Scouting Report: Miami Heat
With their magic number down to one, the Hawks (36-43) have three games left, beginning with a match-up tonight against the Heat, who currently are the top seed in the Eastern Conference — which would make them the Hawks’ first round opponent. The Heat easily disposed of the Pacers last night to reclaim their place atop the East in a 98-86 rout at home. LeBron James led the way with 36 points and six rebounds as he took over with Dwyane Wade sitting out.
The Heat dominated the game in transition by forcing 16 turnovers — 10 live-ball — that led to 20 Miami points. Miami’s transition attack is led by James, who is nearly unstoppable in the open court, so ball security has to be the top priority offensively to keep James and the Heat away from easy buckets. Against Miami’s ball pressure and activity in passing lanes, it is easier said than done as the Heat are second in the league in forcing turnovers at 16.7 per game.
While the Miami defense is proficient at turning opponents over, their weakness has been against teams that can spread the floor and knock down threes. Miami allows the 6th most three-point makes in the NBA at 8.4 per game and the 5th most three-point attempts per game at 23.3.
When the Hawks have had success against the Heat this season, three-point shooting has played a big role. In their win over Miami at home in January, the Hawks shot 12-for-31 (38.7%) from three, which really opened up the floor to allow Paul Millsap to operate in pick-and-rolls and in the post. In their 121-119 overtime loss to the Heat on the road, the Hawks were 17-of-34 from three-point range with Millsap hitting seven of those.
After a season-worst 1-for-19 three-point shooting game in their win over the Nets last night, the Hawks will need to regain their shooting stroke from deep if they are going to be able to beat the Heat. The Hawks ability to space the court not only with guards and wing players but also their bigs is a significant matchup advantage for the Hawks with the Heat.
The Heat offense, when not playing in transition, still applies pressure to opponents because of James’ ability to drive the ball — and Wade when healthy — applying pressure to the defense and forcing them to collapse down and opening up shots for Ray Allen and Shane Battier on the perimeter. Chris Bosh‘s ability to spread the floor and make threes and mid-range jumpers gives them an added dimension, particularly in pick-and-pop. The Hawks’ defense will be tested as they will look to close off the lane first, but will need to play on a string with their rotations to shooters on the perimeter when the drivers kick the ball outside.
The Hawks and Heat both have needs for a win in this game, with the Hawks looking to clinch their playoff berth and the Heat hoping to lock up their standing as the top seed over their final few games.
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