Three biggest questions ahead of the Heat-Hawks play-in game
Let's answer the three biggest questions I have below!
The Miami Heat will host the Atlanta Hawks inside Kaseya Center Tuesday in the NBA’s first play-in game in 2022-23. Let’s dive into the three biggest questions I have ahead of the showdown!
1. Can either defense slow the other down?
The Hawks have been a bottom-third defense all season, including a bottom-five defense since new head coach Quin Snyder took over, in part because of the smaller he’s deployed.
Miami hasn’t scored with much proficiency either, but has scored 117.7 points per 100 possessions in the four meetings against Atlanta, its fourth-most mark against any other team this season — trailing only the Denver Nuggets (118.8), Portland Trail Blazers (118.9) and Utah Jazz (123.7). When both Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler have been on the floor against Atlanta, Miami has outscored them by 22.4 points per 100 possessions (compared to minus-8.2 when one or both are off).
All that said, Miami’s defense has also trended in the wrong direction. Their defense has the NBA’s ninth-worst since the All-Star break, surrendering 117.1 points per 100 possessions over that span. In non-garbage time situations against top-10 offenses, that number buoys to 119.1 points over that same span. It jumps to 120.1 points per 100 since the start of March. Remember when Atlanta lit Miami up for 128 points in its March 6 meeting after shooting approximately 1,247,892 percent from the floor? Both defenses are vulnerable.
But I’ll have to give the slight edge here to Miami, who still has a list of defenders to flatten out Trae Young, even though he ignites any playoff game or series he plays in.
Dejounte Murray has performed well against Miami in his inaugural Hawks campaign, but Atlanta will need more than just Young and Murray when Erik Spoelstra is going to throw the entire whiteboard, playbook and any remnants of the kitchen sink at them in a one-game playoff setting.
2. Can Miami continue shooting the ball *better*?
There were probably a billion different ways I could’ve phrased this question. But, regardless, but one of the biggest questions was: Can Miami continue shooting the ball better?
Arguably the biggest sticking point to their dramatic falloff from 2021-22 to ‘22-23 was their 3-point shooting.
Miami was the NBA’s most efficient 3-point squad last year, canning 37.9 percent of its long-range attempts and 38.1 percent of its spot-up triples (4th-best). This year, the Heat rank inside the four-worst squads in both 3-point shooting (34.4 percent) and spot-up 3-point shooting (34.1 percent), seeing regression from each of their key rotation players.
Though water always reaches its level in the end, and hat’s what’s happening to Miami right now. Since the start of March, it has made 37.8 percent of its 3-point attempts, the ninth-best conversion rate across the Association. Over that span:
Max Strus is shooting 40.9 percent from deep on 5.5 attempts
Victor Oladipo is shooting 40.0 percent from deep on 5.0 attempts
Tyler Herro is shooting 39.9 percent from deep on 7.5 attempts
Gabe Vincent is shooting 35.6 percent from deep on 4.5 attempts
Kyle Lowry is shooting 42.5 percent from deep on 3.6 attempts
That’s a dramatic improvement from their early season marks. Of course, you should take the larger sample over the smaller one, but its players appear to be HEATing up (pun intended) at the proper time. The Heat will need every bit of its shooting luck Tuesday, in what’s expected to be a high-scoring shootout.
3. How will Miami get Bam Adebayo going?
There’s no question that teams have begun to pack the paint more in hopes of slowing down the Heat star, especially in the pick-and-roll. Teams have been sending a second or third defender Adebayo’s way, hoping to stimulate 1.) the (pocket) pass to Adebayo or 2.) his decision-making once he receives a pass, making him second guess whether he should shoot or kick it out to another shooter displaced on the perimeter.
Over his first 50 games, he was averaging 21.8 points on 15.9 attempts; over his subsequent 24 games, he averaged 18.1 points on 13.2 attempts. In the team’s most recent matchup against Atlanta, Adebayo only got nine shots off, tallying 16 points, six rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes.
Atlanta almost certainly won’t stray away from its game plan on its two-man actions involving Adebayo, especially when he lit them up for 30 points on 12 shots 48 hours prior on March 4. They’re going to pack the paint, send extra help defenders and dare one of its perimeter threats to beat them in their half-court sets. Given their season-long shooting inconsistency, it’s a wise bet.
(That’s where the 3-point shooting, noted above, becomes really important. More pinches from the wings/corners = more ball movement = more open 3-point attempts)
Off live rebounds or turnovers, Miami can push the ball more in order to get Adebayo flowing downhill with open space around him, thus getting him easier looks. But Miami — one of the slowest-paced teams in the league — has to initiate those situations first.
All in all, Miami needs to get their 6-foot-9 gem involved and involved early. He’s had some of his best games against Atlanta this season, though the leaguewide scouting report on how to defend him is out. It’s a testament to how good he’s been, but when you (as a team) are not shooting the rock well, teams will play off said shooters. Plus, Adebayo was Miami’s most fashionable form of offense for the majority of the season. Teams know where the priorities lay, and now Miami will have to establish one or multiple counters as time goes on.
To date this one is our most important game of this season.None of us know why our team sort of fell off a cliff this year however it is playoff time .We can only hope that we can replicate some of the playoff magic that we have had for the last two years.love my heaters.go men go and make us proud of you.lol
Well, we need this one badly. If there is one team, which is beatle by Heat, its Boston.