The Miami Heat (42-36) just about escaped with a hard-fought 101-98 win over the Atlanta Hawks. They had to do it the hard way as they needed to overcome a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit. With the win, the Heat clinched a playoff spot. Goran Dragic led the way with 22 points and ten rebounds. Meanwhile, Hassan Whiteside made up for his ill-advised rant about playing time by dropping 18 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks in 28 minutes.
As for the Hawks (22-56), they fell just short of a rare winning streak. They had previously defeated the Orlando Magic at home, 94-88. Rookie John Collins had a huge game with 19 points and ten rebounds. Meanwhile, the starting backcourt of Isaiah Taylor and Damion Lee combined for 31 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists. Taurean Prince played just ten minutes last night, but it doesn’t appear to be due to injury.
Three keys to the game
Miami's motivation - The Heat have been making life pretty hard for themselves against clearly subpar opposition, particularly at home. They clearly need to get their mojo back before the playoffs. While they’ve already clinched a spot, they still have the chance to secure the sixth seed over the Wizards. That should be ample motivation for them to get back on track in Atlanta.
Hawks tank job - The Hawks’ decision to hardly play Prince - arguably their best player - and also keep Dewayne Dedmon out might be an indication that they’re ready to punt on the last week or so of the season. Although they’ve been feisty over the last couple of games, it remains to be seen whether the likes of Dorsey and Lee can put together the same type of performance in a back-to-back.
Heat big man - With this the second night of a back-to-back, the Heat could potentially opt to sit out Whiteside, who has only just returned after a hip injury. That likely means more playing time for Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a downgrade for the Heat. Both Olynyk and Adebayo have stepped up when called upon this season, and their presence instead of Whiteside could be just what the Heat need to jumpstart their offense.
Matchup to watch
Dwyane Wade vs Tyler Dorsey - Dorsey has been instrumental to the Hawks over the last two games, where he’s scored 37 points and hit seven 3-pointers. His production off bench is pivotal for Atlanta’s chances. But on the other side, Wade has been equally as valuable in terms of running the second unit for the Heat. If he can pop up with a big game like he already has twice against Atlanta this season, the Heat should have an easier time taking care of the Hawks the second time around.
Heat projected starting lineup
PG - Goran Dragic | SG - Tyler Johnson | SF - Josh Richardson | PF - James Johnson | C - Hassan Whiteside
Hawks projected starting lineup
PG - Isaiah Taylor | SG - Damion Lee | SF - Taurean Prince | PF - John Collins | C - Dewayne Dedmon
With Whiteside likely sidelined for this contest, Olynyk and Adebayo will be interesting big man options for fantasy. Olynyk popped up with some big games in Whiteside’s absence, as he’s averaging 15.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.3 steals over his last ten games.
As for the Hawks, Collins could put up similarly productive numbers like the 19 points and ten rebounds he had last night if both Dedmon and Prince don’t feature once again. Meanwhile, both Taylor and Dorsey remain high-risk, high-reward options at point guard thanks to the sheer minutes they’re playing.
After being caught off guard once again, the Heat should be able to take care of the Hawks a bit more comfortably the second time around. Even with a somewhat lofty nine-point spread on the road, they are the better team with more motivation than the Hawks, which should lead to a more convincing victory.
The Heat finally get their act together as they blow away the Hawks on the road, 114-98.
This game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Southeast - Atlanta and Fox Sports Sun. Tip-off is at 7:30 pm Eastern.