Sunday Night NBA Hoops: Miami Heat at Atlanta Hawks

Entering into the second game of a season-high six game road trip, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat (20-7, 8-5 away) get set for the third game of the season against Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford of the hosting Atlanta Hawks (18-9, 9-4 home), in a great clash between Southeast division rivals.

After dropping the previous match-up on January 5th with a 116-109 triple overtime loss to the Miami Heat, who were playing without both LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, the Atlanta Hawks are certain to be taking tonight’s match-up much more seriously, especially with the Heat’s full line-up in action tonight. The good news for Atlanta is the fact that in their initial victory over Miami in South Florida just 3 days earlier (coincidentally the Heat’s first loss of the season), the Hawks were able to overcome the Big Three of James, Wade and Chris Bosh by a score of 100-92, working off a stellar 15-3 run in the fourth quarter and getting further help from an awful shooting night from Dwayne Wade (4-17, 12 points). Holding the Heat to under 100 points again would seem to be a key goal for the Hawks to chase this evening, as in the only 3 losses over the past 15 games, Miami has averaged just 89.3 points (losing twice to Milwaukee during that span, as an interesting side note).

With Atlanta getting solid defensive play this season, ranking 5th in the NBA allowing just 91.1 points per game, they’ll look to get their zone defense back up to speed against Miami, who were slowed down and saw their scoring rhythm disrupted by impressive Hawks play in the paint in that January 2nd meeting. Miami typically dominates games by getting lots of points in the paint from their big men and from Wade and James driving into the lane, but against a zone defense like Atlanta’s, finding ways to penetrate may be a difficult task so long as the Hawks stay vigilant and aggressive on their inside defensive play. Therefore, it’s essential for Atlanta to have standout defensive efforts from their big men, including fill-in center Zaza Pachulia (6.8 points, 6.0 rebounds/game) and power forward Josh Smith (15.9 points, 9.3 rebounds), and have them work hard to frustrate and limit the scoring of Chris Bosh (19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds) specifically. When Bosh hits his average points per game, the Heat are 11-1. When he doesn’t, they are 9-6. Atlanta though may find it tough to get enough help against Bosh down low without a true starting center like Al Horford in the mix, who continues on an injured stint. The recent 10-day signing of veteran Erick Dampier as a back-up won’t help anything either, and if anything only shows the desperation of head coach Larry Drew to find bodies to fill the middle during Horford’s absence. This is a big part of the game to watch, as if Atlanta can remain strong in the paint and prevent penetration and easy buckets, they’ll have a good shot at victory. If they can’t stop Chris Bosh and allow LeBron James and Dwayne Wade to come down the lanes uncontested, it’ll be a long night at home for the Hawks to come.

As both teams are very close to one another in terms of rebounding abilities, with Miami averaging 42.2 boards/game and Atlanta 42.1, this game’s bottom line may be heavily determined by which side wins the battle of the paint, and without Horford in the line-up, Miami may have an edge there in tonight’s match-up. Between Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem (6.3 points, 8.3 rebounds/game), and LeBron James (28.1 points, 8.0 rebounds), the smaller Heat are going to be quicker especially against the likes of the lumbering Zaza Pachulia in the middle, and therefore help is going to have to come from the shooting forwards for Atlanta. The veteran Tracy McGrady, who has played very well in both games against Miami this year (averaging 15 and 7 rebounds, and %56.3 shooting over 27.5 minutes/game), needs to have a standout game once again, as does Marvin Williams (10.2 points, 5.6 rebounds/game). While Williams hasn’t played well against Miami this season like McGrady has, he comes off a solid 13 point, 6 rebound game against Orlando, where he shot %50.0 from the floor and 3-pt range (3-6). Luckily for Atlanta, their zone defense finds the Hawks getting lots of supporting help and few players having to match-up specifically against individual shooters. However, if Miami can find ways to move the ball around create some mismatches for their speedier players like Dwayne Wade (22.2 points, 5.1 assists/game) and Norris Cole (8.4 points/game), and outside shooters like Mario Chalmers (11 points, 3.8 assists/game, %45.2 from 3-pt range), Atlanta could find themselves chasing around the perimeter a lot, and exposed inside against Chris Bosh and LeBron James.

Betting Lines for the Atlanta Hawks hosting the Miami Heat at the <a target=”_blank” href=””>Sportsbetting Sportsbook</a>

Despite being at home for this contest and having won their last two games, missing center Al Horford is a disadvantage enough to make the Atlanta Hawks an underdog on their own court, with +150 odds to win on the money line. The visiting Miami Heat, winners of 8 games out of their last 10 find themselves at -170 odds to win straight up, as their in good shape with a healthy line-up, and getting solid recent play from Dwayne Wade specifically (27.2 points in his last 5 games). 3.5 points separates the two teams against the spread tonight, with Miami having to make up 3.5 points at -110 odds, and Atlanta getting the slight 3.5 point cushion at the same rates. On the over/under total points line, 189 is the mark to stay under or beat out. If Miami is your pick to win, there’s a good chance they’ll do it by busting through 100 points on the night, and helping to cover the over bet on total points. If Atlanta is your pick, defense will be the key to victory, and Miami will likely be more subdued on the scoring line leading to an under wager on total points being the best choice.

Our Pick to Win:

With Miami at full strength coming into tonight’s match-up against Atlanta, the Hawks are going to struggle to stop the Heat’s scoring attack early, and a fast-paced opening for King James and company will set the tone for the game down the stretch. While Atlanta’s zone defense may work to disrupt the Heat’s rhythm from time to time, inevitably the myriad scoring options Miami has is going to prove too much for the Hawks to handle, especially without their biggest big man Al Horford available to hold down the fort in the paint. Expect a big game out of Chris Bosh, who should be able to consistently outmanuever Zaza Pachulia and create openings for outside shooters as the Hawks shift their zone to double team him, and expect Dwayne Wade to improve on his last outing versus Atlanta and contribute big points via lane penetration tonight. As usual, LeBron James should get his 28-30 points, as he matches up well with the slower Hawks who get the unfortunate assignment of keeping him in check, and at the end of the day, Miami walks out of Atlanta with a big victory, winning 102-91.

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