Hawks-Heat Preview

The Atlanta Hawks don’t seem to have much confidence offensively

when they visit Miami. An outstanding opening week of March,

though, should have them brimming with confidence right now.

Winners of four straight, the Hawks and their surging offense

look to end their road struggles against the Heat on Saturday

night.

Atlanta (40-21) beat Milwaukee 106-102 in overtime Feb. 28, and

has averaged 118.3 points in winning its first three games of March

to produce the club’s longest winning streak since a six-game run

Dec. 5-18.

The Hawks, however, are opening a three-game trip at a venue

where they have not had much success.

Atlanta has lost 25 of its last 29 games at Miami, averaging

84.2 points and shooting 40.6 percent. That includes two losses in

three games in the first round of last year’s playoffs, a series

the Hawks ultimately won in seven games.

Atlanta has been held under 80 points in four of its last five

road games against the Heat (31-31), including a 92-75 loss Jan.

4.

Miami has been stingy defensively overall this season, allowing

95.5 points per game.

However, the Hawks have scored at least 100 in five of their

last six games away from Philips Arena. They’re returning to the

road following a 127-122 home win over Golden State on Friday

night.

Atlanta leading scorer Joe Johnson played despite flulike

symptoms. Johnson, averaging 21.5 points, was held to 10 on

3-for-14 shooting.

Josh Smith and Al Horford helped the Hawks compensate. Smith had

a season-high 29 points while Horford added 27 with 15

rebounds.

“It was important we all came out and gave him support,” Horford

said of Johnson.

Johnson was limited to 11 points – shooting 4 of 15 – and Smith

had eight in January’s visit to Miami. Johnson was the only Hawks

starter to reach double figures.

Miami is coming off a big home win, 114-111 in overtime against

the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night. A victory over Atlanta

would give the Heat three straight at home for the first time this

season.

Back at .500, Miami is in eighth place in the Eastern

Conference, one game ahead of Charlotte and one-half game behind

Chicago.

Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 27 points and a season-high 14

assists versus the Lakers, but Jermaine O’Neal made perhaps the

game’s biggest play. The center drew a crucial charge against

Lakers star Kobe Bryant with 18.7 seconds left in overtime.

“We have big-moment, big-player type guys that love to step up

to a big challenge like this and aren’t afraid of the moment,”

coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Obviously, Dwyane is like that,

Jermaine is like that. Udonis (Haslem), Quentin (Richardson) will

hit big shots. A lot of times it’s a fight and an argument to see

who’s going to shoot the ball. They’re not running from it. They

want the moment.”

Wade is averaging 31.5 points while shooting 61.5 percent (24

for 39) from the field and 93.8 percent (15 for 16) from the line

in his last two home games against the Hawks.

Miami leads the season series 2-1.