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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Dwight Howard was considered part of the reason why the Houston Rockets underachieved last season but he’s fitting in much better with his hometown Atlanta Hawks. Howard has seven double-doubles in his first nine games with Atlanta and looks to record another one when the Hawks visit the Miami Heat on Tuesday.

Atlanta has won its past four games and Howard is optimistic about his new club and meshing well with coach Mike Budenholzer.

“We are really understanding each other, and it’s good,” Howard told reporters. “I love having him as a coach. From the first time I met him until now, we’ve had a great connection. We want to continue that. I love how he holds me accountable every single day to be the guy for the team to lead them in the right direction.”

Miami (2-7) is struggling without longtime franchise stalwart Dwyane Wade and Monday’s 94-90 loss to the San Antonio Spurs was the team’s fifth consecutive defeat. The Heat are averaging just 89.6 points during their skid and haven’t scored more than 95 points during the stretch.

The Hawks (7-2) four-game winning streak includes a stellar road win at Cleveland as a revamped roster has come together quickly. All-Star power forward Paul Millsap is averaging a team-best 16.7 points, new starting point guard Dennis Schroder is averaging 16.3 points and a team-high 6.2 assists while Howard is contributing 15.2 points and a team-leading 12.4 rebounds.

“I think we’re close to where we can be as a team,” Howard said. “One thing I can say is that this group is hungry. Coach is holding us accountable every single day to get better, continue to grow as a team. We want that. I think all of us want to win really bad.”

Dion Waiters is the new Miami shooting guard and he was on his game with a season-best 27 points against the Spurs after scoring four or fewer points in three of the previous four games.

“I’m just trying to be aggressive, just trying to lead out there and pick up the energy,” Waiters said the loss to San Antonio. “We were right there but we just couldn’t find ways at the end. We’re making mental mistakes that we can’t afford from a young team.”

One player who is thriving is center Hassan Whiteside, who had 23 points and 17 rebounds against the Spurs for his eighth double-double and ninth straight double-digit rebounding game.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Heat went 3-1 against the Hawks last season.

2. Miami PG Goran Dragic (ankle) is slated to miss his third straight game.

3. Schroder has scored in double digits in all nine contests, topped by a career-best 28 in the win over Cleveland.

PREDICTION: Heat 102, Hawks 101

By SportsDirect Inc.

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