For the first time since its inception in 2020, the NBA Play-In Tournament will feature a rematch from the previous year’s playoffs.
The 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament gets underway when the 7-seed Heat host the 8-seed Hawks, with the winner advancing to face the 2-seed Celtics in the opening round. Just one year ago, the Heat owned the East’s top seed and eliminated the 8-seeded Hawks in five games to open the postseason.
Plenty of things have changed since then, but many of the key players remain the same. In Miami, Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler are still the guys. And while Adebayo is the only one to earn an All-Star selection this year, Butler has turned in an All-NBA caliber season in which he averaged 22.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game.
There are few players scarier than Butler in a winner-take-all situation.
On Atlanta’s side of things, things still begin with Trae Young, but he has a new backcourt mate in Dejounte Murray to help make life easier. The backcourt duo leads a talented lineup that also features Clint Capela, John Collins and De’Andre Hunter.
Both the Heat and Hawks land in the Play-In Tournament after seasons full of ups and downs. Miami dealt with its fair share of injuries along the way, but is still one of the NBA’s toughest teams. Atlanta has hovered around .500 for months now but has a newfound sense of direction after the midseason hire of head coach Quin Snyder.
Which team will be shipping up to Boston to open up the NBA Playoffs? The Sporting News has you covered with everything you need to know ahead of the Play-In Tournament game between the Heat and Hawks.
Heat vs. Hawks 2022-23 regular season series
Miami took three of four meetings with Atlanta this season, but every matchup was decided by single digits.
- Nov. 27, 2022: Heat 106, Hawks 98
- Jan. 16, 2023: Hawks 121, Heat 113
- March 4, 2023: Heat 117, Hawks 109
- March 6, 2023: Heat 130, Hawks 128
Butler, who appeared in three of the four games, averaged 25.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.3 rebounds against the Hawks this season.
Young struggled mightily in his four games against Miami, averaging 19.8 points and 9.8 assists while shooting 35.6 percent from the field and 20.8 percent from 3-point range.
During the final meeting of the season, Butler fell one assist shy of a triple-double, finishing with 26 points (on 8-of-14 shooting), 10 rebounds and nine assists to lead Miami to a narrow win.
Hard to stop Jimmy once he gets to the paint 💪
He led the way last night with 26pts, 9rebs & 9asts pic.twitter.com/nGxu99jYEY
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 7, 2023
Heat vs. Hawks key storyline: The Dejounte Murray effect
Defensively, the Heat have all of the necessary personnel to make life difficult for Young. Historically, that’s exactly what they’ve done.
During last year’s playoffs, Miami’s length was a problem for the two-time All-Star, who averaged 15.4 points and 6.0 assists in the opening round while shooting 31.9 percent from the field and 18.4 percent from 3-point range. Miami also forced Young to commit 31 turnovers in just five games.
In one series, the Heat laid out the blueprint for slowing down Young, who, at the time, was Atlanta’s primary — and secondary — ballhandler.
In an attempt to combat such strategies moving forward, the Hawks made a big swing to acquire Murray this offseason, bringing in a player capable of lightening Young’s playmaking load and making it harder for teams to go all-in on shutting him down.
The two are still adjusting to life alongside one another, but Murray has been a key contributor for the Hawks, posting averages of 20.5 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.3 rebounds over 74 games this season.
Tuesday’s Play-In game will be a great measure of what Murray can be for the Hawks now and down the line, as they look to make strides toward becoming perennial contenders.
Heat vs. Hawks start time, TV channels
- Date: Tuesday, April 11
- Time: 7:30 p.m. ET | 4:30 p.m. PT
- TV channel: TNT
In the United States, Heat vs. Hawks will air nationally on TNT. Viewers in the U.S. can also stream Heat vs. Hawks on Sling TV.
Fans in the U.S. can watch postseason games from the NBA Play-In Tournament through the NBA Finals on Sling TV, which is now offering HALF OFF your first month! Stream Sling Orange for $20 in your first month to catch all the games on TNT, ESPN & ABC. For games on NBA TV, subscribe to Sling Orange & Sports Extra for $27.50 in your first month. Local regional blackout restrictions apply.
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Heat vs. Hawks betting odds
Heat: -5.5 (-110) spread; -215 ML
Hawks: +5.5 (-110) spread; +185 ML
Odds will be provided by DraftKings.
Heat vs. Hawks prediction
Prediction: Heat win
While Young thrived in last year’s Play-In Tournament, his struggles against the Heat are far too much to ignore. Couple that with Butler’s ability to take over in a winner-take-all situation, and the Heat get the upper hand in this one, especially on their home floor.
Outside of Butler, Miami should get the aggressive version of Adebayo, who should be engaged from the start given the amount of depth in Atlanta’s frontcourt.
Miami knows it has a chance to handle business to move on and face Boston Saturday. That’s all the motivation this Heat team needs.