The 2023 AT&T NBA Play-In Tournament is finally here, starting with a Eastern Conference matchup between the No. 7 seeded Miami Heat and the No. 8 seeded Atlanta Hawks. Which team will advance to face off against the No. 2 seeded Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA Playoffs?
Regular Season Matchups
Heat at Hawks: 11/27/2022
Result: Heat 106-98 Hawks
Heat F Bam Adebayo: 32 points, 13-for-20 shooting, eight rebounds
Hawks F John Collins: 23 points, 11-for-17 shooting, 14 rebounds
Heat at Hawks: 1/16/2023
Result: Hawks 121-113 Heat
Hawks G Dejounte Murray: 28 points, 11-for-17 shooting, 5-for-8 shooting from three
Heat F Jimmy Butler: 34 points, 11-for-16 shooting, 11-for-11 from the free throw line
Hawks at Heat: 3/4/2023
Result: Heat 117-109 Hawks
Heat F Bam Adebayo: 30 points, 10-for-12 shooting, 11 rebounds
Hawks F Saddiq Bey: 22 points, 7-for-12 shooting, 4-for-8 shooting from three
Hawks at Heat: 3/6/2023
Result: Heat 130-128 Hawks
Heat F Jimmy Butler: 26 points, 8-for-14 shooting, 10 rebounds, nine assists
Hawks G Trae Young: 25 points, 9-for-17 shooting, 6-for-8 shooting from the free throw line
Atlanta Hawks Season Review:
The Hawks made one of the biggest trades of the offseason, acquiring Dejounte Murray from the San Antonio Spurs. That move was expected to help them take the next step, pairing up a long and athletic guard with a star in Trae Young who could score 35 on any given night. Murray and Young would need some time to adjust, given that both of them were used to having the ball in their hands all the time. Atlanta got off to a slow start as a result of growing pains, and they never really recovered.
Former Hawks head coach Nate McMillan was fired in late February because of the team’s lack of success. It certainly did not help that his relationship with Young went sour, and when the connection is off with your star player, the organization is always going to take the players’ side. Atlanta brought Quin Snyder in to replace him, which could be a good move in the long-term. At the moment though, there seems to be a lot of moving parts for the Hawks.
Miami Heat Season Review:
On May 29, 2022, Jimmy Butler and the Heat were one shot away from returning to the NBA Finals. Butler missed a transition three and Miami would fall to the Boston Celtics in the Game 7 Eastern Conference Finals. Despite that loss, the expectations were high going into the 2022-23 season. The Heat brought all of their key pieces back besides P.J. Tucker, and with Erik Spoelstra leading the way, many believed that they would be one of the top seeds in the conference again.
Well, it is safe to say that the Heat failed to meet their expectations in the regular season. Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo both missed a good chunk of time with various injuries. The trio of Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Butler remained on the floor for the most part. The Heat struggled to find any sort of consistency, and while they did make a late push for a top six seed, it was simply too little too late.
How Atlanta can win:
Atlanta has been far from consistent this season, but they do have a surplus of talented individuals. If they can focus on playing good team basketball and are able to get enough defensive stops, the Hawks could steal one on the road. Trae Young and Dejounte Murray led the way for a team that had the third best scoring offense in the league (118.4 points per game), so scoring the ball won’t be an issue.
The concern is on the defensive end, as they had the 26th best defense in terms of points allowed (118.1 points allowed per game). If they can mitigate their mistakes on that end of the floor, then they will be able to use their speed and quickness to get out in transition. De’Andre Hunter will have an important role to play, as he will likely get the assignment of guarding Jimmy Butler. The former Virginia Cavalier missed some games at the end of the regular season, but he should be able to go for their play-in matchup with the Heat.
Atlanta needs to defend Butler with physicality, and Hunter is the perfect player for that. Bogdan Bogdanović and Saddiq Bey are few guys to keep an eye on for production off the bench. The Hawks were only 17-24 on the road in the regular season, but don’t be surprised if they find a way to win in Miami. After all, the Heat have yet to show any sort of consistency either.
How Miami can win:
The Heat may not be as high of a seed as they were expected to be, but that should not take away from their dominance at home. Miami was 27-14 at the Kaseya Center in the regular season, which will benefit them in the play-in tournament. Sure, some of their top players are playing through nagging injuries, but we are in the postseason. Those things are not going to stop Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo from playing at their best.
Miami is going to win this game if, and only if their supporting cast plays well. Tyler Herro has been excellent this season, but will he be able to score 20 points on high efficiency. Can the Heat get good contributions from Kyle Lowry and Kevin Love off the bench? Those are the players that will determine the outcome of this game. The Heat have a good mixture of young talent and veterans who know what it takes to win in the postseason, which will show in this contest.
Game Prediction: Miami Heat- 112, Atlanta Hawks- 107
With the way this season has gone for both of these teams, I would not be surprised if the Hawks were to find a way to win this game. Trae Young and Dejounte Murray are usually good for 50-55 points, and Atlanta’s supporting cast has enough to keep opposing defenses honest. But as good as their offense can be, it’s a question mark of how effective the Hawks will be against one of the top defenses in the league. Atlanta will keep this one close, but Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro will lead the Heat to a tight victory in the end.