The Miami Heat, who host the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night, have had nine really good days in a row.
During that span, the Heat have beaten the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, defeated the 2019 NBA champion Toronto Raptors, and knocked off the team with the NBA’s best record in 2021, the Utah Jazz.
They’ve won a season-best five straight games, vaulting themselves from out of the playoff race to contending for a top-four spot in the Eastern Conference.
But even with all that the Heat have accomplished during this span, Miami star Jimmy Butler is urging caution.
“I don’t want to say we’re good yet. We’ve got so much more to figure out,” Butler said. “Myself, anybody — I don’t want us to get complacent.”
Miami is 9-7 at home. Atlanta is 6-10 on the road.
The Hawks haven’t won consecutive games since a three-game win streak from Jan. 18-22. Since then, the Hawks are 6-12, including a 118-109 loss at the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.
“We need to communicate a lot better than we did,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said after that loss. “There are a lot of effort things we need to clean up.”
Part of Atlanta’s problem is that three of its top eight scorers have been out due to injuries: De’Andre Hunter (knee), Cam Reddish (foot) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee). Hunter is third on the team in scoring (17.2). Reddish is averaging 11.2 points. Bogdanovic is averaging 9.9 points.
Atlanta’s Trae Young, who averaged 30.2 points last year as a first-time All-Star, is averaging 26.8 points and 9.5 assists. That’s on pace to be his career-best number on assists.
However, Young was left off the 2021 All-Star roster despite the fact that he was in the top 10 in the league in scoring and assists when the decision was announced.
“It’s kind of confusing on how I didn’t make it,” said Young, who was a starter in last year’s All-Star Game. “But I’ve been focused on how to improve my team.”
Here’s one way to do it: The Hawks are 9-2 when Young scores more than 30 points. But they are just 5-17 when Young doesn’t play — which has happened twice — or when he scores 30 or less.
Indeed, Young, 22, gets a tremendous amount of attention from defenses, which will surely be the case on Sunday night against Miami.
“He’s at the forefront of everyone’s scouting report — box-and-ones, denials, blitzes,” Pierce said. “It’s a sign of respect.”
The Heat, who also have no players on the All-Star roster, are led by Butler, who tops the team in scoring (20.1), assists (7.8) and steals (1.9). He is also second on the team in rebounds (7.8).
Bam Adebayo is a nightly double-double threat, averaging 19.6 points, a team-high 9.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists. Goran Dragic leads Miami’s bench brigade in scoring (15.0) and assists (5.0).
And the Heat are eagerly awaiting the return of Tyler Herro, who has missed three straight games due to a hip injury. Herro is averaging 16.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
As for the banged-up Hawks, watch for John Collins and Clint Capela to provide support for Young. Collins is averaging 17.6 points and 7.5 rebounds. Capela is averaging 14.7 points and a team-high 14.1 rebounds.
In addition, Atlanta’s Danilo Gallinari, averaging 11.6 points, set a franchise single-game record with 10 3-pointers against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.
“He could not miss,” Collins said of Gallinari, whose 40.8 percentage on 3-pointers leads Atlanta. “He was on fire.”
–Field Level Media