The Atlanta Hawks begin their playoff series Sunday against the Miami Heat and they have more of a chance than some think. A Hawks win is certainly the unlikely result, as they just snuck into the playoffs after winning back-to-back play-in games to snag the eight seed.
The series will begin in Miami, as the first seeded Heat have home court advantage throughout the series. The Heat were 3-1 in the season series against the Hawks, most recently beating them over a week ago in Miami by five points.
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Why Hawks will upset Heat
I know, this is a bit too obvious, but the Hawks simply have Trae Young and the Heat do not. Trae Young is the best player in the series and any time a team has just that, they have a chance. Jimmy Butler, and even Bam Adebayo, may have arguments for best player but the consensus should be Young. Anyways, look no further than the game in Cleveland just a few nights ago.
The Cavs looked in control for much of the game before Trae Young simply took over late. The Oklahoma product ended the game with 38 points and 9 assists on an efficient 13/25. 32 of his 38 came in the second half, as the Hawks came from behind to advance. The performance was enough to win in impressive fashion, on the road in Cleveland.
It’s something everyone knew Young was capable and in fact, we’ve come to expect when the bright lights are on. Last season, Young seemed to step his game up when the playoffs began. This led to the Hawks’ improbable run to the Eastern Conference Finals, in which they took the Bucks to six games. For the playoffs, Young averaged 28.8 points and 9.5 assists per contest. The Hawks needed every bit of his historic performances and we should expect no different from him this postseason.
Return of John Collins
The Hawks squeaked by the Cavaliers in Thursday’s play-in finale to earn the eight seed. While not overly impressive by any means, they did so without star big man John Collins. Not to mention, center Clint Capela was injured in the second quarter and missed the rest of the game. Now, Capela is scheduled to be re-evaluated in a week, meaning he’ll possibly miss the whole series. That’s a big loss, but the return of John Collins is bigger.
Collins’ numbers have actually taken another dip this season after averaging a career-high 21.6 points per game just two seasons ago. The big man was still able to average 16.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game on just under 53%. Collins hasn’t played in over a month due to foot and finger injuries. He struggled in March, scoring single digits in four of his last five games before the injuries. So, why is his return so big to the Hawks’ chances?
Collins brings versatility to a Hawks lineup that so desperately needs it, especially without Capela. On the defensive side specifically, the Hawks are able to deploy him as a small-ball center at times. Onyeka Okongwu will certainly see more action as well. Collins’ defense will be crucial in this series, as someone needs to slow down Heat All-Star center Bam Adebayo. Additionally, Collins’ offensive spurts always brings energy to the Hawks on the floor. He’ll be a major key factor to the series, and his return is a reason Hawks fans should feel confident.
Things figured out in final 2 meetings
With the Heat being 3-1 in the regular season series, it comes as no surprise the Heat are heavy favorites. The Heat beat the Hawks by 24 and 6 points, respectively, in a back-to-back in January. Despite that, let’s look into the two most recent matchups, with one taking place just over a week ago.
In the Hawks’ lone win in the series, 110-108 in Atlanta in January, there were some notable omissions from each side. The Heat were without Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro, while the Hawks were missing Bogdan Bogdanovic. Young led the way with 28 points, as it was the two’s third meeting in just over a week. In the most recent matchup, Heat won the game 113-109 in Miami with center Bam Adebayo making a go-ahead layup to put them up with just under 30 seconds remaining. Despite the tough loss at the time, there are positives to pull from the game if you’re a Hawks fan.
To begin with, Trae Young seemingly figured things out after struggling in the first two meetings. When the two sides met for a back-to-back in January, Young combined for just 39 points while going 11/28. Since then, he’s gone for 28 and 39 points, including an efficient 12/23 from the floor last week.
While continuing to examine the last meeting between the two, there’s one glaring statistic: the discrepancy in three-point percentage. The Heat shot 42.3% from beyond the arc, while the Hawks shot 23.5%. Now these are two of the top three shooting teams in the NBA, with the Heat leading the league at 37.9%. The Hawks come just behind them in third at 37.4%. If this happens again, expect the Heat to undoubtedly win. But it won’t, and that’s why the Hawks have a better chance than people think in this series.
The Heat begin the series as massive favorites as the one seed in the East. For the reasons mentioned above though, the Hawks will upset the Heat and move onto the next round.