(Sports Network) - The defending champion Miami Heat head to Atlanta Friday night for a Southeast Division matchup against the Hawks.
The Heat have won three in a row after an embarrassing loss to the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden one week ago. All three victories were at home and this tilt begins a six-game road trip that ends out west.
"These trips benefit us," said LeBron James. "I'm real excited. It's another opportunity for us to come together."
The Heat lead the NBA in scoring at 110 ppg, but rank in the bottom-third points allowed (99.8). Miami has been awesome in its last two, thrashing the Phoenix Suns by 25 and the Brooklyn Nets by 30, 103-73, on Wednesday.
"It was good to go out and play the type of ball that we did tonight," James said after the rout of the Nets. "We want to defend at a high level and share the ball offensively and we were able to do both."
The 73 points surrendered to the Nets was the lowest against the Heat this season by 26 points. They held Brooklyn to 37.5 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from the 3-point line.
Miami combined for 25 assists, led by James' eight.
The Hawks also head west after Friday's contest. They play four on the left coast, but Atlanta has already proven itself against some of the league's best in this early portion of the season.
They beat the Western Conference champions, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in Oklahoma City, then got a hard-fought home win over the Indiana Pacers. The Hawks closed out the Pacers on the strength of an 18-0 run in the fourth quarter.
"They tested our team early. It's only our third game, but I was impressed with our resiliency," said Al Horford. "We kept fighting and kept making plays. We were able to pull it out. It is better to get an ugly win than a loss. We'll take it, we just need to learn from the game."
Josh Smith missed the Thunder game with a right ankle sprain, but returned against the Pacers and played 35 minutes. He only had 11 points and five boards, but contributed hugely late. Smith's offensive rebound in the final frame led to Jeff Teague's 3-pointer, which gave the Hawks the lead. Then, Smith hit Lou Williams for an uncontested dunk after a timeout to give Atlanta a three-point lead, which it never relinquished.
It would behoove the Hawks to get sharp-shooter Kyle Korver going. He is averaging a meager 5.7 ppg. and shooting 29 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc.
Miami has won five straight in Atlanta and nine of the last 11 overall against the Hawks.