UPDATE #2: Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade will be unavailable for Miami in this game, according to the team’s Twitter account.
Dwyane Wade will not play in tonight’s #HEATgame vs Atlanta.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) November 19, 2013
Update: In addition to Paul Millsap’s absence, the Hawks will be without guard Lou Williams tonight in Miami, as he is slated to play on Wednesday against Detroit, and currently isn’t playing on back-to-backs.
Date: November 19, 2013
Tip-Off Time: 7:30 PM ET
TV Channel: SportSouth (Local in Atlanta), NBA League Pass, SUN (Miami)
Radio: 92.9 FM (Atlanta Flagship), Atlanta Hawks Radio Network Affiliates
Live Stream: League Pass Broadband
It’s always fun when the Atlanta Hawks get together with the defending champion Miami Heat, and tonight will be no different in Miami. The Heat are scorching hot, having won 3 straight, and Lebron James is, once again, the front-runner for NBA MVP, and because of that (among other things), this is a tall test for the Hawks.
On the Hawks side, the team is coming off of an impressive road win (on a back-to-back, no less) over the Knicks, in which they absolutely ran away with the game late. Balance was the buzz word on Saturday, and it would be advantageous for Atlanta to parlay that varied offensive performance into Miami on Tuesday. However, the Hawks experienced a bit of a roster setback on Tuesday, when they released the following information.
Paul Millsap is not with the team in Miami due to right elbow tendinitis
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) November 19, 2013
This is a blow to the chances of a win on the road, as Millsap provides an additional frontcourt scorer that could have been very useful. In his absence, I would expect to see a lot of Gustavo Ayon (who will reportedly start) and Mike Scott (maybe some Elton Brand?), but neither guy provides the consistency of a guy like Millsap.
Miami enters the game with the #1 offense in the NBA, averaging a robust 110.7 points per 100 possessions on the season. Obviously, Lebron is the key to everything that Miami does, and his early-season averages (27.3 points, 6.9 assists, 5.3 rebounds) tell the story of just how good he’s been. However, “the King” has an entirely different dimension this season, pushing his already impressive shooting numbers through the stratosphere to 62.2% from the field and 51.7% from 3-point range. That is absolutely absurd, and terrifying for opponents.
In that vein, this is the exact situation that DeMarre Carroll was inked for, and he should be up to the challenge. Carroll is averaging 31.3 minutes per game, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that uptick a bit as he presumably gets the full-time assignment on Lebron. Prior to the Millsap injury, I expected to see Coach Bud at least try him on Lebron, but now, the emphasis is placed on Carroll with the faint possibility of a Mike Scott defensive deployment.
Elsewhere for the Heat, they lead the league in both eFG% (effective field goal percentage) and TS% (true shooting percentage), and this is a huge defensive test for the Hawks. Mike Budenholzer and company have been improving defensively (up to 14th in the league, coincidentally tied with the Heat at 101.6 points per 100), but this is a unique challenge. 3-point defense will be critical here, as in addition to James, Miami also has Mario Chalmers (51.7%), Ray Allen (36.7%), Chris Bosh (47.4%), Norris Cole (43.8%), and even Rashard Lewis (47.6%) getting into the act from long distance.
Offensively, the Hawks actually should be able to succeed here, provided that Jeff Teague and company produce at similar levels to their recent averages. Miami isn’t the defensive gauntlet that they have been in the past (at least right now), and the Teague/Horford pick-and-roll combination has been able to get loose on virtually everyone. On the road, however, this is a spot where the Hawks will desperately need the 3-ball to be dropping, and Kyle Korver could be an interesting X-factor.
Lastly, matching up with Dwyane Wade could be a big-time challenge in this game. As we’ve covered endlessly, the Hawks don’t feature a “prototypical” shooting guard, and with the extra attention on Lebron, it will be down to guys like Kyle Korver and Cartier Martin (in the reported absence of Lou Williams) to make a run at Wade. Dwyane hasn’t quite been himself this season (16.7 points per game, 18.5 PER), but he’s always ready to explode and that’s a bit terrifying.
Our friends in Las Vegas have placed the Heat as a 9.5-point favorite, and while that may seem high, it isn’t a shock to me. Both teams are well rested, having last appeared on Saturday night, but Miami is a significantly better team on paper, and when you throw in the homecourt advantage, a near double-digit margin isn’t out of the question. It’s impossible to predict a road win here for the Hawks, but that doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a competitive game, and if Atlanta can get “max” performances from guys like Teague and Horford, along with a bit of a down night from James, it’s a winnable spot early in the season.
Stay tuned for updates throughout the night, and be sure to follow us on Twitter at @ATLBeatBlog.