What to know about tonight’s game: A day after clinching playoff spot, Heat travel to face Hawks again

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic, left, drives past Atlanta Hawks guard Tyler Dorsey during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 3, 2018, in Miami. The Heat won 101-98. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI HEAT AT ATLANTA HAWKS

When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta

TV/Radio: Fox Sports Sun/WAXY 790AM, WRTO 98.3 FM (Spanish)

Records: Miami 42-36, Atlanta 22-56

Line: Miami favored by 8.5 points

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS

Heat

F: James Johnson

F: Josh Richardson

C: Hassan Whiteside

G: Tyler Johnson

G: Goran Dragic

Hawks

F: Taurean Prince

F: John Collins

C: Miles Plumlee

G: Damion Lee

G: Isaiah Taylor

Scouting report: Miami will be without Dion Waiters (left ankle surgery). … Atlanta is expected to be without Kent Bazemore (right knee bone bruise), Malcolm Delaney (left ankle sprain), Jaylen Morris (left ankle sprain) and Dennis Schröder (left ankle sprain, bone bruise). … The Hawks own the worst record in the Eastern Conference and are 2-12 over their past 14 games. … Atlanta has eight rookies on its roster, led by former Cardinal Newman High standout John Collins. Collins is averaging 10.5 points and 7.3 rebounds this season. … The Heat have posted a 12-8 record since the All-Star break, with five of those losses coming in overtime. … Since Dwyane Wade was traded to the Heat on Feb. 8, Miami’s bench has averaged a league-high 47.2 points per game. … Heat center Kelly Olynyk is two minutes and 21 seconds away from earning his $1 million bonus for playing at least 1,700 minutes during the regular season. … Miami, which clinched a playoff spot Tuesday, enters Wednesday in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. … The Heat have won two of their three matchups with the Hawks this season, including Tuesday’s 101-98 win in Miami.

[Five takeaways: Heat clinch playoff spot, move up to sixth in East with comeback win over Hawks]

[A look at the rotation Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is expected to stick with for the playoffs]

[No foul on Dwyane Wade’s final shot Saturday? Heat move on after Last Two Minute report]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

Five takeaways from Heat-Hawks: Shorthanded Heat can’t complete comeback, lose to team with NBA’s worst record

Atlanta Hawks’ Malcolm Delaney, left, moves to the hoop against Miami Heat’s Jordan Mickey in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Atlanta, Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Erik Spoelstra asked his team to take a no-excuse mentality into Monday’s game.

The Heat (15-15) listened to their coach, cutting a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to one with 1:05 remaining in the game despite having just nine healthy players available. But Miami didn’t have enough to complete the comeback, as the Hawks (7-23) closed the game on an 8-3 run to hold on for a 110-104 victory over the Heat at Philips Arena on Monday.

“Those last nine minutes, it would require that kind of effort, that kind of disposition,” Spoelstra said to reporters in Atlanta of the Heat’s late rally. “It didn’t even mean every possession was going perfectly, but you could see the level of urgency go way up. That’s what is required. And we just didn’t have it for the entire game.”

There are no moral victories for Miami, though. The loss came against the team with the NBA’s worst record.

Taurean Prince led the charge for the Hawks with 24 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Atlanta guard Dennis Schroder helped out with 23 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Josh Richardson was one of the bright spots for the Heat, as he finished with 26 points. Dion Waiters fought through a stomach illness to score 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting.

Here are our five takeaways …

Nine is not enough: Injuries have tested the Heat’s depth plenty of times this season. But Monday was Miami’s biggest challenge, as it played without starting center Hassan Whiteside, starting point guard Goran Dragic, and forwards James Johnson and Justise Winslow. Rodney McGruder and Okaro White were also unavailable, as they continue to recover from their respective surgeries. With all of these players out due to injuries and center AJ Hammons still in Sioux Falls despite counting toward the 15-man roster, the Heat had just nine players available in Atlanta, which is one above the NBA-minimum of eight. All nine played against the Hawks, even veteran Udonis Haslem saw a minute of action.

“Not having enough bodies, that’s not an excuse,” Spoelstra said. “We had enough, and we had enough energy.”

Too many turnovers, not enough defense: The Heat rely on their defense to win games. And Miami wasn’t at its best on that end of the court Monday. The Heat allowed Atlanta to score 110 points, with 46 coming in the paint. And before the fourth quarter it was even worse, as the Hawks shot 49.2 percent over the first three quarters. That’s just not good enough for a Heat team that was missing a lot of their offensive firepower with Dragic, Johnson and Whiteside out. Oh, and Miami also committed 19 turnovers. Bad defense and too many turnovers is not a good combination for the Heat, or any NBA team.

Another game, another different starting five: The Heat played their 30th game of the season Monday. They also used their ninth different starting lineup of the season Monday. That’s a pretty high number for a Heat team that entered 2017-18 leaning on continuity after bringing back 11 players from last year’s season-ending roster. But blame a long list of injuries for all of the different starting combinations. With James Johnson, Dragic, Winslow and Whiteside unavailable, Miami started Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk against the Hawks. Entering the game, this group had logged just three minutes of playing time together this season. They exceeded that just in the first quarter, as this lineup played the first 6:34 and was outscored by the Hawks 19-15 during that time. This five won’t start too many more games together this season. Only injuries will force Spoelstra to use this combination as his starting lineup moving forward.

A December to remember for J-Rich: What a month it’s been for Josh Richardson. After a slow start to the season, Richardson has made up for it by playing the best basketball of his career in December. The 24-year-old continued this impressive stretch Monday with 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting to go with three steals and two blocks. He’s now averaging 17.3 points on 56.3 percent shooting in nine games this month. And Richardson is not just excelling on offense, he’s also been the Heat’s best defender this season. Richardson entered Monday limiting players he’s defending to 38 percent shooting (6.8 percent worse than their combined average shooting percentage).

“J-Rich is playing very good basketball on both ends of the court,” Spoelstra said. “So, from an energy standpoint, you’re talking about a guy who’s tasked with the best perimeter player every single night and then have incredible energy on the other end to get your team organized and also make some plays for the team. And he just continues to gain confidence. We want to fuel that and see where that can go. But I like the place that he’s in right now.”

What’s next?: A Wednesday game against the Celtics in Boston. It won’t be easy, considering the Celtics are 13-3 at home and own the Eastern Conference’s top record at 26-7. Throw in the fact that Miami could have to play without Dragic, Johnson, Winslow and Whiteside again, and you can expect the Heat to enter this contest as heavy underdogs. But a more favorable stretch is on the horizon, as the Heat will begin a four-game homestand and an eight-game stretch that includes seven home games on Friday. Wednesday’s matchup against the Celtics marks the end of a brutal 24-game stretch that included 17 on the road.

[Injury issues continue to follow Heat, with Goran Dragic out vs. Hawks]

[Mailbag: Who’s been the Heat’s biggest (positive) surprise — Bam Adebayo or Josh Richardson?]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

Tonight’s matchup: Miami Heat look to go over .500 for first time since 2016-17 season opener with win over Atlanta Hawks

Miami Heat’s Dion Waiters (11) reacts after the Heat defeated the Indiana Pacers 112-108 during an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

ATLANTA HAWKS VS. MIAMI HEAT

When: Monday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami

TV/Radio: Fox Sports Sun/WAXY 790AM, WAQI 710AM (Spanish)

Records: Atlanta 1-2, Miami 1-1

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS

Hawks

F: Taurean Prince

F: Mike Muscala

C: Dewayne Dedmon

G: Kent Bazemore

G: Malcolm Delaney

Heat

F: Josh Richardson

F: James Johnson

C: Jordan Mickey

G: Dion Waiters

G: Goran Dragic

Scouting report: Miami center Hassan Whiteside will miss Monday’s game vs. Atlanta because of a bone bruise in his left knee. It marks the second consecutive game Whiteside has missed because of the injury. … The Hawks will without starting point guard Dennis Schroder (sprained left ankle) and starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova (left knee strain) against the Heat. … The Heat and Hawks split the 2016-17 season series, 2-2, with Miami winning the last two matchups against Atlanta. …  Miami guards Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters played well against the Hawks last season. Dragic averaged 21.7 points, Johnson averaged 18.8 points and Waiters averaged 15.0 points against Atlanta in 2016-17. … With a win over the Hawks on Monday, the Heat would be over .500 for the first time since last season’s first game. … Atlanta will be playing its third game in four days and the fourth game of a five-game road trip. The Hawks fell to the Nets 116-104 at Brooklyn on Sunday and fell to the Hornets 109-91 at Charlotte on Friday. …  Hawks rookie John Collins, who attended Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach, is averaging 11.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in three games this season … Along with Schroder and Ilyasova, Atlanta will also be without DeAndre’ Bembry (fractured right wrist) and Miles Plumlee (strained right quad). … The Heat will also be without Rodney McGruder (leg).

[Heat win in home opener a game they lost a year ago]

[Can the Heat finish as one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference? Why not.]

[Erik Spoelstra says James Johnson’s ascent to being named Heat captain ‘one most special things’ in his career]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

Former Cardinal Newman standout John Collins plays first NBA preseason game in front of family, friends in Miami

MIAMI — John Collins has visited AmericanAirlines Arena many times as a fan. But he visited the arena Sunday for the first time as an NBA player.

The former Cardinal Newman basketball standout and current Hawks power forward kicked off the preseason with a game against the Heat on Sunday in Miami. Collins was impressive with nine points, 15 rebounds in 20 minutes of action.

It was a totally different experience than when he attended games at AmericanAirlines Arena to root on the Heat.

“I’ve been here too many times watching and now I’m actually going to be playing here,” Collins said before Sunday’s contest. “We play here two times a year during the regular season. That’s a surreal feeling. I don’t even know how to put words on that one.” Continue reading “Former Cardinal Newman standout John Collins plays first NBA preseason game in front of family, friends in Miami”