In the first play-in game on the slate, we get two teams that are awfully familiar with each other. Not only are the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks in the same division, but they faced each other in the first round of the playoffs a season ago. However, this time both teams are fighting to secure a postseason spot, and a shot to face the No. 2-seeded Boston Celtics in the first round.
This matchup also features two teams that are polar opposites of each other on offense. The Heat are the lowest-scoring offense in the league, averaging just 109.5 points per game this season. On the other end of the spectrum are the Hawks, who after bringing in Quin Snyder to take over as head coach, have jumped in offensive rating from 11th to fourth in the league.
The Heat won the season series 3-1 against the Hawks, but with a playoff spot on the line, that won't mean much, especially since Atlanta has been playing better with a new head coach. In preparation for the game, here's everything you need to know about this matchup.
(7) Miami Heat vs. (8) Atlanta Hawks
- When: Tuesday, April 11 | 7:30 p.m. ET
- Where: Kaseya Center -- Miami, Florida
- TV: TNT | Live stream: TNT app
- Odds: Heat -5; O/U 227 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
Heat: As mentioned above, the Heat have the lowest-scoring offense in the league. It's a main reason why Miami finds itself in the play-in and not one of the top six teams in the East. But as we've seen in the postseason before, Jimmy Butler is a completely different player when the season is on the line. Butler has six 40-point games in his career, all with the Heat and all of them have been in the playoffs. The Heat have struggled all season on offense, ranking 26th in field goal percentage (46%) and 27th in 3-point percentage (34%), but they always have a shot when Butler is playing at his best.
Hawks: Scoring shouldn't be an issue for Atlanta, but defense might. The Hawks rank 22nd on defense this season, and allow the second-most points in the paint (54.7 a game). They'll have to tighten things up in the paint to limit Butler's ability to attack the rim, where roughly 45% of his shots come from, according to Cleaning the Glass. They'll also need Trae Young to perform better than he has against the Heat in the regular season. In four appearances against Miami this year, Young is averaging just 15.4 points while shooting 32% from the floor. That's not going to be enough for the Hawks to get past the Heat, so Atlanta will need its franchise centerpiece to step up to the challenge.
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It may take a 40-point heater from Butler for Miami to beat the Hawks, but I don't think that will be a difficult goal to accomplish if other members of the Heat are struggling. Given Young's struggles against the Heat this season, I also think that Miami finds a way to contain him, which will result in everyone else on the Hawks finding ways to make up for it. While Dejounte Murray and Bogdan Bogdanovic can do some damage, I'm putting faith in postseason Jimmy Butler to take care of business. The pick: Heat -5