NBA: Trae Young leads Hawks into Miami for play-in clash
Atlanta star Trae Young has some unfinished business when his Hawks visit the Miami Heat on Tuesday night for an Eastern Conference play-in game.
The winner of that game will earn the seventh seed in the playoffs, matching up against the Boston Celtics. The loser will get a chance to earn the No. 8 seed and a date with the Milwaukee Bucks. To get there, the Heat-Hawks loser would have to beat the winner between the other Eastern Conference play-in game between the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls.
Last season, the Heat eliminated Young and the Hawks from the first round of the playoffs in five games.
Young, who finished 10th in the league in scoring this season (26.2 points), has struggled — relative to his overall numbers — throughout his career against the Heat.
In 17 career games versus Miami, Young is averaging 21.4 points on 40.2 percent shooting, including 32.8 percent on 3-pointers. In four games this season, Young averaged 19.8 points on 35.6 percent shooting, including 20.8 percent from deep.
For his career against all teams, Young shoots 43.7 percent from the floor and 35.1 percent from behind the arc.
Given all of that, it’s no wonder Miami is 3-1 against Atlanta this season. On March 4, for example, Miami held Young to eight points on 2-for-13 shooting as the Heat prevailed 117-109.
The Hawks closed their regular season on Sunday with a 120-114 loss at the Boston Celtics. It was a meaningless game in the sense that playoff seeding didn’t change with the result, and that fact was not lost on Hawks coach Quin Snyder.
“Our focus needs to go immediately to Miami,” Snyder said after the game. “We need to prepare.”
De’Andre Hunter was the only Hawks starter to play against Boston as Snyder rested his other regulars, including Young.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did something similar, resting leading scorer Jimmy Butler in Miami’s final two games.
In addition, Spoelstra rested starters Bam Adebayo, Kevin Love and Tyler Herro in Miami’s loss at the Washington Wizards on Friday. Reserve point guard Kyle Lowry was also rested against Washington.
Miami bounced back to beat the Orlando Magic 123-110 in their regular-season finale.
“We’re getting confidence in how we’re playing,” Spoelstra said.
Butler faced the Hawks three times this season, averaging 25.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists. For the season, he is averaging 22.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists.
Miami’s other stars are Adebayo, who is averaging 20.4 points, and Herro, who scores at a clip of 20.1 per game.
In four games against Atlanta, Adebayo averaged 24.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists. Herro struggled in those four games, averaging 14.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists. Herro shot 35.9 percent from the floor and 21.2 percent from deep.
Overall, Miami went 44-38 this season, nine fewer wins than in 2021-22. This season, the Heat never had a winning or losing streak longer than four games.
Atlanta, which won 43 games last season, finished this campaign at 41-41. The Hawks started a season-worst four-game losing streak in December. Then, in January, Atlanta won a season-high five consecutive games.