Rejuvenated Miami looks to continue its dominance of the Hawks when the Southeast Division rivals meet for the first time this season on Wednesday night in South Florida.
This series has been one-sided in recent years. The Heat swept four meetings last season, and have taken 14 of 15 games from the Hawks dating to Dec. 16, 2003. The lone Atlanta victory in that span was a 103-100 win at home on April 18, 2006.
Miami (2-8) has won 11 consecutive home games against the Hawks since losing 76-73 on Feb. 5, 2002, when current Heat star Dwyane Wade was a sophomore at Marquette. The Heat are 0-4 at home this year.
Wade did not play in the April 18, 2006 loss, and also missed the final three games between these clubs last season due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. He was outstanding in the one game when he did play, scoring 37 points and adding nine assists and seven rebounds as the Heat won 93-88 at Atlanta on Nov. 18, 2006.
Wade has only been back from his surgery for three games, but appears to be rounding into form. He had 23 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals in Saturday’s 91-87 victory at New Jersey.
“I’m not where I want to be but I’m happy to be playing and happy to help make a difference with my teammates,” Wade said. “We’re a different team when I’m in the game of course. I bring a different element to the team with my driving ability, to get my teammates shots and to put pressure on the defense.”
Penny Hardaway also looked like his old self. The veteran swingman, who was out of the league last season, enjoyed the best game of his comeback, scoring 16 points on 6-for-6 field-goal shooting including four 3-pointers.
Shaquille O’Neal, who was Hardaway’s teammate in Orlando from 1993-96, added 18 points as the Heat snapped their three-game losing streak.
“Finally, tonight it all came together. I’ve been working so hard,” Hardaway said. “These last two games are huge because our confidence is at another level. We may be the most confident team at 2 and 8 in the history of the NBA. We know where we’re going. We’ve got our leader back and we’re taking great strides in the right direction.”
The Hawks can’t honestly say the same right now. Atlanta (3-7) has lost three straight games and five of six after Tuesday night’s 95-83 home defeat to San Antonio.
Joe Johnson scored 20 points to lead the Hawks, who could not fully recover from a deficit that reached as high as 24 points in the third quarter.
“You can’t chalk it up as just one of those days, because we turned it on late,” said Atlanta’s Josh Childress, who had nine points off the bench. “No, it’s not a broken record. It’s more like we have a little scratch on it.”
The Hawks are still looking for their first win of the season on the road, where they are 0-4 and have yet to score more than 96 points.