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Hawks at HEAT Official Game Thread and Preview

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(Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon)

The Miami HEAT host their division rival Atlanta Hawks tonight at AmericanAirlines Arena. The HEAT enter with a record of 13-5 after a win over the New Orleans Hornets Saturday night. The Hawks are 12-5 and have won three straight. Tip off is set for 7:30 PM; coverage on Sun Sports starts at 7 PM.

1. Who is Atlanta’s most important player these days?

Couper Moorhead: We have this same question up as a poll on the homepage and it’s pretty surprising that Josh Smith is winning with over 60 percent of the vote. Each component of this team plays a pretty significant role, and if you start taking them away you end up with a team that functions very differently than it does now. You need Jeff Teague for his speed and ability to run high pick-and-rolls, you need Josh Smith for his combination of size and ball skills and you need Lou Williams to create shots that nobody else is capable of creating. But ultimately this all comes down to Al Horford, whose lack of flash will always prevent him from getting the credit he deserves, but who is easily a Top 20 player in this league. Everything works through him on both sides of the court, and without him Atlanta just isn’t the same.

2. How has the switch from Joe Johnson to Lou Williams affected this team?

Couper: Williams isn’t exactly a more efficient guard than Johnson, as in the past his most efficient trait has been his ability to get to the free-throw line at will, but he’s helped changed the makeup of the offense, partially by coming off the bench and not taking shots away from the Teague-Horford-Smith combo or any of the team’s many shooters, but also because he’s not only a quicker player but he tends to make quicker decisions. Part of the reason Johnson’s isolation offense hurt the flow of the game so much is that he worked deep into possessions dribbling the ball and surveying the court. Williams isn’t perfect in this respect, but he’s much closer to a catch-and-go type of player, and it keeps things running smoothly.

3. Some have made a big deal about Atlanta replacing Orlando as Miami’s divisional rival, but does this matter?

Couper: It helps to have a couple of good teams in the conference to keep the team sharp, but as Paul Pierce has always said in Boston, they don’t raise any banners for winning the division.

4. How would a playoff series between these two teams play out?

Couper: It would ultimately come down to Miami being able to generate consistently efficient offense when the game slows down, but Atlanta moves the ball well enough and has the athletes and the shooters to keep up for quite a while. A series that went six-games deep wouldn’t surprise me, though it’s tough to really say at the moment because of how far off Miami’s defense is from being in playoff shape.

5. Is Udonis Haslem now the starter at power forward, or do you think Shane Battier will move back into that spot soon?

Couper: It’s unclear, but I imagine some of this decision comes down to Erik Spoelstra not wanting to wear Shane Battier and his knees down too much over the course of the season, as well as being able to sub Joel Anthony for Haslem in the second unit. It doesn’t signal an admission that small ball wasn’t working because the HEAT are going to play small plenty, it just means Spoelstra is experimenting and trying to find the best starting lineup to act as a vessel for getting the team to the playoffs good and healthy.

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Atlanta is a threat, and they are not afraid of the Heat. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if they beat the Heat tonight. Something is missing with this Miami Team this year. I know it is early and better peak later than earlier. I get that, however we haven't seen that killer instinct from the Heat, or even that Fear they used to instill in opposing teams last year. At least in one big game. So far the problems are being masked by the schedule, the late heroic wins against lesser teams celebrated as brilliant victories.

The Miami Heat many of us have learned to respect is the Pat Riley defense that wins by grinding the game, by outworking the opponents over 48 min. Gone are those days now. Somehow Spo thinks offense is more important, by acquiring 2 players who do not play defense, by taking Joel out of the lineup in his new experiments, some hope it is not too late, and that the lack of effort and fight on defense TREND has not turned in HABITS.

The Knicks are the best team in the East right now. And according to Magic J. and SAS (espn), the Knicks are build to beat the Heat, and just might win the Eastern Conference. I know the defenders will say the Celtics dominated the Heat in the reg season and yet Miami beat them. This Knicks team is different, and I think mentally they just might want it more than the Heat do. It is almost as if the Heat fear the Knicks. We shall see.

If the Miami Heat are able to get back to their defense identity, maybe trade for a top defense player, then they might just return to the Eastern Conference Final.

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This is indeed a big game. So far we have not be impressed with the Miami Heat when they faced big teams. Will they get blown out again? Or will they show up and for once at least so far this year, show that they are still capable of playing defense.

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Flu like symptoms. Does that mean, finally my boy Jorts is about to hit the hardwood tonight?

He's our secret weapon for the playoffs.

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Flu like symptoms. Does that mean, finally my boy Jorts is about to hit the hardwood tonight?

I've heard Jorts name being throw around alot here, hope i can actually see him play

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