The Miami Heat can expect to have a slightly different obstacle in their path Tuesday night when they seek to complete an early season hat trick over the visiting Atlanta Hawks.
The Heat beat the Hawks twice in a three-day, home-and-home series in October, prevailing 112-97 at home on a night when Atlanta star Trae Young suffered a sprained right ankle, then 106-97 two days later in Atlanta when Young had to take the night off.
The Heat figure to see a fully healthy Young this time around, with the second-year scoring machine having gone for 39 and 30 points in his last two outings.
Young is averaging 34.4 points over his last eight games.
The Hawks lost the first five of those eight, but have since won two of three, including 122-107 at Charlotte on Sunday in the opener of a three-game trip.
Young admitted over the weekend that’s it’s no consolation winning individual scoring duels when his team suffers a defeat.
“I hate that feeling when I play good individually, numbers-wise, but we don’t win,” he insisted. “Because you can’t enjoy it, especially if you’re a competitor like me.”
Young lasted just 11 minutes, scoring five points, before suffering his ankle injury when the Hawks lost the opener of their earlier double-header against the Heat. He then had to watch Miami rookies Tyler Herro (29) and Kendrick Nunn (17) combine for 46 points in the run-away win.
Two nights later, it was much of the same — except that Young was a fulltime observer. Nunn had 28 points and Herro 17 to complete the sweep.
The early attention-grabbers were the start of something big for the two rookies, one (Herro) a high-profile collegian at Kentucky who was a first-round pick, the other (Nunn) a relative unknown at Oakland University who went undrafted.
Among rookies, Nunn began the week third in scoring at 15.3 points per game, one spot ahead of Herro (14.5). Nunn also ranked second in assists (3.4), while Herro was tied for eighth in rebounds (4.0).
It’s probably a stretch — short of a sooner-than-expected comeback by Zion Williamson — for anybody other than Ja Morant to believe they can win Rookie of the Year honors this season given the start that the Memphis standout has experienced, but Nunn surely hasn’t given up the fight.
“I definitely feel like I’m the Rookie of the Year,” he boasted recently to reporters. “It’s early, but the way I’ve been performing, definitely, I’m in the running for that.”
Nunn also is in the running for the unofficial title as Greatest Undrafted Rookie in NBA History.
It’s been 10 seasons since any undrafted rookie averaged 15 or more points in his first season (Reggie Williams finished at 15.2 in 2010), and 70 since one averaged more than Nunn’s current 15.3 (Frankie Brian, 17.8 in 1949-50).
Miami’s three-headed rookie monster includes Chris Silva, who ranks first in rebounds (84) and blocks (14), and third in total points (82) among the NBA’s current two-way players.
Silva totaled eight points and seven rebounds in the two earlier wins over the Hawks.
–Field Level Media