National Basketball Association
Hawks-Heat Preview
National Basketball Association

Hawks-Heat Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 1:01 p.m. ET

An offense revived by a healthy backcourt has the Miami Heat back on track and close to the top of the Southeast Division.

They'll head home with a chance to overtake the slumping Atlanta Hawks for first place as the teams meet Sunday night.

In the midst of a grueling stretch in which it's playing 14 of 16 on the road, Miami (26-21) lost seven of eight from Jan. 9-22 as it dealt with several injuries to relinquish the division lead to the Hawks. The Heat have since regrouped to win the final three of a five-game trip, all by four points or less, and move within one-half game of Atlanta (27-21).

"Probably the biggest area we've shown some improvement is (our) grit and some toughness to be able to win some tough games on the road," coach Erik Spoelstra said after Friday's 107-103 victory at Milwaukee. "It's never easy, and it's certainly not easy in the Eastern Conference. These are tough places to play ... you have to earn these games."


Miami enters just its second game at AmericanAirlines Arena since Jan. 6 in better shape physically as well. Goran Dragic and Josh McRoberts returned from extended absences on Friday, and Dwyane Wade has averaged 25.3 points in four games after missing one with a shoulder injury.

Wade scored 24 points and had the game's final six against the Bucks, breaking a 101-all tie with a jumper with 44.5 seconds remaining. Dragic added 12 with eight assists after missing eight games with a strained calf.

"Look, we're a no excuses team, but we look a lot different with (Dragic and McRoberts)," Spoelstra said.

Miami's still isn't quite at full strength, as center Hassan Whiteside could miss a fifth consecutive game with a hip strain and reserve guard Tyler Johnson is out with a shoulder injury.

The Heat are certainly making strides offensively, however, having shot 52.2 percent while topping 100 points in their last two wins. They averaged 80.3 over a season-high four-game skid that preceded Monday's 89-84 victory at Chicago.

Atlanta has struggled to score during a 1-4 stretch, failing to top 95 points in each of those defeats. It's shot 40.9 percent and averaged 18 turnovers in the losses.

Those problems were most evident during the late stages of Thursday's game at Indiana, where the Hawks were outscored 23-2 over the final 5:34 of a 111-92 setback.

"We didn't do anything right that last few minutes of the game," guard Kyle Korver said. "We missed some defensive assignments. They hit some shots. We had turnovers on the other end. Missed some shots. The thing just snowballed on us. We have to be better at the end of the game."

Atlanta, 2-18 when held under 97 points, was further hindered with leading scorer Paul Millsap sidelined the entire second half by a sprained left ankle. The All-Star forward is probable for Sunday's game.

Though Wade has carried the Heat of late, Chris Bosh's performance may have a greater impact on Sunday's outcome. The veteran forward had 24 points and went 4 of 6 from 3-point range as Miami halted a seven-game series losing streak with a 100-88 victory at Atlanta on Dec. 14, a game Wade finished 3 of 16 for seven points.

Bosh was held to nine of 4-of-14 shooting in the Hawks' 98-92 win in Miami on Nov. 3, with Atlanta's Jeff Teague recording a season-high 26 points and nine assists. Teague had just seven on a 2-of-12 effort in last month's loss.


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