Updates: Dywane Wade will not play for the Heat. The guard missed the team’s morning shoot-around with a cold. He stayed at the team hotel for the game to be rested, according to Heat coach Eric Spoelstra. Hawks coach Larry Drew said he briefly considered changing his starting lineup but decided to stay with the same five as originally planned. Drew declined to comment before the game when asked his reaction to the Lakers firing of coach Mike Brown. “If you wouldn’t mind, I would rather not comment on that,” Drew said.
The Hawks will go with a smaller, defensive-minded lineup tonight against the Heat. The will start Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver at guard, DeShawn Stevenson and Josh Smith at forward and Al Horford at center (as I first tweeted this morning).
“I like the matchups,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “I like the speed that it does give us. With DeShawn in the lineup it gives us a defensive presence. I think that is really important particularly at the beginning of the game. Miami is a very good transition team. They have guys who can really play one-on-one and off the dribble and he gives us a little stability in that area.”
* Smith, for one, is really looking forward to the challenge of playing the defending NBA champions.
“I do, I do. I definitely do,” Smith said when I asked if he looks forward to such a challenge. “Playing against the world champions, they have a gold medal on their team, it is a challenge that I embrace.”
* Although the Hawks will start with a smaller lineup, Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said he expects to see a bigger lineup and different defensive schemes throughout the game.
“That’s the versatility that they have shown,” Spoelstra said. “They’ll use both lineups. They do a lot of different things defensively, some switching, a little bit of zone. We expect them to try to pound us in the paint. That is what this is all about … whose game will get whose game. We know what our identity is and if we are not imposing our will stronger than they are imposing their game, we will get pounded in the paint. But if we are quick to the ball and we are quick to the glass and we are quick to our spots, we can also pose a lot of problems as well.”
* Drew said his team can’t play fast enough. In fact, the more up-tempo the better.
“This team is built to play fast,” Drew said. “My biggest concern is if we don’t try to play fast. We came out against Indiana our last game and we didn’t play an up-tempo game. I think when we only had two fast break points at halftime. We just can’t play like that. We have to come out and open the floor and get up and down the floor. We have done a good job with (limiting) the turnovers (playing fast).”
* The Hawks are second in the NBA with 10.67 steals per game. Teague leads the way with 2.67 steals per game.
* The Heat will start a lineup of Mario Chambers and Dwyane Wade at guard, LeBron James and Shane Battier at forward and Chris Bosh at center.
James said he is not concerned about what style the Hawks will play although both teams like to play up-tempo and have plenty of 3-point shooters.
“We aren’t similar,” James said. “We don’t play like the Hawks. They Hawks don’t play like us. We are two different teams. We just want to come out and play our game.”
* Center Johan Petro will be the Hawks inactive player.
* Grammy winner and Atlanta native T.I. won’t only be at Philips Arena tonight, he’ll serve as color commentator for the first half of the SportSouth broadcast. T.I. will work with Bob Rathbun and former Hawks player Duane Ferrell. T.I. and Ferrell will be filling in for Dominique Wilkins, who is out of town.
* The Hawks are expecting a sellout crowd tonight.
- Chris Vivlamore