Heat, Hawks face key battle for postseason positioning
Two teams trying to elevate themselves out of the play-in tournament and into the playoffs will square off Saturday when the Atlanta Hawks start a four-game road trip with the first of consecutive games against the Miami Heat.
Miami is currently in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, 2 1/2 games behind the sixth-place Brooklyn Nets and a half-game ahead of the eighth-place Hawks.
The Heat have dropped two straight and six of their past seven, including a 122-120 loss to the visiting New York Knicks on Friday.
The Hawks have won three of their past four and gave new coach Quin Snyder his first victory on Friday, a 129-111 victory over the visiting Portland Trail Blazers.
This will be the third of four meetings between the teams this season. They split the two previous meetings in Atlanta. The Hawks and Heat will square off again on Monday in Miami, where the Heat have won the past two matchups.
Atlanta got a career-high 41 points from Dejounte Murray and 23 points and 11 assists from Trae Young against Portland. The two combined to go 23-for-36 from the field, 8-for-10 on 3-point attempts and 10-for-10 from the foul line.
"It's not always going to look like this, but when it does, it's pretty nice," Young said. "(Murray is) the king of the mid-range jumper right now."
The Hawks have scored 100 points in 38 straight games. They have only been limited to double digits in two games this season -- one of them a 106-98 loss to Miami on Nov. 27.
Atlanta is now 1-1 under former Utah Jazz coach Snyder, who lost his Hawks debut against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.
"I feel like he will get it going in the right direction," Murray said.
Snyder has said he will use a nine-man rotation. That most likely means either Jalen Johnson or AJ Griffin will be the odd man out. On Friday, the minutes went to Johnson, who had eight points, four rebounds and four assists in 22 minutes. Griffin played only the final two minutes when both teams emptied the bench.
Johnson did not play against Washington, when Griffin played 16 minutes.
A bright spot for Miami has been the play of Jimmy Butler. He scored 33 against the Knicks and was 18-for-20 at the line. The veteran is averaging 22.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Butler scored 34 in a 121-113 loss to the Hawks on Jan. 16 and has a career average of 18.8 in 31 games against Atlanta.
Heat guard Tyler Herro scored 29 and sank five 3-pointers against the Knicks, and he is averaging 20.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists. He had a triple-double against Hawks on Nov. 27 with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Bam Adebayo, who scored 18 on Friday, has been in double figures in all 59 games in which he has appeared this season and in a career-best 75 dating to last season, matching Alonzo Mourning for the fifth-longest streak in team history.
The Heat will continue to play without Kyle Lowry, who has missed 11 games due to left knee soreness.
"He's making progress," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "I do not have a specific time now. He had a good week and we'll keep on progressing."
Gabe Vincent will continue to fill Lowry's minutes.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 4, 2023