(Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon)
The Miami HEAT host the Southeast Division rival Washington Wizards tonight at AmericanAirlines Arena. The HEAT enter with a record of 14-6. The Wizards are 3-17 with a victory over the HEAT. Tip off is set for 7:30 PM; coverage starts on Sun Sports at 7 PM.1. We’re not too far removed from the HEAT losing to the Wizards up in Washington. What was the biggest issue in that game?
Couper Moorhead: For three quarters, that was probably the HEAT’s most lethargic defensive performance of the season. Rotations were more than a step slow, the Wizards were walking into the paint for offensive rebounds and while the Wizards actually played a very good game – moving the ball much better than they usually do --- they were still too often able to get a decent look with just one pass. By the fourth quarter, the HEAT put things together, played stronger defense and generally lost because of at least three open three pointers not falling in the final minutes, but players and coaches generally agreed afterwards that they should never have been in that position in the first place.
Danny Martinez: The defense early on was lacking. The Wizards were able to get open shots from all over the floor. There was little resistance. When there was some resistance, the HEAT often fouled. For a team that doesn’t foul much, the HEAT sent the Wizards to the line far too often. Late in the game the HEAT’s offense sputtered, but that’s just because the open shots didn’t fall. The process was good, the results just didn’t match.2. Without A.J. Price now in addition to no John Wall, how do the Wizards create shots?
Couper: The burden falls to Shaun Livingston now. It’s remarkable that Livingston is still in the league after his catastrophic knee injury so many years ago, but he’s a limited playmaker these days and isn’t likely to get things humming along without help from others. You’ll likely see more simple things like post-ups for Nene and off-ball screens for Bradley Beal, but Washington is also going to have to rely on Jordan Crawford to create more shots to himself. He can do that, and he can score in bunches, but Crawford isn’t going to be the heart of an efficient attack doing those things with too much volume.
Danny: I wondered how the Wizards were going to create shots in the first matchup, and they did just fine. Jordan Crawford is a volume shooter who’s unafraid of putting up the most contested of shots. Outside of him, the Wizards are going to rely on dribble penetration breaking the HEAT defense down. Shaun Livingston will carry a lot of that burden. I’m curious to see how it plays out.3. Was the Warriors loss a continuation of recent defensive issues, or did you see some improvement?
Couper: I actually thought the HEAT defended reasonably well for most of the game despite Klay Thompson’s five first-half threes, many of which were decently contested. Norris Cole has been a revelation on defense this season and continued his streak of shutting down point guards in holding Steph Curry to 1-of-4 shooting when they shared the court, but Cole was defending well even when the rest of the team was struggling, and rotations on the whole were more on point. Of course they lost the game on a defensive miscue – Shane Battier took responsibility for jumping out on the down-screen too early – but that had a bit more to do with the Warriors executing a brilliantly timed, well-spaced set than any long-standing issue that Miami has.
Danny: That was a pretty good defensive outing for the HEAT. The Warriors scored right around the league average points per possession, even with Klay Thompson making everything in the first half. The last possession was a defensive breakdown, but it was also a great play by a rookie and a savvy veteran. In my opinion, the Warriors game was definitely a step in the right direction.