Struggling Hawks, Heat meet in Miami
MIAMI — No team in the Eastern Conference has fewer home wins than the Miami Heat, who are 3-7 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
No team in the NBA has fewer overall wins than the Atlanta Hawks.
So there you have it: When the Hawks (4-16) visit the Heat (7-12) on Tuesday night, it won’t be a glamour matchup.
The Hawks are actually the “hotter” team if you just look at the most recent game, a 124-123 home victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
John Collins, a 6-10, 235-pound power forward who is in his second year in the NBA, starred for Atlanta, producing 23 points and 11 rebounds. He also had the game-saving block on a floater in the lane by Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, who is the league’s second-leading scorer.
“I timed it perfectly,” Collins told the media.
While that was happening, the Heat was losing in Toronto, falling 125-115 to the Raptors.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade, playing his last season in the NBA, set a Heat single-game scoring record for a bench player with 35 points.
“It’s a shame that a game like that was wasted in a loss,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told the media.
In 34 minutes, Wade had six assists, five rebounds – including four on offense – and one block. He made 13-of-22 shots, including 4-of-7 on three-pointers, and he also converted 5-of-7 on free throws.
With just one day off in between games and with travel from Toronto to Miami, it remains to be seen how much the 36-year-old Wade will have in the tank for Atlanta.
But there’s no question that Wade understands the importance of Tuesday’s game for his team.
“We want to establish ourselves at home against Atlanta,” Wade told the media. “We have to figure out a way to get wins, whichever way they come.”
Tuesday’s date with Atlanta will start a four-game home swing for the Heat, who then head west for six straight contests.
The Heat has gone four straight games without starting point guard Goran Dragic, who has a knee injury and is day-to-day. The Heat has also played three straight games without Dragic’s backup, Tyler Johnson, who has a hamstring injury.
There’s also talk of a jinx since the Heat is 0-5 while wearing its “Vice Nights” uniforms, which they will also fashion on Tuesday.
Miami is led in scoring by 6-6 shooting guard Josh Richardson (20.4). The fourth-year pro – a former second-round pick out of the University of Tennessee – is vastly improved since last season, when he averaged 12.9 points.
Dragic is second on the team in scoring (16.3) and leads the team in assists (4.7). If he remains out, the Heat will ask more of wings such as Wade, Rodney McGruder (12.4 points) and pure shooter Wayne Ellington (10.1 points).
Inside, the Heat features starting center Hassan Whiteside (13.3 points, 14.1 rebounds and 3.0 blocks). But his young backup, Bam Adebayo, is coming off a Raptors game in which he had 16 points and a career-high 21 rebounds.
Meanwhile, the Hawks are led in scoring by point guard Trae Young, the 20-year-old rookie lottery pick who is averaging 15.7 points and a team-best 7.7 assists. However, his shooting percentages have been poor – 24.1 percent on three-pointers and 38.3 percent on field goals overall.
Collins, a first-round pick in 2017, may be Atlanta’s most impressive player, averaging 15.0 points and 5.8 rebounds. He is shooting 70.7 percent on two-point attempts.
The Hawks, who will try on Tuesday to collect consecutive wins for the first time since October 24, don’t have a lot to talk about beyond the potential of Young and Collins.
In fact, many Hawks fans on social media have talked about rooting against their team so that they can potentially get the first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Hawks fans call it “Tryin’ for Zion”, which is a reference to Duke freshman power forward Zion Williamson, the projected first overall pick in the 2019 draft.
But that “strategy” is not popular with Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce.
“I don’t deal with anyone who wants to see us lose,” Pierce told the media. “I deal with the players who are here, and these guys are trying to win.”