Miami Heat at Atlanta Hawks game preview

BY The Sports Xchange • February 24, 2017

TV: FOX Sports Sun

Time: Pregame coverage begins at 7:30 p.m.


ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat begin the second half of the season with obvious playoff goals.

Atlanta wants to move up a spot and earn home court advantage. The Heat wants to pick up a couple of games and qualify for the playoffs. Atlanta made a secondary move at the trade deadline, while Miami stood pat.

The Hawks (32-24) begin the second half of the season in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, 7.5 games behind Cleveland but only one-half game behind Toronto for fourth place. The Heat (25-32) are in 10th place, two games behind the Detroit Pistons for the final playoff spot.

The two rivals meet for the fourth and final time on Friday at Philips Arena.

Atlanta won the first two meetings, but Miami got 25 points from Hassan Whiteside and prevailed by 23 points in the most recent game on Feb. 1.

"We got a couple days to get back at it, build some habits and then have a very strong, competitive weekend," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.

The Hawks hope they bolstered their offense with the acquisition of 6-foot-10 forward Ersan Ilyasova, who is averaging 14.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 56 games with Philadelphia and Oklahoma City.

"He's a high-character, proven veteran who we've liked for many years and believe fits well within our system," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. "I can see him being a significant contributor. I think we'll give him opportunities."

Ilyasova, a nine-year veteran, is expected to be a backup to All-Star Paul Millsap and add a much-needed 3-point threat.

To acquire Ilyasova, Atlanta sent forward Tiago Splitter and two 2017 second-round picks to the Sixers. The Hawks received Philadelphia's 2017 second-round pick they hold from Golden State.

Splitter, a free-agent signee last season, was injured during most of his tenure with the Hawks. He played only 36 games last season and averaged 5.6 points before hip surgery ended his season. Splitter has not played a game this season because of injuries to his hip and calf.

Atlanta also traded forward Mike Scott to Phoenix for cash considerations. Scott has been trying to overcome knee and foot problems all season that limited him to 18 games. He averaged a career-low 2.5 points and 2.1 rebounds.

Miami did not make any trades at the deadline, but will have two new faces on the roster. They are expected to have guard Josh Richardson and forward Okaro White both active in Atlanta.

"There was nothing," Miami team president Pat Riley said. "It was boring."

Richardson returns after missing 19 games with a foot injury. Richardson averaged 11.2 points in 28 games before his injury, including 19 points against Atlanta in their first game this season.

"He's had a healthy approach the last 4-5 weeks to prepare," Spoelstra said.

White was recalled from the D-League, where was named to the all-star game after averaging 18.4 points, 8.7 rebounds for the Sioux Falls Skyforce. He has averaged 4.2 points in 14 games with the Heat this season.

Justise Winslow isn't ready to return from surgery to repair a torn labrum, but was excited to be able to take his arm out of a sling. Spoelstra said the team was going to be methodical with his rehab.

Over the last 10 games, Atlanta is 5-5 and Miami is 8-2. The Hawks are coming off a three-game trip to the West Coast, where they beat the Blazers and lost to the Kings and Clippers. The Heat had a 13-game winning streak before losing a pair of games before the All-Star Game.

Miami returns home on Saturday to play Indiana. Atlanta is at Orlando on Saturday.


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