ATLANTA, Ga. (SportsDirect Inc.) — The Miami Heat look to pick up where they left off before the All-Star break when they visit the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.
The Heat’s 117-109 win at Houston on Feb. 15 gave them 14 wins in their final 16 games prior to the intermission, and a quiet trade deadline day left the squad content to move forward with an improving roster.
“Their commitment to becoming better basketball players has really opened my eyes to them,” team president Pat Riley told reporters Thursday when discussing several role players who have stepped up in the past month. “And possibly how I see them going down the road with us.”
Among those Riley was alluding to is shooting guard Dion Waiters, who had 20 points in a 116-93 win over Atlanta earlier this month and scored 23 in each of his final two games before the break.
The Hawks made a pair of moves this week by acquiring Ersan Ilyasova from Philadelphia and shipping fellow forward Mike Scott to Phoenix for cash, which could add more scoring for a team that has mostly exchanged wins and losses of late.
Atlanta plays seven of its first nine games out of the break at home, where it defeated Miami 103-95 on Dec. 7.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Miami), FSN Southeast (Atlanta)
ABOUT THE HEAT (25-32): While the deadline day passed with no drama in Miami, the team could be bolstered by the return of guard Josh Richardson (ankle), who was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice and is expected to return from a 15-game layoff. Richardson had 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting to go along with three blocks and two steals in the only game he played against Atlanta this season. Waiters emerged while Richardson was out and is averaging 19.8 points while shooting 51.4 percent in February.
ABOUT THE HAWKS (32-24): Atlanta comes out of the break ranked 25th in the NBA in 3-point shooting (34.1 percent) and 22nd in made 3s per game (8.9), an issue aided by the presence of Ilyasova, who is averaging a career-high two 3-pointers a contest. “We definitely added some shooting,” forward Kent Bazemore told reporters. “We are looking to make this a home for him. He’s one of the best shooters in the game as far as playing the stretch-4 position. If there is one thing we need is a little bit more shooting.” Forward Thabo Sefolosha (groin) was removed from the injury report Thursday and is expected to return to the lineup after missing nine games.
1. Heat PG Goran Dragic is averaging 24 points against Atlanta this season while making 5-of-9 3-pointers.
2. Ilyasova averaged 15 points and 6.7 rebounds in three games against Miami earlier this season while still with Philadelphia.
3. Hawks C Dwight Howard went into the break ranked second in the NBA in shooting (64.4 percent) and fourth in rebounding (13.0).
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