Top 10 Hawks Matchups – #1: MLK Day Hosting the Miami Heat

Friday, September 6, 2013
By Robby Kalland

Miami Heat v Atlanta Hawks

The Miami Heat’s visit to Philips Arena on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day lands in the top spot on our countdown. The MLK Day game is always a special occasion here in Atlanta, as we celebrate the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hosting the MLK Day game is an honor for the Hawks every year and an opportunity for a celebration of Dr. King in the city he called home for so many years. The day is filled with tremendous tributes to Dr. King and the Civil Rights’ Movement before, during and after the game.

Along with all of the MLK Day festivities, the Hawks will face their division rivals in the two-time defending NBA Champion Miami Heat, which makes this the top matchup of the season. The Heat are the favorites to finish at the top of the NBA again this season. Led by the NBA MVP LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, the Heat still have one of the most talented rosters in the NBA, and the road to the Finals in the Eastern Conference will have to go through Miami.

James continues to be the focal point for the Heat and is coming off of one of the best statistical seasons in recent memory. James averaged 28.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game last season, while shooting 56.5% from the field and 40.6% from three-point range. His 60.3% effective field goal rate was second only to DeAndre Jordan (who lives in the restricted area) in the league last year and was a full five percentage points higher than his previous career high (set in 2011-12). James’ improved jump-shooting makes him an even more dynamic offensive threat because there is more danger in playing off of him on the perimeter.

Bosh played fewer minutes per game (33.2) than ever before in his career and had his lowest usage rate (22.7%) since his second season in the NBA but had one of his best years of his career for the Heat last year. Bosh had his most efficient year as a shooter with a 54.6 eFG% and a 59.2 TS% (true shooting) while averaging 16.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. His ability to space the floor as a shooter and draw rim protectors away from the paint is one of the keys to Miami’s success offensively, as he frees up driving lanes for James and Wade.

The Heat present a laundry list of problems for the opposition at both ends of the court, and they are terrific at capitalizing on mistakes. The Heat’s visit on Jan. 20 will be the ultimate test for the Hawks as they will have to execute exceptionally well at both ends of the floor and limit mistakes and turnovers in order to get the victory. Moving the ball on offense and finding ways to attack the paint, the Heat defense’s weakest point, will be crucial, and defensively, playing on a string and being alert to fill driving lanes and close out on shooters will be vital to the Hawks’ success. Anytime the Heat visit Philips it is one of the biggest games of the year, and coupling the Heat’s visit with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day makes this game our most anticipated of the season.

Previously in the Top 10 countdown:

10. Opening Night in Dallas
9. Knicks’ First Visit To Philips
8. Clippers Come To Atlanta
7. Drew and Pachulia’s Return to Atlanta
6. Rockets Come To Atlanta
5. Hawks Face Nets In London
4. Josh Smith’s Return to Atlanta
3. Coach Bud Returns To San Antonio
2. Hawks’ First Chance At Revenge vs. Pacers

Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

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