5 points and he may not have to deal with Capela, who averaged 10 rebounds and 11.5 points in two games against the Heat, in the paint either — at least early on in the series as he recovers from his knee injury.

While nothing is a given in the NBA, and the Heat have certainly been known to play down to the opposition during the regular season, it’s difficult to see how a well-rested and healthy Miami squad with home court advantage can lose four times in seven games to a team who are hobbled, went 16-25 on the road for the season, and will have played their last game a day and a half ago in Cleveland prior to the start of this series.

Yes, Young will be a constant source of attention for the Heat’s defense but it likely won’t be enough to counter a well-balanced, complete team who are capable of limiting Young’s offense (or at least prevent him from exploding with a huge game) while living with whatever production his supporting cast of players can provide.

Eastern Conference Finals Schedule

GAME DATE MATCHUP TIME TV
GAME DATE MATCHUP TIME TV
Game 1 Tuesday, May 17 Boston @ Miami 8:30 p.m. ET ESPN
Game 2 Thursday, May 19 Boston @ Miami 8:30 p.m. ET ESPN
Game 3 Saturday, May 21 Miami @ Boston 8:30 p.m. ET ABC
Game 4 Monday, May 23 Miami @ Boston 8:30 p.m. ET ABC
Game 5* Wednesday, May 25 Boston @ Miami 8:30 p.m. ET ESPN
Game 6* Friday, May 27 Miami @ Boston 8:30 p.m. ET ESPN
Game 7* Sunday, May 29 Boston @ Miami 8:30 p.m. ET ESPN
Game Details

SERIES PREDICTION

Heat 4-1

SERIES HISTORY

Hawks are 2-0 all-time in the playoffs against the Heat, beating them 3-2 in 1994 and 4-3 in 2009, Spoelstra’s first year as Miami’s head coach.

SEASON HEAD-TO-HEAD

SERIES RESULT:

GAME 1:

Heat cruise past Hawks, 115-91

“Tyler Herro finished one rebound shy of a triple-double.”

The Miami Heat went into halftime with a five-point lead over the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night. At the 6:34 mark of the third quarter, Miami went up 75-53.

The Heat used a decisive 19-2 run to open the second half to blow out the Hawks 115-91 and win their third straight game. Max Strus, who again started tonight, went on a personal 8-0 run to open the period. Then, Kyle Lowry, Caleb Martin and P.J. Tucker got in on the action.

GAME 2:

Heat climb up to second in East with 124-118 comeback win vs Hawks

“Complete team effort boosted by Butler’s return fuels late rally for the win.”

Just two days after cruising to victory in Atlanta, it appeared that the same outcome would happen again when Miami — clearly enjoying themselves back home after such a lengthy amount of time away — took an early 17-point lead. Max Strus was lethal from the outside, scoring all 16 of his points in the first quarter and making his case to become the permanent starter.

The second half featured moments of playoff intensity and a healthy-looking Butler really starting to put his imprint on the game. Atlanta would respond to each push by Miami but would eventually start to wilt under the Heat’s depth, powered by Caleb Martin’s defense on Trae Young and role players like Dewayne Dedmon putting in quality minutes.

GAME 3:

Heat rally falls short in 110-108 loss to Hawks

“Butler had two opportunities to take the lead for the Heat but fell short.”

An exhilarating rally fell just short of a memorable road victory, as Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat ran a perfectly executed play that could have been the game winner against the host Atlanta Hawks. Instead, Butler’s close shot rolled off the rim and the Hawks held on for the 110-108 victory Friday night.

GAME 4:

Heat storm back late to beat Hawks 113-109 in regular season home finale

“Miami closes the game on a 10-2 run.”

In a possible preview of the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the Miami Heat emerged victorious 113-109 in a scrappy regular-season home finale against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night at the FTX Arena.

Miami was down by four points with just over three minutes left but used a 10-2 run to close the game out to seal the victory. They are now on a six-game winning streak, their longest of the season, with just one game left in the regular season.

INACTIVE/INJURIES

MIAMI:

  • Gabe Vincent (toe): probable
  • P.J. Tucker (calf): questionable
  • Markieff Morris (hip): questionable
  • Dewayne Dedmon (ankle): questionable
  • Haywood Highsmith (hip): questionable

ATLANTA:

  • Clint Capela (knee): out
  • Lou Williams (back): out
  • John Collins (finger, foot): questionable

LINEUPS

Projected Starters

Celtics Position Heat
Celtics Position Heat
Marcus Smart PG Kyle Lowry
Jaylen Brown SG Max Strus
Jayson Tatum SF Jimmy Butler
Al Horford PF PJ Tucker
Robert Williams III C Bam Adebayo

BROADCAST INFO

TV: TNT/ESPN, Bally Sports Sun, NBA League Pass
RADIO: The Ticket 790AM & The HEAT Radio Network (Jason Jackson, Ruth Riley Hunter)
SPANISH RADIO: WAQI 710AM & The HEAT Spanish Radio Network (José Pañeda, Joe Pujala)

Come back to Hot Hot Hoops at game time to join our GameThread and chat about the game live with other Heat fans!

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