Heat coach praises Hawks’ improvement

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he has noticed the progress the Hawks have made since the teams met last month.

“I’m really impressed with them,” Spoelstra said before Monday’s game. “I am. I mentioned this to our team today. I’m as impressed with them right now as any team we’ve played so far in terms of their improvement. You can see a very specific system and style of how they are trying to play and how fast that has been implemented.

“You know this team is going to continue to get better and they will be a much different team (come) springtime.”

Limit turnovers: In the Hawks' 104-88 loss to the Heat on Nov. 19, they committed 24 turnovers. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said taking care of the ball is important against anyone but especially against the Heat.

“They turn teams over a lot,” Budenholzer said. “There are so many stats they are No. 1 in. I think they are No. 1 in creating steals. They are No. 1 in creating turnovers. They are No. 1 in scoring points off the turnovers. It’s not just us. It’s everybody. If you can take care of the ball, it will at least give you a chance to be in the game. Those turnovers and those runs they go on because of those turnovers, it really gives them that separation on a lot of nights.”

Injury update: Gustavo Ayon had his status upgraded to questionable for Monday's game. He dressed and was available. Ayon (left ankle sprain, leg contusion) had missed six straight games with the injury. Cartier Martin (left ankle sprain) missed his third straight game.

Holiday giving: DeMarre Carroll is paying the December natural gas bills for four personally selected families for the holidays, totaling $1,500. The families are all SCANA Energy customers and reside in Atlanta, Douglasville, Ellenwood and Roswell. Carroll has been paying the gas bills of families in need each holiday season since his first year in the league in 2009 as a tribute to his grandmother.

“My grandmother is from the ‘hood and she used to take care of a lot of people’s bills even though she was struggling herself,” Carroll said. “That was her good deed. Ever since she did that, I told myself that whatever I made it, I was going to take care of people who are less fortunate than me.”

More 3's for Horford: While Paul Millsap has already set career-bests for 3-pointers made (23) and attempted (56) this season, Budenholzer was asked if he would like to see Al Horford shoot more from behind the arc.

“I’m a little disappointed the Al hasn’t shot more,” Budenholzer said. “He’s made a couple. Each time he makes one, I tell him he’s got more in him.”

Horford has made 2 of 9 attempts from 3-point range.