Heat Hope To Defeat Hawks
MIAMI (AP) -- The Atlanta Hawks routinely struggle offensively when facing the Miami Heat.
Given their recent offensive surge, coupled with the Heat's lackluster defensive performance their last time out, the Hawks could have better luck offensively this time.
Atlanta looks to extend a season-high winning streak to four games and avoid a ninth straight loss to the Heat on Monday night in Miami.
The Hawks (15-12) are starting to grasp first-year coach Mike Budenholzer's ball-movement lessons. They already average a NBA-best 25.6 assists, but have been even better at distributing the basketball during their win streak, averaging 34.7. Not surprisingly, they're shooting 52.9 percent and averaging 118.7 points - 17.0 better than their season average.
"It's an indication they're just getting a better and better understanding of the ball movement and how we want to play," Budenholzer said after his team had 32 assists in Friday's 118-85 win over Utah. "Passing and hitting the open guy just becomes something that's expected."
Jeff Teague is averaging 14.7 points and 11.0 assists during the win streak and Al Horford is shooting 65.1 percent and averaging 23.6 points in his last five games - 5.4 better than his team-leading average.
Although the Hawks have been excelling offensively, they had one of their worst showings in their lone meeting with the Heat on Nov. 19, turning the ball over 24 times in a 104-88 loss.
An inefficient offense has typically been Atlanta's downfall versus Miami.
The Hawks have lost eight straight to Miami, and are averaging 87.6 points and 18.7 turnovers in the last seven. They haven't scored more than 93 in the series since a 116-109 triple-overtime loss on Jan. 5, 2012.
Horford has scored 12 or less in four of his last six games against the Heat, while Teague is averaging 10.3 points on 34.1 percent shooting and 4.0 turnovers in his last four.
Miami (20-6) has been difficult to score on this season, but defense was an afterthought in Friday's matchup with Sacramento. The Heat allowed an opponent season-high 58.1 percent shooting and let the Kings score 60 points in the paint.
Despite going through the motions defensively, coach Erik Spoelstra wasn't too upset - Mainly because his offense shot 61.4 percent and made 10 of 23 shots from beyond the arc in a 122-103 win. The Heat, who have won four straight, set a season high for points, with 70 coming in the paint, and had 32 assists on a season-best 51 field goals.
"From a coach's standpoint it left a lot to be desired defensively," Spoelstra said. "I don't have that many problems or complaints offensively. It was great pace, great energy. Guys were really playing off each other, helping guys get shots, very unselfish."
Chris Bosh had a team-high 25 points, Dwyane Wade scored 20 and LeBron James had 18 points, eight assists and six rebounds despite sitting out the fourth quarter.
Bosh and Wade have both stepped up during Miami's win streak. Bosh is shooting 60.7 percent to average 20.5 points - 5.5 better than his season mark - while Wade is hitting 60.0 percent of his shots to average 25.8 - 5.9 more than his average.
Wade missed last month's game against the Hawks due to a knee injury, while Bosh scored 19.
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