What to Watch For: Hawks vs. Heat

Bo Churney —  January 20, 2014

This is not a good time for the Hawks to be facing the two-time defending champions.

Atlanta did recently slay the Pacers and Rockets at home, but those two games are the Hawks’ only wins in their past seven games. The Hawks are currently on a two-game losing streak after a loss in Memphis and a beatdown in London from the Brooklyn Nets. A loss against the Heat would send Atlanta back to .500 and possibly down to fifth in the East if Washington wins against the 76ers this afternoon.

So what can the Hawks do to pull off an upset against Miami? Well for one, the home team will have DeMarre Carroll back, as he missed Thursday’s game in London because of the birth of his daughter. Carroll should help bolster the Atlanta defense that had huge troubles with Joe Johnson in London and would have had enormous problems with LeBron James without Carroll in the lineup.

The Hawks will also hope to take advantage of a Miami defense that is slightly down this year. Of course, the Heat are still top 10 in defensive efficiency (10th per Basketball-Reference), but Miami is giving up a full point more per 100 possessions than last season, and four points more than two seasons ago. One of Miami’s big holes has been three-point defense, where they rank in the bottom 10 of the league by allowing opponents to shoot 36.8% from behind the arc. While this may point to a big night for Kyle Korver, that’s not necessarily what the Hawks need; the Hawks will need their secondary three-point shooters — Jeff Teague, Pero Antic, and Carroll — to hit the open looks that they get. Teague, who is in one of the worst shooting slumps of his career, is currently shooting just 25% from three-point land this season, with his problem seemingly being a proclivity to come up short on above-the-break threes.

Al Horford is out for the season, but the Hawks should still have some rebounding opportunities against Miami, the worst rebounding team in the NBA. The onus for Atlanta will be on Millsap, Carroll, and Elton Brand to control the defensive boards as much as possible against Miami and give the Heat very few opportunities at second chances.

The Hawks have not beaten Miami in over two years (Jan. 2, 2012) and have currently dropped seven straight in Atlanta against the Heat. The Hawks are, however, 14-6 at home this season, which is good enough for the third best home record in the Eastern Conference.

The game starts at 5:30PM as part of the NBA’s day-long slate of MLK Day games.

Bo Churney

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