Atlanta Hawks at Miami HEAT Game Preview

The Miami HEAT host the Atlanta Hawks Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. The game is presented by Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida. Get your tickets now! The HEAT defeated the Hawks 108-90 in their last meeting on February 24. Tip-off is set for 6:00 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: What have been the most important storylines coming out of training camp?

Couper Moorhead: Mostly about how un-camp like this training camp has been. Normally a Miami HEAT camp is three or four days of two-a-days, but this week at Florida Atlantic Univeristy there were none (players worked out in the evenings, but there weren’t full official practices). Spoelstra said with so many players from last season returning, and most of them having spent time working at the arena during the offseason, there really wasn’t much need for the way they usually do things. Instead, these were practices much like what the team will have once the season gets going.

That business-as-usual approach likely contributed to the lack of storylines. Yes, for a couple days players were asked about Dwyane Wade joining the Cleveland Cavaliers, but as far as the on-the-court goes the main questions had to do with who fills out Spoelstra’s rotation. With the team healthy for the first time in a year, there aren’t enough minutes to go around for all the players who were part of the regular group at some point last season. We know Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside are going to start, but who joins them and therefore who composes the bench units is still up in the air. The preseason will provide the hints we need.

Joe Beguiristain: Since there are 11 returning players on the squad, there actually haven’t been that many storylines in camp. If anything, it’s how quick the HEAT have been able to get things accomplished. In fact, the phrase “fast track” was said multiple times in post-practice media availability sessions at FAU. Of course, the exact opposite occurred last year at this time due to there being so many new faces on the roster. This time around, the two main newcomers are free-agent acquisition Kelly Olynyk and rookie Bam Adebayo. Luckily enough, both frontcourt players looked quite impressive in the Red, White & Pink Game on Saturday morning. While all the continuity doesn’t guarantee success, it certainly bodes well heading into the season.

2: What is Erik Spoelstra’s typical approach to preseason?

Couper: Experiment and try a little bit of everything. But that’s the typical approach. With this group essentially in regular season mode already, it may be more likely to see something closer to a regular season rotation. Remember, the season begins a full 10 days earlier this year in an effort to reduce back-to-backs so teams have less time to get everyone up to speed. Considering Spoelstra usually experiments a bit over the course of the season anyways, this might be a fairly standard two weeks.

On Saturday’s scrimmage, Spoelstra started Justise Winslow and James Johnson opposite one another at power forward. While the third starter in the backcourt is also something to keep an eye on, it’s the power forward position that may be the most interesting to follow. This is simply guesswork, but don’t be surprised if both players get a couple of starts, just to see how it works.

Joe: Erik Spoelstra likes to tinker a bit and try out different rotations and lineups during the preseason. Although much of the team is the same, guys could be in different spots than they were a season ago. Case in point: Justise Winslow primarily played the four in Saturday’s scrimmage, while Josh Richardson played the three more often than not. Over the six preseason games, Spoelstra might give that pairing a long look or opt to go with James Johnson at the four alongside Richardson at the three or even Winslow at the three and Johnson at the four. There are just so many different variables that will have to work their way out over the next two weeks.

While we’ll have to wait and see how that shakes out, you can rest assured that the team will keep up the intensity.

“Even though preseason is a week shorter, training camp for me is all the way until those first couple practices before the first game,” Spoelstra said after Day 4. “So all preseason, we’ll still be in training camp.”

3: As far as tune-ups go, will playing the Hawks mean much one way or the other?

Couper: Probably not, especially not in Game 1. The shortened preseason might lead to teams playing their regulars a little more often, but since most teams have had less than a full week of official practices everyone will be working on themselves rather than worrying about any specific opponent. Atlanta lost Paul Millsap to Denver in the offseason, however, so there might be an opportunity for the aforementioned forwards to get plenty of playmaking work in.

Joe: With this being the first game for both teams, it probably won’t. That said, a few guys seemed excited to match up against somebody different when asked about the opportunity to face another team.

Although the HEAT are operating like a well-oiled machine due to all the familiarity, the Hawks have a few guys that need to get acclimated. With Paul Millsap in Denver and Dwight Howard in Charlotte, it looks like Ersan Ilyasova and Dewayne Dedmon will be starting at power forward and center, respectively. You also can’t forget about John Collins, the electric rookie power forward out of Wake Forest. Perhaps he will get some extended playing time in his NBA debut. 

Highlights:

February 24 – HEAT at Hawks

February 1 – Hawks at HEAT

Game Notes:

  • This will be the first preseason game for both the HEAT and the Hawks.

  • Miami has won its past two games against Atlanta.

  • First-round picks John Collins and Bam Adebayo will make their NBA debut.

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