Series preview: Miami Heat vs. Atlanta Hawks

Published April 17, 2022, 3:00 PMJon Carlos Rodriguez

After surviving the Hornets and the Cavaliers in the play-in, the Hawks now face the daunting task of battling the top-seeded Heat.

The moment the Cleveland crowd started chanting not-so-nice words directed at Trae Young, that’s the moment they lost their chance at a playoff spot. Just stop doing that to Trae. He was having such a miserable night already, scoring only six points in the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers. His Atlanta Hawks trailed by 10, and appeared to have finally lost hope for another miracle. We never learn.

Come second half, Young did to the Cavs what he did to the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers – taking their hearts out with his own two hands. He wasn’t surgical about it. He was brutal. Scoring 32 of his 38 points in the third and fourth quarters, Trae Young again carried the Hawks further than expected, shimmied, then waved goodbye like a bad guy.

All that, just to face the top-seeded Miami Heat in the first round. All the momentum and adrenaline that the Hawks are now undoubtedly high from won’t matter much against a poised and controlled Miami Heat squad. The Heat and the Hawks are two teams that are so different in style, which makes this series a fun and interesting watch.

Most compelling storyline 

It’s rare that we get two teams who are embracing villain-type roles face off like this. For the Heat, much of the disrespect comes from their unexpected rise to No. 1 in the East, where the favorites are teams not named the Miami Heat. Yet, the Heat plowed through the competition quietly, without the sauce of a Trae Young shimmy.

Young has made it perfectly clear to anyone who doubts him that he’s out to destroy. He’s at an ideal spot right now–climbing up from the 12th seed in January to going through the Charlotte Hornets and the Cavs to an eighth seed. It’s the perfect angle to keep the villainy going. This is the type of environment where the Hawks thrive, as they’ve proven time and time again. They get to test that theory again versus the Heat. 


The casualty from the Hawks’ scrappy entrance into the playoffs is Clint Capela, who hyperextended his knee against Cleveland. Per reports, it seems that he suffered no structural damage and will have to be re-evaluated after a week. If he goes on to miss more than two games versus the Heat, that could be the game-ender for the Hawks. 

The Hawks’ frontline is already thin without John Collins. They can’t afford to lose another big in Capela, who leads the team in rebounds (11.9) and blocks (1.3). Reserve Onyeka Okongwu, a bright spot whenever Capela was out during the regular season, will likely be thrown into the fire to defend Bam Adebayo.

If Okongwu is able to hold his ground (and maintain his Capela-like block average of 1.3 rejections per game) on defense, then it would definitely buy the Hawks some time until Capela returns.


Trae Young’s second-half explosion against the Cavs is what will be talked about immensely, further covering up the mess that was the first half. The Cavs looked to expose Young on defense every chance they got, and Young did little to adjust. He couldn’t help it. So what he did instead, was just go ahead and match the points he gave up.

The Heat might also look to target Young on defense because that’s one of the Hawks’ biggest flaws at this point. And the Heat knows about this because they have the same problem of their own.

Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, despite their valuable contributions on offense, are weak links in the Heat defense. If the Hawks’ wing gunners Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter find their stroke, then the Hawks might stand a chance to keep it competitive.

The Heat though may prove to be too deep for a hurting Hawks team, which will continue to rely on Young. Just a tip: their fans should not give into the temptation of chanting you-know-what to you-know-who.