Vivlamore reporting. Here is my story advancing the Heat game that will appear in the Friday edition of the AJC.
The Hawks are about to get fire tested.
For here come the Heat.
The defending NBA champions will give these new-look Hawks an indication of just where they stand early this season. With back-to-back dramatic victories, a short-handed road win over the Thunder and a comeback home victory over the Pacers, the Hawks have shown some resiliency. That resolve will be challenged against the Heat and their Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and a strong supporting cast.
“Certainly, Miami is as good as it gets,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “We’ll have to play a really solid game on both ends of the floor. I’m excited and anxious to see how our guys respond to the challenge.”
The Hawks (2-1) want to use the lessons learned from their first three games, including the season-opening loss to the Rockets where despite being outrebounded by a large margin they had a chance to win late.
“That would be a great identity for us to develop,” center Al Horford said the team’s resiliency. “We don’t want to have the reputation that we fold as a team. We are going to keep fighting. We are going to keep playing hard.”
The Heat (4-1), winners of three straight, enter with the Big Three all in the top 14 in the NBA is scoring average. James is fifth at 22.4 points, Wade is 12th at 20.4 and Bosh is 14th at 19.4. James is also tied for ninth in the league with 9.8 rebounds per game.
And the Heat have those rings.
Horford leads the Hawks with 17.7 points per game, tied for 29th in the NBA. However, the Hawks tout a team game, both offensively and defensively. They will need it against the Heat.
Drew said the Hawks match the Heat in their style of play. Both teams are going to look to push the ball in an up-tempo game. The Heat have speed and quickness and are excellent in the open court, especially with James and Wade, Drew said. So, how do you stop them?
Drew said the key will be limiting the Heat and their momentum plays. The Hawks can’t afford to let the Heat reel off points in bunches. The Pacers went on an 18-0 run against the Hawks Wednesday that left them bickering about the officiating and taking ill-advised shots. Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia were hit with technical fouls before the Hawks won the game with an 18-0 run of their own.
“We can’t respond to a run in a negative way,” Drew said. “We have to know how to mash runs and make sure that we maintain our focus. This game is a game of runs. They are a team that is very explosive. They have guys who can go off on any given night. We just have to make sure we go out and focus on what we have to do. Defensively we want to be solid. We want to play our style of ball, getting up and down and getting into an open-court game. We have to be smart with it. We have to be in an attack mode.”
The technical fouls came in the middle of the Pacers’ run that pushed their lead to 12 points. The Hawks managed to regain their focus and start their winning run. That won’t be so easy against the Heat.
Smith said he took responsibility for the call against him and addressed the team about it during a timeout.
“I let the officials get in my head a little bit,” Smith said. “It was a carryover affect. I let the team know that was on me. That was my bad. Everybody just closed our mouths and let our games speak for ourselves.”
Drew said he has yet to decide on a starting lineup against the Heat, who have won three straight against the Hawks. He he is still deciding whether to go with a smaller, quicker unit as he did against the Thunder or a bigger group as he did to match up against the Pacers.
- Chris Vivlamore
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