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The Atlanta Hawks will attempt to continue their dominance over the Miami Heat when the two clubs meet for the third time this season on Sunday in Atlanta.
Atlanta is in the midst of a ground-floor rebuild with young players that has kept the Hawks near the bottom of the standings in the Eastern Conference. But the club has found a way to win both meetings against the Heat this season.
Two of Atlanta's 11 victories have come against Miami. The Hawks prevailed 123-118 on Nov. 3 in Atlanta and won a 115-113 nail-biter on Nov. 27 in Miami.
Atlanta enters the game having lost three in a row on the road after Friday's 144-112 setback at Milwaukee. The Hawks had won five of six previous games prior to their current skid, but have suffered without the scoring and leadership of injured veterans Kent Bazemore (ankle) and Taurean Prince (ankle).
"We just didn't have it (against the Bucks)," Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce said. "That's part of our growing pains and part of our growth, to understand that you have to go through these things."
Atlanta has been boosted by the play of second-year forward John Collins. The Wake Forest product had only 12 points and seven rebounds against the Bucks, but has posted a double-double in 10 of his last 13 games. Collins leads the team in scoring (18.5) and rebounding (10.2).
While Bazemore is out, the Hawks have started Daniel Hamilton at guard for three games. He set a career-high with seven rebounds against Washington and matched his career-high with eight points. But Hamilton scored just two points against the Bucks.
The Heat have hovered around the .500 mark most of the season and their 115-109 over Washington on Friday pushed them one game over. They have won three of their last five, which came on the heels of five-game winning streak.
"It's definitely a good mental note," guard Josh Richardson said. "A reason to be positive and excited going forward. We just have to keep rolling now."
Richardson, who averages 18.5 points, is the team's leading scorer. He has connected on multiple 3-point baskets in 13 straight games - eclipsing the 12 last accomplished by Damon James in 2004.
Dion Waiters returned to the lineup two games ago. He had seven points and 10 minutes against Cleveland but sat out Friday against Washington.
"I was just really excited to get back," said Waiters, who had missed almost a year since having ankle surgery in January 2017. "It was nice, all the hard work you put in, to have those shots fall. It felt good. I had fun."
The Heat are getting great production from their bench. Over the last 18 games, the reserves are averaging 47.7 points, have outscored the opponents 17 times and scored at least 50 points in seven of those games.
"One of our biggest strengths is our depth and versatility," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We should be a team with seven or eight guys in double figures every night. It shows we have a lot of guys that can hurt you."
The Heat are without Goran Dragic, who had knee surgery and will be out until the All-Star break. Veteran Dwyane Wade was listed as questionable with an illness vs. Wizards, but played 25 minutes.
Updated January 5, 2019