• Golden State Warriors at Miami HEAT Game Thread and Preview

    Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT host the Golden State Warriors Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Warriors 107-95 in their last meeting on January 10. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: What did the HEAT do well against the Milwaukee Bucks to keep their winning streak going? Couper Moorhead: While we almost always focus in on the defensive side of things in this space, when the HEAT put up one of their five most efficient offensive games of the season we have to change things up. It definitely, and obviously, helps when you shoot 13-of-30 from three – especially with Dion Waiters going 5-of-8 and Goran Dragic hitting from about 30 feet off the dribble – but Miami once again shot over 30 shots in the paint and over 60 percent at the rim. That’s almost always a positive combination.  The HEAT started out the season getting to the rim more than anyone else, but the actual finishing wasn’t there. Some of that involved players needing to regress to their usual averages, but the uptick in finishing lately has just as much to do with the team’s philosophy on player development. The coaching staff doesn’t sit back and say, ‘Well, he’s just not a very good finisher’. They go out and do something about it. And that sort of philosophy trickles down to the players as well, with Waiters saying that Dragic has been giving him some helpful tips about finishing in the paint. The record may not be there, but there’s overwhelming evidence that everyone involved is committed to getting better. Joe Beguiristain: As a whole, the HEAT’s offense was sharp once again, as four guys scored in double-figures and the team shot 53.2 percent on the night. As usual, a lot of that had to do with either Goran Dragić getting into the paint or James Johnson initiating offense. In fact, both players led the team with six assists apiece against Milwaukee. One of the primary beneficiaries of those passes was Dion Waiters, who tied a career-high with 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting, including 5-of-8 from downtown. While Waiters’ barrage from deep was important in the win, he also continued to show his improved touch around the basket. Take this stat for example: the 25-year-old has shot 14-of-21 (66.7 percent) in the restricted area over his last three contests. When you pair that with his perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the left corner three over that same timespan, you have a player who is hitting his stride offensively.  “It opens everything else up when you’re getting to the basket,” Waiters said after practice on Sunday. “The defense collapses, you got the open space, you find the open guys and it makes the game easier. I like to play inside-out.”

    2: In playing the Warriors tough the last time out, is there anything Miami can build off from that performance? Couper: Rising to the level of competition, which the HEAT don’t usually have much trouble doing given how competitive their players are, and taking advantage when an advantage presents itself. The HEAT hung in that game, and even led by a point at halftime, because they played incredibly hard on both ends but also because they were able to get Hassan Whiteside the ball in great position – lobs and early seals in the paint – with regularity. Though Zaza Pachulia and Draymond Green are both strong defenders, neither has a particularly long reach. So when Whiteside rolls to the rim after setting a pick, there isn’t a ton the Warriors can do to defend an on-target lob unless the weakside help is really on-point. Yes, Golden State has their own advantages with the ridiculous amount of shooting they can put on the floor – remember, Klay Thompson didn’t play last time out – but you start with getting to your strengths. Joe: Definitely. In that last matchup on January 10, Hassan Whiteside took it to the Warriors and utilized his size-advantage on Draymond Green from the very get-go. As a result, the 7-footer notched a double-double before halftime. Throughout the contest, Whiteside rolled to the rim with a full head of steam and threw down some thunderous jams. Obviously, Miami should exploit that matchup again on Monday to try and combat Golden State’s explosive offense. With Dragić and Waiters on a roll right now, the Warriors will have to pick their poison in the pick-and-roll game. Dragić has made shots from nearly everywhere on the floor of late, while Waiters’ improvement was chronicled in my previous response. Although Golden State has the personnel to disrupt the HEAT’s rhythm offensively, Miami is playing its best ball of the year and has come very close in the past against the Warriors.

    3: How have the Warriors changed with Kevin Durant in their lineup? Couper: Well, they’ve gone from being one of the best offensive teams of all time to . . . an even better version of one of the best offensive teams of all time. Stylistically, Durant slides right into Harrison Barnes spot in all those incredible small-ball lineups as a power forward pretty seamlessly, but overall he’s changed the complexion of their usage. Before, it was Steph Curry with a usage rate over 30, Thompson a little below that and then a very balanced number of shots spread out over the rest of the team. Adding another incredibly high-usage player has reduced the amount of offense for everyone else as Curry is down a few percentage points and nobody outside of Curry, Durant and Thompson has a usage rate over 20. This is, in part, because Steve Kerr can stagger Curry and Durant as primary ballhandlers when he chooses, which means they can share the ball when they are on court together and then get shifts where they can dominate the ball as if they were alone. That might sound like a taking turns type of offense, but the Warriors also average a remarkable 31 assists a game. They can have dominant ballhandlers, incredible shooters, and still share the ball as much or more than anyone else. So, hey, they’re pretty good. And Durant can be one heck of a defender, too. Joe: Adding one of the best players in the league to an already stacked team obviously makes Golden State better, but Steph Curry has had to make a bit of an adjustment with Kevin Durant in the fray. After a tough month of December, Curry has bounced back to average 27 points and seven assists per game on 47 percent shooting in his 10 games in January. While his three-point percentage is still lower than it has been, it should increase as the season continues. Other than Curry and Durant still getting used to one another, the Warriors have had pretty much no hiccups this year. Despite the feeling out process, Golden State leads the league in nearly every advanced metric. That just goes to show how talented and well coached the team is. Speaking of which, Coach Spo lauded Steve Kerr for the job he’s done with the Warriors. “I think what he’s done a tremendous job of is building a team culture there,” Spoelstra said after practice on Sunday. “Guys have bought into it, to their standards, to what they feel is important, and have been able to get some of the best players in the game to sacrifice and commit to a team game, commit to team defense. That’s not easy to do in this league.” *INJURY UPDATES: Tyler Johnson (strained left shoulder) did not participate in Monday's shootaround and is officially listed as questionable. For the Warriors, both Andre Iguodala (rest) and David West (non-displaced fracture, left thumb) are out.  Highlights: January 10-HEAT at Warriors February 24-Warriors at HEAT Game Notes: The HEAT have won three straight and are 14-30 on the year. The Warriors have won seven in a row and stand at 38-6 on the season. Hassan Whiteside leads Miami in rebounds (14.2) and blocks (2.1) per contest. Kevin Durant leads Golden State in points (26.0) and blocks (1.7) per game.   Efficiencies (Rank): HEAT Offense: 101.2 (28) HEAT Defense: 104.7 (11) Warriors Offense: 113.6 (1) Warriors Defense: 101.0 (1)

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