Hawks go for season sweep over Heat
As bad as the Atlanta Hawks have been this season -- and they have been pretty awful at 22-42 -- they have still owned the Miami Heat.
In fact, when the Hawks visit the Heat on Monday night, Atlanta will go for a 4-0 season sweep. If the Hawks get the win, it would be their first 4-0 sweep over the Heat since the 1990-91 season.
Miami, which is just outside Eastern Conference playoff position at 28-34, will likely play Monday without perhaps their two top players in point guard Goran Dragic (calf injury) and center Hassan Whiteside (hip). Both are game-day decisions.
In addition, Heat forward James Johnson has been dealing with a shoulder injury, and his status is uncertain.
Atlanta, playing without leading star power forward John Collins, still had enough to beat the host Chicago Bulls 123-118 on Sunday.
Collins, who leads the Hawks in scoring (19.5) and rebounds (9.5), has an illness and is likely out for the Heat game, too. He did not travel to Chicago.
In the aforementioned win over the Bulls, Hawks guard Trae Young -- the fifth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft -- scored 18 points before getting ejected early in the third quarter after he was caught taunting Chicago's Kris Dunn.
Young leads the Hawks in assists (7.8) and is second in scoring (18.3), but Atlanta was able to prevail thanks to Alex Len's season-high 28 points.
"I'm proud of my teammates -- the way they played with everybody being out," Young told the media after Sunday's game. "Winning on the road is tough."
Len, a 7-1 center, took the spot of the 6-10 power forward Collins. Two other Hawks "bigs" are also out -- 6-11 center Miles Plumlee (knee) and 6-9 rookie power forward Omari Spellman (ankle).
The good news for the Hawks is that Young will return on Monday, and he has been red hot. In his three previous games -- prior to his ejection -- Young averaged a stunning 40.3 points.
Miami will certainly be highly aware of Young. The Heat are in a battle for their playoff lives, and the last thing Miami wants is another Young explosion. So far this season, the Heat have done a fairly good job on Young, holding him to 20.0 points per game in those three losses.
Overall, Miami has not won consecutive games since Jan. 27 and has gone 4-10 during that span.
Even so, Heat president Pat Riley expressed public confidence in his team on Sunday.
"I think we're going to make the playoffs," Riley said, "and that's what it's all about. But I think it will go down to the wire."
Riley added that he wasn't happy with Miami's place in the standings, but he has not given up, and the same can be said for the entire franchise.
On Saturday, power forward Kelly Olynyk scored 25 points as the Heat beat the Brooklyn Nets 117-88.
It was Miami's largest margin of victory all season and a welcome relief for Heat players who have blown some big leads lately.
"We needed to keep that lead," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said after the win over the Nets. "At this time of year, every team has games that come (in rapid succession). You don't always want that fourth-quarter battle."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 4, 2019