UPDATE: Miami shooting guard Dwyane Wade has been ruled out for tonight’s game, per multiple sources.
Date: December 23, 2013
Tip-Off Time: 7:30 PM ET
TV Channel: SportSouth (Local in Atlanta), NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 FM (Atlanta Flagship), Atlanta Hawks Radio Network Affiliates
Live Stream: League Pass Broadband
While much of the Atlanta sporting culture tunes in to Falcons/49ers on Monday Night Football, the basketball diehards (cough, me) will be all-in on the Hawks as they travel to Miami to take on the defending NBA champion Heat. The Hawks are coming off of a perfect homestand that ended with Utah Jazz in dominant fashion, 118-85″ href=”http://atlallday.com/2013/12/20/atlanta-hawks-blast-utah-jazz-dominant-fashion-118-85/”>a dominant win over Utah on Friday, but the level of competition takes a jump here, and that brings intrigue.
The Heat are led by the best player on Earth in Lebron James, and we have to start there. Lebron has been utterly absurd this season, shooting over 60% from the field, and trailing only Atlanta’s Kyle Korver (we’ll get there) across the league in true shooting percentage. DeMarre Carroll likely gets the painful assignment of checking LBJ, and he’ll need to be at his absolute best on the defensive end in this one, but he’ll certainly have help across the board.
Miami is tied for the league lead in net rating (outscoring opponents by 9.4 points per 100 possessions), but much of that outstanding clip is due to their offense. They are 2nd, only to Portland, in offensive efficiency, scoring over 109 points per 100, and in addition to James, they’ve got options everywhere.
Dwyane Wade has been a 20-5-5 guy this season, and he presents all kinds of issues for the Hawks defensively. Kyle Korver isn’t exactly an ideal match-up for Wade on this end of the floor (to be kind), but Jeff Teague isn’t either, and the Hawks could justifiably put Paul Millsap on Lebron James at times in order to free up DeMarre to play on Wade. This is an area to keep an eye on throughout the night, but it’s basically a “pick your poison” situation.
Up front, Chris Bosh and Al Horford square off in what is always an interesting battle. Bosh is “only” averaging 15 points and 6 rebounds per game, but he’s on the Manu Ginobili minutes plan (lol) playing only 28.7 per game, and something tells me that will spike a bit here. There has been argument between Horford and Bosh for years, and for my money, Horford is the better player, and he’ll have an opportunity to showcase that on Monday evening.
It’s becoming an everyday thing, but Kyle Korver will be aiming to lengthen his already NBA-record streak of consecutive games with a made 3-pointer. The sharpshooter has made a three in 96 consecutive games, but Miami presents a unique challenge with athleticism and activity. Fortunately for Korver, though, the Heat haven’t quite turned up their defense to a postseason-level, as they sit 15th in the league in opponent’s 3-point percentage, allowing 36.2% and over 8 makes per game.
Lastly, defending the 3-point line will be huge against the Heat. Coach Bud is always quick to reference the concept in his pre-game and post-game comments, but it’s especially true here, as Miami is top-5 in the league in 3-point percentage (38.3%) and with James and Wade both able to collapse the defense at any time, keeping an eye on shooters like Ray Allen, Shane Battier, and even Mario Chalmers will be crucial.
The experts in Las Vegas have made the Heat (playing at home) an 8.5-point favorite in the game, and while that may seem like a lot of points, Miami has been a house of horrors for most opponents in the Lebron James era. Atlanta fell by a 16-point margin back on November 19th, but Mike Budenholzer has the club playing much better basketball these days, and I’d expect a very competitive ballgame here.
Stay tuned for updates throughout the night, and a full recap to follow.