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  1. Joe B.

    Thank You

    From all of us at the Miami HEAT, thank you for your unwavering support all season long.
  2. Photo Credit: David Dow With the pain of missing the playoffs by the slimmest of margins ingrained in their memory, the HEAT entered the 2017-18 season seeking redemption. Take a look back at how Miami achieved that goal here.
  3. Photo Credit: David Dow The Miami HEAT face the Philadelphia 76ers Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Philadelphia leads the series 3-1. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: What can we learn from Philadelphia’s late push to a Game 4 victory? Couper Moorhead: This won’t be a comforting statistic for anyone to read, but the 76ers were the first team to win a playoff game with 26 or more turnovers since 1986. For that to come up as the difference between a tied series and going on the road down 3-1 certainly can’t be easy for HEAT, but that’s the reality of the situation. Those turnovers, and 18 Miami steals, were by and large the reason the HEAT were playing with around a 10-point lead for much of the game. They were out attacking passing lanes, getting deflections (with over 20 for the third-straight game) and contesting every Philadelphia three possible (22.6 percent from distance). It was, in so many words, the HEAT playing a very HEAT game in every way you would expect, from the physicality to the discipline on display defensively, where they cut off drives and recovered to shooters. They were in control of both the game and the score. So how did the Sixers come back despite all of that? Six quick points from Ersan İlyasova, including a tough three, at the end of the third made it was four-point game headed into the final period. And then Philadelphia’s defense came alive, holding Miami to just 19 points in the period. And maybe that’s all there is to really learn. You can play some of your best basketball, but in a closely contested series against a talented opponent just one stretch of mistakes can cost you a handful on the scoreboard. Miami has done enough to beat a good number of teams, it just wasn’t quite enough to beat Philadelphia on Saturday. Joe Beguiristain: We just continued to see how tough the 76ers are. Even with some great defense by Miami for most of the contest (the HEAT totaled 18 steals, including seven from Josh Richardson) and a late offensive surge by Dwyane Wade (12 points on 5-of-10 shooting in the fourth), Philadelphia never lost its composure. Much like in Game 3, the 76ers upped their defensive pressure and came through with timely offensive rebounds to escape with the narrow victory despite committing a whopping 27 turnovers. While J.J. Redick and Ben Simmons made some big plays late, the HEAT did a great job against Joel Embiid and made his catches tough throughout. In fact, Hassan Whiteside held Embiid to just 1-of-8 shooting and an unreal five turnovers. Bam Adebayo, meanwhile, fared just as well and limited the Cameroonian to 0-of-3 shooting and three turnovers. It would be unreasonable to expect that once again, but it will take that kind of effort from both bigs if Miami wants to come out ahead this time around. 2: Are there any adjustments Miami can make to try and force a Game 6? Couper: Erik Spoelstra will likely take a look at everything, from making lineup changes to changing defensive coverages to shifting offensive responsibilities. He’s not one to leave things on the table. But for everything he’ll likely look at, it’s very possible that there aren’t actually many major changes that need to be made. You go down 3-1 in a series and it’s easy to think drastic adjustments are in line, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, and we’ve said this here before, the best adjustment is just doing what you’ve been doing and doing it better. The HEAT have already been doing things very, very well, but if being even better than that is what it takes, then so be it. As Spoelstra has said a number of times in this series, that’s the challenge. Joe: At this point, I don’t think there is much to change or adjust for either team. Although Miami is down 3-1, this has been a highly competitive series between two teams that really get after it. Sure, Erik Spoelstra might make a few minor tweaks to his rotation based on player performance, but that’s been the case all year long. And as Coup mentioned in his first response, the HEAT have executed well enough to win most of these games, so it’s really just a matter of sustaining that high level of play for longer periods of time. At the end of the day, Miami just needs to keep up its defensive activity to make up for the size disparity and continue to attack in the pick-and-roll to create more openings on the other end. We’ll see how it all plays out. 3: The HEAT have led at halftime of each game this series. What can they do better to hold leads in the second half? Couper: Something Dwyane Wade emphasized a number of times following Game 4 was that the Sixers make you pay for every single mistake you make. If you take your foot off the gas for just a couple of minutes, those minutes are going to cost you. Now, it’s probably not fair to say the HEAT have ever really taken their foot off the gas given how consistently hard they have been playing on the defensive end, but they have certainly had some offensive droughts that have allowed the Sixers to make up some ground. That’s not always to say they stop getting good shots or don’t run their offense, but even going cold on wide open shots for a minute or two is enough to turn a game – such as at the end of the third quarter on Saturday, which snowballed into an extended Philadelphia run – in a series where both teams are in overdrive. That’s also been a bit of a trend at times for Miami this season, where they’ll have one down six-minute stretch even in games where they’re otherwise topping 26-28 in a quarter, and trends like that can carry over to the postseason even if you can minimize them. Spoelstra has said he’s been looking for a complete game from his team at times this season. He’s been getting complete effort, but the HEAT might just need complete offense to start a comeback. And they’ll have to do it against a team that’s proved to be capable of truly elite level defense. Joe: Although the HEAT have done a great job of building early leads, the 76ers have responded well time and time again down the stretch. Thanks to Philadelphia’s fusion of length and discipline, the team has made things quite difficult on Miami in the halfcourt more often than not. As such, it’ll behoove the HEAT to push the pace as much as possible and get some easy buckets in transition. But if the opportunity doesn’t present itself, Miami should still be able to find some success in the pick-and-roll with Dragić and Wade attacking and Whiteside and Adebayo diving to the rim with force. In addition to defending Embiid really well in Game 4, both HEAT centers threw down some ferocious alley-oops on the break, so perhaps they can continue that and also translate it to set offense on Tuesday. Highlights: Game 4 – 76ers at HEAT Game 3 – 76ers at HEAT Game Notes: Goran Dragić leads Miami with 19.5 points per game during the postseason. Ben Simmons leads Philadelphia in points (19.3), rebounds (10.8), assists (9.8) and steals (2.5) per contest in the playoffs. The HEAT are 8-2 in their last 10 elimination games. Josh Richardson (left shoulder sprain) is listed as questionable.
  4. Photo Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant The Miami HEAT fell to the Philadelphia 76ers 104-91 Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Kelly Olynyk led the way for the HEAT with 18 points. Philadelphia wins the series 4-1. Click here for the full recap on
  5. Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT host the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday afternoon at AmericanAirlines Arena in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Philadelphia leads the series 2-1. Get your tickets now! Tip-off is set for 2:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 2:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: What happened in the fourth quarter of Game 3 that allowed the 76ers to suddenly pull away after a close game? Couper Moorhead: For three quarters it was a rough and tumble, gritty, chippy game that for some reason also featured a ton of scoring from both sides. And then, Miami stopped scoring for about two minutes and that was all it took for the 76ers to gain a double-digit lead. The HEAT climbed back to within a couple possessions but Philadelphia answered back with a mammoth run of their own to seal the game. The strange thing about the game was that Miami really was never playing badly. Even early in the fourth quarter, they had a few turnovers but they were still playing with physicality and force that was at least an approximation of how they want to consistently play. The HEAT simply made a few small mistakes, missed a few shots, and that was all it took with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons playing very well. That’s sort of the playoffs in a nutshell, especially against a high-level opponent. You can play a great game, you can make a ton of shots, but string just a few poor or even average possessions together and that can be all it takes for things to go against you. Sure, the 76ers made a ton of threes and got to the free-throw line, but so did Miami. It wasn’t a game about those things in the end. It was a game about how well you have to play when the margin for error shrinks in the postseason. Joe Beguiristain: After both teams essentially scored at will through three quarters, the 76ers ramped up their defense and made things difficult for the HEAT in the fourth. Thanks in large part to Philadelphia’s length and Joel Embiid’s presence at the rim, Miami scored just 14 points on 5-of-19 shooting in the period. Sure, Josh Richardson hit some big threes at the beginning of the quarter, but the 76ers responded very well. While the HEAT ultimately fell short, they matched Philadelphia's physicality and intensity for most of the night. In particular, Justise Winslow really impressed with 19 points on 4-of-6 shooting from deep and two remarkable blocks on Embiid and Robert Covington in the fourth. Ever since the playoffs began, Winslow’s whole demeanor has changed and he’s been locked in even more than he usually is. The playoffs can certainly bring out the best in a player. 2: Now that we’ve seen Joel Embiid in this series, how might the HEAT adjust to his presence? Couper: We noted going into that game that Embiid had been one of the most impactful players in the league this season and, despite some rust after a long injury layoff in the fist half, he was every bit that impactful player in Game 3. He stretched the floor, he stabilized Philadelphia’s offense with scoring and playmaking out of the post and, most importantly, his defense was at an All-World level. Defensively the HEAT have no choice but to rise to the challenge of making Embiid’s catches tough, contesting his jumpers and, perhaps most importantly given the physical nature of this series, not putting him on the foul line. It’s much more difficult to defend the 76ers when you can play 18 seconds of great, forceful defense and they can just throw the ball to Embiid to create a decent look. It’s on the other end of the floor where Miami might have to get particularly creative. With Embiid on the court, the HEAT shot just 1-of-8 at the rim, a number concerning both for the percentage and the volume. On so many pick-and-rolls and handoffs, Embiid would just sit back about 10-12 feet from the ball and wait to be challenged in the paint where his size makes shots exceedingly difficult. Miami combated this for a time pulling up and hitting mid-range shots, which helped them keep pace with the aforementioned three and free-throws they were earning, but eventually the number of jumpers began to take its toll. As for how they can best get to the rim against Embiid, it might come down to the old Roy Hibbert playbook. Make sure Embiid has to defend on the move so he isn’t able to stand waiting in the paint, make him guard out on the perimeter whenever possible and, on the other end, get stops so Miami can run out in transition. Joe: Let’s get this out of the way first: neutralizing a dominant force like Embiid is no easy task. With his combination of height, length and mobility, he’s pretty much a nightmare to deal with on both ends of the floor. All that said, Miami never backs down from a challenge, especially in the postseason. On the offensive end, the HEAT would be wise to either attack the basket and spray it out to open shooters on the perimeter or get Embiid involved in the pick-and-roll so he gets a little further away from the basket. Luckily enough, both Goran Dragić and Dwyane Wade are deadly when attacking downhill, so perhaps they can find some openings for themselves and their teammates in that scenario. Defensively, Miami has to try and force Embiid to catch the ball out of his comfort zones around the block. While making the 24-year-old get the ball further out doesn’t guarantee anything since he can still knock down mid-range jumpers and in-rhythm treys, it at least gives the HEAT a better chance at stopping him. 3: The HEAT have, by the percentages, defended Philadelphia’s threes well in Game 2 and poorly in Games 1 and 3. Are you seeing any trends in that area of the game? Couper: The 76ers were never going to shoot as well as they did in Game 1, hitting over 60 percent from deep, nor were they going to miss as many as in Game 2, shooting less than 20 percent. But then they came out and hit 18-of-34 again, many of them shots much better contested than the ones Miami gave up in Game 1 when Brett Brown went to his super-stretchy lineups. Some shots, like Marco Bellineli puling up from 30 feet on the move or Embiid shooting a contested look on the wing, you can only do so much about, but there are always things you can do better before leaving things up to chance. That means making Philadelphia miss more moments with deflections and by breaking up those fluid off-ball actions. You might not always make them miss, but you can make them just a little bit more uncomfortable and, in a best case scenario, make them not shoot the three in the first place. Joe: It’s no secret that Philadelphia is one of the best passing and screening teams in the league, which often causes the opposition to scramble a bit more than it would like. And outside of Game 2, the 76ers have shown just that thus far in this series. To combat a well-oiled machine like Philadelphia, the HEAT have to find a balance between being ultra aggressive in one-on-one defense and knowing the correct defensive rotation once the 76ers get into their second and third actions. Guys like Winslow, James Johnson and Josh Richardson have really answered the call defensively, but the trio has to somehow find another level on Saturday afternoon. Highlights: Game 3 – 76ers at HEAT Game 2 – HEAT at 76ers Game Notes: Goran Dragić leads the HEAT in points (19.3) and assists (5.0) per game during the postseason. Ben Simmons leads the 76ers in rebounds (10.0), assists (9.7) and steals (2.0) per contest during the playoffs. After this game, the series will shift back to Philadelphia for Game 5.
  6. Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT fell to the Philadelphia 76ers 106-102 Saturday afternoon in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Dwyane Wade led the way for the HEAT with 25 points. Philadelphia now leads the series 3-1. Click here for the full recap on
  7. Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT fell to the Philadelphia 76ers 128-108 Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Goran Dragić led the way for the HEAT with 23 points. The 76ers now lead the series 2-1. Click here for the full recap on
  8. Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT host the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round. The series is tied 1-1. Get your tickets now! Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 6:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: How did Miami push themselves to a double-digit lead in the first half of Game 2? Couper Moorhead: They got back to being who they are defensively – tough, gritty and relentless. Those might sound like fairly generic descriptors, but can all adjectives when used for sporting purposes. That’s what the HEAT want to be on defense, they want their opponent to feel them every step of the way. So after falling behind 0-1 in the series Erik Spoelstra made sure his team played to its identity as guards fought their way through Philadelphia’s labyrinthine screens to contest or stop shooters altogether. What really changed the tone of the game, however, was Justise Winslow’s full-court pressure on Ben Simmons in the second quarter. In the grand scheme of things it was only a few possessions but it got Simmons, a remarkably patient and steady player, to speed up his own offense and make some mistakes – which led to the 76ers making mistakes and losing their way on offense for a quarter because they rely on Simmons to do so much for them. Philadelphia eventually got back to doing what they do, fortunately missing some open looks for three along the way, but playoff games often swing on a five or six minute stretch and that’s exactly what happened in Game 2. Miami isn’t likely to catch Simmons off guard in the same way again, but they can have a similar impact nonetheless with disciplined and forceful pressure. Joe Beguiristain: They brought the tenacity and intensity needed to win on the road in the playoffs. Thanks to a collective effort from James Johnson, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson (and Dwyane Wade late), Miami made things tougher on Ben Simmons than in Game 1. Sure, Simmons nearly recorded a triple-double, but the HEAT’s varied coverages on the rookie paid dividends more often than not. And as Erik Spoelstra said after practice on Wednesday, “[Simmons] is a dominant talent. He’s going to require a dominant mindset.” In addition to bringing that mindset towards Simmons, Miami as a whole brought that to the table in Game 2. After getting outworked in the series opener, the HEAT answered back with a whopping 27 deflections, 13 recovered loose balls and 65 contested shots. Naturally, Johnson and Kelly Olynyk led the team in each of those metrics. Despite all the success on Monday, the team understands that nothing is guaranteed and each game in a series is different. That said, the HEAT will always put themselves in a position to win as long as they stay true to their defensive principles and perform like the top 10 defense they were throughout the regular season. In other words, it’s all about playing Miami HEAT basketball. 2: While the 76ers’ late run eventually came up short, did anything come of it we might need to watch for in Game 3? Couper: Some of Philadelphia’s late push came from transition offense and the HEAT gambling a little bit defensively, which they paid for, but what Brett Brown might take from it might be the success which came from really dialing up the pressure in pick-and-roll coverage. The 76ers were always going to blitz Goran Dragić and Dwyane Wade a little bit, based on their defense during the regular season, but their usage of that coverage in the second half of Game 2 was hardly occasional or sporadic. The changes seemed to come somewhat out of Wade being able to punish some switches by hitting pull-up jumpers, so the Sixers wanted to get the ball out of the hands of Miami’s primary creators. That aggressive coverage did cause some disruption of Miami’s offense, also playing a part in that run by the 76ers, but Wade especially started finding the roll man – often James Johnson – before any defender could swing over to help. Just as the 76ers won’t be caught off guard by full-court pressure again, neither will the HEAT by the blitz. Joe: Two things that really stood out about the 76ers’ late run were their opportunities in transition and second-chance points. In terms of the former, five of Simmons’ seven field goals in the second half came in transition either off Miami turnovers, missed shots or just sheer determination on the Australian’s part. For the HEAT to truly lessen Simmons’ impact, they have to clean up their mistakes, get back on defense quickly and prohibit him from gaining momentum off easy buckets on the break. As for the latter, Philadelphia has definitely made its presence felt on the offensive boards thus far in this series. Coach Spo even went so far as to say that the 76ers are “burying” Miami on the glass. In Game 2 alone, Philadelphia scored 27 second-chance points thanks to 17 offensive rebounds (10 of those rebounds came in the second half). Hopefully the HEAT can improve in that area as the series continues. 3: It seems as though Joel Embiid is nearing a return to this series. When he does, how is his impact going to be felt? Couper: The 76ers officially upgraded Embiid’s status to doubtful for Game 3 after having previously announced in the days before Games 1 and 2 that he was out. And it won’t be a shocker to anyone that doubtful becomes he’s actually in the starting lineup in a hurry, so the HEAT will have to prepare with that in mind. Strictly by the numbers, Embiid is one of the most impactful players in the league. The only players with a high net efficiency rating when on the court (with starters minutes) are Steph Curry, Eric Gordon and Chris Paul. When he’s on the court, the 76ers are both an elite offense – with Embiid capable of stretching out to three and being one of the most efficient post-up players in the league – and effectively the best defense in the league. He’s the complete package, and the numbers reflect that. Hassan Whiteside is clearly a valuable weapon in defending Embiid, but it takes a team to counter what he can do. Embiid’s gravity is such that him simply rolling to the rim or popping out in pick-and-roll or running a dribble hand-off creates significantly better looks for all of the Sixers’ shooters, so it falls on the entire team to be all the more precise when it comes to helping and recovering to shooters. Even in the post, where it often appears to be a one-on-one affair, the HEAT can help Whiteside, and Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo, by pressuring the player making the inbounds pass so Embiid has to come out a little further for the catch. There’s no question Embiid can be a major, major part of this series once he returns, and Miami will have to adjust much of what they’ve been doing so far in order to compensate. Joe: Joel Embiid’s potential return would really shake up this series. As Coup discussed at length above, Embiid is such an important player on both ends of the floor for the 76ers. And while he garners a lot of attention for what he can do offensively, the 24-year-old held the opposition to nearly eight percentage points less than their usual field goal percentage during the regular season. That’s crazy. Whenever Embiid does come back, it’ll be up to Hassan Whiteside to hinder him as much as possible. You should know by now that the two have had some fun battles in the past, with Whiteside gaining the upper hand in their last regular season meeting on March 8. Simply put, Whiteside was just on another level that night in terms of his focus and it led to a team-high 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting and two blocks on Embiid. With the playoffs being a whole different ball game, it will take that kind of effort and more. As Coach Spo likes to say, whatever it takes. Highlights: Game 2: HEAT at 76ers Game 1: HEAT at 76ers Game Notes: Erik Spoelstra is 46-13 at home in the playoffs. The HEAT have the second-highest postseason home winning percentage in NBA history at .722 (83-32). Dwyane Wade’s 28 points in Game 2 was the most off the bench in postseason franchise history.
  9. Photo Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant The Miami HEAT defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 113-103 Monday night at Wells Fargo Center in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round to snap Philadelphia's 17-game winning streak. Dwyane Wade led the way for the HEAT with 28 points. The series is now tied 1-1. Click here for the full recap on
  10. Photo Credit: David Dow The Miami HEAT face the Philadelphia 76ers Monday night at Wells Fargo Center in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Philadelphia leads the series 1-0. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: What led to the 76ers’ second-half run on their way to a Game 1 victory? Couper Moorhead: Sixers coach Brett Brown made a smart adjustment at halftime – the type of adjustment some coaches wait a game or two to make – by starting Ersan İlyasova in place of Amir Johnson. That effectively gave the 76ers a frontcourt of İlyasova and Dario Šarić, four shooters all running screening actions around Ben Simmons, who had no trouble finding his guys. All that shooting stretched out Miami’s defense to its limits, forcing all of the HEAT’s centers on to the perimeter, but Brown noted after the game that the switch also had the benefit of putting Johnson, a long and intelligent defender, on Kelly Olynyk when Miami went to its bench. Philadelphia still had to make their shots, but they were getting many of the shots they wanted with those lineups. The HEAT’s challenge now is managing all those screening actions better so those shooters aren’t getting comfortable catches. The 76ers also deserve credit for dialing up their defense, particularly Robert Covington. They were swiping at balls and getting in passing lanes, which helped keep the HEAT’s offense a little off balance. Miami still found open shots for their own shooters with elaborate bunch screens, which led to a few looks at the rim once the defense crept toward the arc. Joe Beguiristain: Simply put, the 76ers went bonkers in the second half and shot 56.5 percent after halftime thanks to crisp ball movement, effective screens and smart play design by Brett Brown. While J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli led the team in scoring, Dario Šarić continued to be a thorn in Miami’s side. On the flip side of the ball, Philadelphia’s length was very tough for the HEAT to circumnavigate. In fact, the 76ers wound up with 13 deflections and 21 loose balls recovered on the night. As Coup mentioned above, Robert Covington really made his presence felt defensively and held his assignments to just 2-of-8 shooting and three turnovers. If the average NBA fan didn’t know much about the 27-year-old out of Tennessee State entering Game 1, they do now. One of the bright spots for Miami on Saturday night was Kelly Olynyk, who led the team with 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting and provided a spark off the bench in the first half. As a whole, Miami’s reserves fared better than the starters, so hopefully the first unit can get things rolling in Game 2. 2: What will Miami have to defend better? Couper: The HEAT’s defensive rating of 127.8 in this one isn’t going to please anyone, but there was a bit of a snowball effect in the second half that led to those inflated numbers. Tyler Johnson said after the game that even though they did well to limit the 76ers’ transition opportunities – they had just four fast-break points – Philadelphia still got to plenty of early offense, springing guys open with quick-hitting screens and cuts away from the ball. And once a few of those threes started falling, they got beat backdoor to the rim when they were looking for the three. It’s nothing Miami hasn’t defended and defended well before, but the reality is that the 76ers run a very taxing offense for anyone to defend. The can punish any mistake, and they run so much with purpose that you have to be on point throughout the possession. That is certainly something this team is capable of, but their opponent isn’t going to let them off the hook. Joe: This one is pretty simple: the three-point line. In Game 1, the 76ers shot an unreal 18-of-28 from deep (64.3 percent) and really caught fire in the second half. Again, Redick and Belinelli wreaked havoc from downtown, but Ben Simmons did a great job of either getting the offense set or assisting those guys himself. That said, James Johnson actually defended Simmons pretty well in the first half and did his best to limit the rookie as much as possible. At the end of the day, the HEAT just need to be quicker with their rotations. Although it’s tough with the way Philadelphia moves on offense, Miami has a lot of good defensive habits that it could use to combat that. When the HEAT were operating smoothly and contesting shots on Saturday, they had success. In fact, the 76ers shot just 19-of-49 (38.8 percent) on contested looks as opposed to 26-of-46 (56.5 percent) on uncontested shots. We’ll see if Miami can right the ship in Game 2. 3: Which matchups proved most striking to you so far? Couper: We mentioned this in the series preview but the 76ers size, especially on the perimeter, is one of their primary advantages in this series. They put Covington on Goran Dragić and Ben Simmons on Josh Richardson, using all that length to stymie drives to the rim as the two players combined to shoot 5-of-21. Those aren’t matchups the HEAT are going to want to attack in isolation – they’ll have to beat that size with precise execution and good timing with their actions. Even then, the 76ers can always switch just about anything they want to switch, but the HEAT did show an ability to take advantage of that at times forcing the defense to switch two, three or four times in a matter of seconds. The good news is that James Johnson and Justise Winslow did reasonably well keeping Simmons away from the rim, with some transition exceptions, despite how well Simmons was playing, so that strategy of playing off of rim worked well enough. Joe: Since I’ve already touched on most of the matchups in my previous responses, I want to get into Justise Winslow. You may think he had just an average game when looking at his numbers on the surface, but his defense was pretty solid. How so? Well, the 22-year-old held his assignments (Simmons, Šarić, Belinelli, Markelle Fultz and Ersan İlyasova) to just 6-of-16 shooting from the field, including an impressive 3-of-10 at the rim. That kind of versatility from Winslow will be very important for the HEAT moving forward. Highlights: Game 1: HEAT at 76ers Game Notes: Kelly Olynyk's 26 points in Game 1 was the most by any player off the bench in postseason franchise history. Four HEAT players scored in double-figures in Game 1. Joel Embiid (orbital bone fracture, left eye) is out.
  11. Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT host the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Raptors 115-112 in their last meeting on Feb. 13. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: Were there any notes from Miami’s home loss to Oklahoma City that might be pertinent to the postseason? Couper Moorhead: The HEAT played a very good game against the Thunder, with precise defense and plenty of ball movement, right up until the point that they didn’t, being outscored 39-12 in the final period. Some of that was simply Oklahoma City playing with a desperate energy to clinch their own playoff spot, but it’s a period that deserves some inspection given that every team in the postseason plays with a degree of that desperation. The Thunder were able to slow Miami’s offense with both switching and by attacking their passing lanes and Miami wasn’t able to counter with the same ball and body movement that they had in the first three quarters. The HEAT also simply missed some open threes that would have helped to open things up, but this was a decent reminder that the margin for error in the playoffs, when everything is ramped up to 100, is much slimmer. Any mistakes or slippage, even for just a few minutes as it was in the final six against the Thunder, are magnified. That’s a better lesson to be reminded of now than later. Joe Beguiristain: It certainly was a tough loss to take, especially considering how well the HEAT started the contest. While OKC had its moments early on, Miami held the Thunder to just 37.5 percent shooting through three quarters and had a five-point lead entering the fourth before Jerami Grant and Russell Westbrook took over down the stretch. On the offensive end, the HEAT had trouble getting anything going in that fourth quarter, which has been an issue at times. That could happen again in the postseason since defenses generally lock in more, but as long as Miami moves the ball and keeps the opposition at bay with dribble handoffs, everything should be fine. Additionally, Erik Spoelstra can always make adjustments within a series if things go awry. One guy who hasn't gone awry for Coach Spo this season is Josh Richardson. Against the Thunder on Monday, J. Rich did his thing on both ends of the floor and spearheaded the HEAT’s offensive attack early on. Naturally, he also made life difficult on a very tough cover in Paul George and limited the five-time All-Star to just 3-of-9 shooting. This brings us to an interesting question: does Richardson belong on the NBA All-Defensive Team? I think so. 2: What are the expectations for Toronto Wednesday night? Couper: The Raptors, reportedly, might take a somewhat similar approach to what the Washington Wizards did in the season finale last year, when everyone healthy played but the bench got more opportunities in the second half. So while we can expect all of Toronto’s players to play to begin the game, the rotation might change a little bit as the night goes along. As far as what that means to Miami, not a whole lot in that it won’t change their approach. If they want a shot at the No. 6 seed, they have to win. If they want to ensure they cannot drop to No. 8 (and play Toronto), they have to win. Perhaps more importantly, they’ll want to simply go into the postseason with a good performance under their belt. Momentum might not be a real thing, but feeling good about how you’re playing certainly is. Joe: As of this writing, it seems as though the Raptors will play their usual guys despite having the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference locked up. That said, Dwane Casey could allocate more minutes to his reserves as the game progresses. Even if that does happen though, Toronto’s second unit has been great all year. In fact, the Raptors’ bench has tallied an 8.7 net rating this season, which is by far the best in the league. Guys like Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and Delon Wright have a lot to do with that impressive number. We’ll see how it all plays out on Wednesday night. 3: How are the playoff scenarios going to sort themselves out Wednesday night? Couper: With Philadelphia beating Atlanta on Tuesday night, the HEAT are now unable to play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the postseason (because the 76ers play Milwaukee on Wednesday). So it’s down to Toronto, Boston and Philly. For Miami to be No. 8 and play Toronto, Miami has to lose Wednesday night and the Wizards have to beat Orlando. For Miami to be No. 6 and play the 76ers, they have to win Wednesday night and the 76ers have to beat Milwaukee (assuming Cleveland beats the Knicks). Every other option, a Bucks win or a Wizards loss, puts Miami up against Boston. Joe: Depending on how everything goes, Miami could still wind up as the No. 6, No. 7 or No. 8 seed. If the HEAT beat the Raptors on Wednesday night, they will assure themselves No. 6 or No. 7 against either the 76ers or Celtics. If Miami loses though, the No. 6 seed is out of the picture and the team could be No. 8 versus Toronto or No. 7 against Boston. In other words, it should be an eventful night. INJURY UPDATE: Goran Dragić is doubtful to play due to knee soreness. Highlights: Feb. 13 – HEAT at Raptors Jan. 9 – HEAT at Raptors Game Notes: The HEAT are 43-38 on the year. The Raptors have won four straight and enter the contest at 59-22. Miami is currently the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. DeMar DeRozan leads Toronto with 23.1 points per game. Efficiencies (Rank): HEAT Offense: 104.4 (21) HEAT Defense: 104.0 (7) Raptors Offense: 111.1 (3) Raptors Defense: 103.3 (5)
  12. Photo Credit: David Dow The Miami HEAT fell to the Philadelphia 76ers 130-103 Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Kelly Olynyk led the way for the HEAT with 26 points. Click here for the full recap on
  13. Photo Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant The Miami HEAT face the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round. The HEAT and 76ers split the season series 2-2, with Miami winning the last two. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: What was the main lesson you learned from the season series between these two teams? Couper Moorhead: In a weird way, these teams are both bad matchups for one another. The 76ers have a ton of size and their defensive switchability can really flatten out Miami’s offense if the ball movement isn’t on point while Miami’s own defensive tenacity and smart play can jam up Philadelphia’s trigger-based offense. Neither team used a ton of one-on-one creation, which is what many postseason teams end up relying on, so a lot of the late-game offense falls on the coaching to set things up perfectly. This should be a fun matchup, but it’s going to be a slugfest at times and pure execution, not individual talent, might be what wins in more than a couple of these games. Joe Beguiristain: The main thing that sticks out to me about Philadelphia is how disruptive and athletic the team is. Of course it all starts with Ben Simmons, but guys like Dario Šarić, Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes really cause trouble due to their length. And as Coup mentioned above, that allows the 76ers to switch a lot on defense without missing a beat. In other words, there’s a reason why Philadelphia finished the regular season with the third-best defensive rating. All that said, Miami did have a decent amount of success against the 76ers, especially in its final two meetings in late February and early March. As a whole, Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside rose to the occasion and had their way in those matchups. At the end of the day though, these are two very well coached teams with top 10 defenses, so it’s all about who could impose their will the most. 2: What are you going to be focused on watching early on Saturday night? Couper: A few things that are all related. First, as we discussed in the series preview, how far Miami sags off Ben Simmons in order to deter him from driving into the paint, but as a result of that coverage how well Miami is able to stop the 76ers from getting open threes. Philadelphia, especially now that they’ve added Marco Bellineli and Ersan İlyasova, always has a ton of shooting on the floor – but most of those shooters rely on other players, either via the pass or screen, to help create their open looks off the catch. How Miami stops those shots will involve their discipline in fighting through contact and reading the action a few steps ahead, but also in managing their floor positioning so that they’re always able to closeout without relinquishing a drive. And lastly, the 76ers excel in transition and getting up early threes when the defense is scrambling to set up, so simply knowing where all shooters are at all times, at high speed, will be paramount. Joe: First and foremost, I’m anxious to see how the HEAT respond to the raucous Philadelphia crowd. While Miami has obviously played in tough environments all year, the playoffs are a whole different animal, especially considering how long it’s been since the 76ers made it to the postseason. In terms of on the court, I’ll be focused on how the HEAT start off the game on the offensive end. As mentioned before, the 76ers are very strong defensively thanks to their ability to limit teams from both the restricted area (gave up just 24.6 attempts per game from that zone in the regular season, which was tied for the second fewest in the league) and from beyond the arc (limited opponents to just 33.5 percent shooting on above-the-break treys, which was also the second lowest). To combat all that, Miami has to run its dribble handoffs with purpose and limit its turnovers. 3: What’s one matchup you think is very important for Miami? Couper: I see what you were trying to do there, when you tried to siphon out an answer. The truth is, the individual matchups matter far less than we always seem to think they do this time of year when we’re running down the opposing rosters and picking out various advantages. Yes James Johnson and Justise Winslow have a crucial and precise task ahead of them managing Ben Simmons’ spacing. Yes, Josh Richardson needs to stick with J.J. Redick as he runs through a labyrinth of screens on the perimeter. Yes, Hassan Whiteside will have to content with one of the league’s premier post players – when he returns – in Joel Embiid. They all have important jobs, but none of them will be doing them alone. When teams really get to sit down and crank out a detailed plan for an opponent in the postseason, they’re not just drawing lines and assignment between players. They’re thinking about how they can use every player on the floor to stop any action at any given time. It’s on the team to play strong, cohesive, smart defense, not any one player on an island. Joe: Although Simmons will command the most attention, I think the HEAT also have to be wary of Šarić. During the regular season against Miami, the Croatian averaged 19.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game on 44.8 percent shooting from deep. A lot of that was due to Simmons’ ability to break down the defense and spray it out, but the point is the HEAT have to keep a body on Šarić at all times. While Josh Richardson guarded the forward the most over the previous four matchups, Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson and Justise Winslow were also given the assignment. Long story short, it will take a collective effort to stop the 76ers in Game 1. Highlights: March 8 – 76ers at HEAT Feb. 27 – 76ers at HEAT Game Notes: The last time the HEAT and 76ers met in the postseason was in 2011. Miami has won at least one road game in 18 consecutive playoff series, which is the longest streak in NBA history. Philadelphia closed the regular season on a 16-game winning streak. Joel Embiid (orbital fracture/concussion) is out. Efficiencies (Rank): HEAT Offense: 104.5 (20) HEAT Defense: 104.0 (7) 76ers Offense: 107.4 (11) 76ers Defense: 102.0 (3)
  14. Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT defeated the Toronto Raptors 116-109 in overtime Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Wayne Ellington led the way for the HEAT with a career-high 32 points. Click here for the full recap on
  15. Joe B.

    TICKETS: Raptors at HEAT

    Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon At approximately 4:00 PM, I will be conducting trivia for one pair of tickets to tomorrow night’s game against the Raptors. Please keep in mind that you must be at least 18-years-old in order to qualify and must reside in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Collier, or Monroe County. Also, you are ineligible if you've already won tickets this season. Please only play/answer if you can attend and qualify based on these rules.
  16. Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT host the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Thunder 105-99 in their last meeting on March 23. 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: Is there anything to say about Miami’s loss in New York last Friday? Couper Moorhead: After the game, in which Miami trailed by as many as 30 points, Erik Spoelstra said the team just didn’t show up to play. That’s about all you need to say about that one. It’s not the way you want to be playing a week before the postseason, but it’s also not likely to have any bearing whatsoever on how Miami approaches the next two weeks. Joe Beguiristain: Not really. With Miami a step slow on the defensive end, New York got into a good rhythm early on and carried that over throughout the contest. Sure, James Johnson had a nice spurt in the third quarter, but it was too little, too late. All in all, Friday night’s performance wasn’t indicative of what the HEAT are capable of. 2: What did the last game against the Thunder teach us about this matchup? Couper: That they’re a tough matchup. The HEAT’s perimeter defenders did well to hold Paul George to 3-of-16 shooting and Carmelo Anthony to 2-of-8, but Steven Adams was a monster in the middle of the floor and Russell Westbrook came on late to seal the win. The Thunder are a bit like Philadelphia in that they’re big at every position and can switch most perimeter actions while Adams (or Joel Embiid) protects the rim. There aren’t many size mismatches for Miami to attack against this group, and this last matchup led to the HEAT’s second game – at the time – since the All-Star break scoring fewer than 100 points per 100 possessions, and that was with a brisk 13-of-30 performance from beyond the arc. So what’s the answer to beating all that size? Beat it down the floor in transition and beat it in the half-court with movement. You’re only playing into a switching defense’s hands if you let them switch and don’t move away from the ball. More cutting can only help, especially when the defense is mid-switch, can only help. Joe: It taught us (or continued to show us) that Miami can hang with anyone in the league when its defense is sharp. As Coup mentioned above, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams proved to be the difference makers late, but Paul George and Carmelo Anthony really struggled to get anything going offensively. Naturally, Josh Richardson, James Johnson and Justise Winslow had a huge part in that. That said, we also found out that the Thunder are a very tough team to beat. While a lot has been made of OKC’s new additions in George and Anthony (and rightfully so), the Westbrook/Adams connection is what makes the team so dangerous on the offensive end. With Adams one of the best screeners in the league and Westbrook one of the fastest players off the dribble, the two complement each other very well. When you also consider their great chemistry thanks to playing together for four-plus seasons, it all becomes clear. 3: What are the playoff implications for each team Monday night? Couper: For the HEAT this is all about seeding. A win Monday night means they can’t finish any lower than the No. 7 seed (and a first-round matchup with Boston), given that they own the tiebreaker over Washington. And any combination of one Miami win, against Oklahoma City or Toronto, and one Milwaukee loss, against Orlando or Philadelphia, clinches the No. 6 seed for the HEAT which would lead to a first-round matchup against the 76ers or Cavaliers. For the Thunder, this game carries a little bit more meaning. Nobody in the Western Conference below the No. 4 seed has clinched a playoff spot, and the Thunder sit No. 7 just a game ahead of both No. 8 Minnesota and No. 9 Denver. In other words, the Thunder control their own destiny but must keep winning in order to ensure their postseason spot. Monday night, in Miami, their season could be on the line. Joe: Since the HEAT have the tiebreaker over both the Bucks and Wizards, they'll stay in No. 6 as long as they take care of business. That said, even a 1-1 finish could keep Miami in that spot if Milwaukee drops one of its final two games. Basically, the HEAT control their own destiny, which is pretty awesome considering the way they missed the postseason last year. In terms of the Thunder, they are currently No. 7 in the very crowded Western Conference where seeds four through nine are separated by just two games. As such, OKC’s last two games are essentially must wins. Highlights: March 23 – HEAT at Thunder Game Notes: The HEAT have won four of six and are 43-37. The Thunder have won two of three and enter the contest at 46-34. With a win, Miami will remain the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. Russell Westbrook leads Oklahoma City in points (25.6), assists (10.1) and rebounds (9.8) per game. Efficiencies (Rank): HEAT Offense: 104.5 (20) HEAT Defense: 103.9 (6) Thunder Offense: 107.2 (11) Thunder Defense: 104.7 (10)
  17. Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder 115-93 Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Josh Richardson led the way for the HEAT with 18 points. Click here for the full recap on
  18. Photo Credit: Nathaniel S. Butler The Miami HEAT fell to the New York Knicks 122-98 Friday night at Madison Square Garden. Goran Dragić led the way for the HEAT with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Click here for the full recap on
  19. Joe B.

    TICKETS: Thunder at HEAT

    Photo Credit: Oscar Baldizon At approximately 2:30 PM, I will be conducting trivia for two pairs of tickets to tomorrow night’s game against the Thunder (one question per pair). The same person can’t win both pairs. Please keep in mind that you must be at least 18-years-old in order to qualify and must reside in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Collier, or Monroe County. Also, you are ineligible if you've already won tickets this season. Please only play/answer if you can attend and qualify based on these rules.
  20. Photo Credit: Chris Schwegler The Miami HEAT face the New York Knicks Friday night at Madison Square Garden. The HEAT defeated the Knicks 119-98 in their last meeting on March 21. 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: Having clinched their playoff berth the night before, what was left for Miami to accomplish in Atlanta? Couper Moorhead: With Goran Dragić, James Johnson and Dwyane Wade out Wednesday night and Atlanta’s season heading quickly towards the finish line this game almost had a preseason feel to it at times – except if you watched Miami play defense, where they looked like it was mid-November. Fortunately Atlanta is wont to use some different lineups and looks and a night after their zone gave Miami some issues the HEAT got another look at it and were able to refine their zone approach, attacking the seams, flashing to open spaces and willingly firing on all the open threes. They might never see zone again this season but if they do, perhaps against a team like Boston, they’ll have some live minutes in their rear view mirror. Joe Beguiristain: With the win on Wednesday, the HEAT assured themselves the tiebreaker over the Wizards should both teams finish with the same record when it’s all said and done. Miami finished 11-5 in the division, while the best Washington can do is 10-6. In terms of the game itself, Josh Richardson continued to impress on both ends of the floor and stuffed the stat sheet as usual. Additionally, Justise Winslow and Rodney McGruder both tallied season highs in scoring on the night. While this game won’t be remembered for much, it was good to see Miami take care of business and continue to forge ahead towards the postseason. 2: Who has the most to gain from this game against New York? Couper: We don’t yet know if the HEAT will have those players who are nursing injuries, but as long as Miami gains a reasonable lead in games like this, and against Atlanta, it gives Erik Spoelstra time to play guys who have been on the fringe of the rotation. That doesn’t mean Rodney McGruder or Bam Adebayo are going to play their way into the playoff rotation, but they also aren’t necessarily out of it, either. These minutes just give them some live minutes in order to stay fresh should they get the call, because even if they don’t play in a Game 1, knowing Spoelstra you always have to be ready for the next game. Joe: Even if the guys who missed Wednesday’s game are available, I still think the HEAT’s reserves have the most to gain versus New York. Although Winslow has been very good off the bench all year, it was good to see him get more reps against the Hawks and really take over in the third quarter. After the victory over Atlanta, Winslow talked about his approach with some key contributors out. “It’s not that I defer to other guys, but obviously guys like Goran and D. Wade are more the head of the snake, so it’s nice…to go out and be able to get up more shots and be more aggressive.” With another struggling non-playoff team in the Knicks on the other side, it’s possible that Erik Spoelstra uses the same approach with the rotation and allocates more minutes to the reverses. Since the second unit will be very important in the postseason, the strategy by Coach Spo to give those guys more confidence should pay off in the end. 3: What does the last week of the season look like for Miami? Couper: There’s Friday night against New York then home games against Oklahoma City and Toronto. The Knicks are headed for the lottery but the Thunder could still be playing for a playoff spot and if not that at least seeding, with home court in the first round still a possibility. The Raptors, meanwhile, will likely have the No. 1 seed wrapped up having beaten Boston on Wednesday night so they might try to heal up for the postseason. What does that all mean for Miami? Not much. With their spot in hand and the No. 6 seed theirs if they win out, all they have to do is win and keep everyone healthy. Their matchup is yet to be determined, but there should be a little less drama in the last week of the season this time around. Joe: After facing the Knicks on Friday, the HEAT will have a few days off before hosting the Thunder and Raptors next week to wrap up the regular season. As Coup mentioned above, the matchup with OKC has potential to be really fun given the Thunder’s spot in the standings. That said, Miami should just be focused on the things that it can control. As I’ve mentioned numerous times before in this space, it’s all about reinforcing habits, minimizing mistakes and staying healthy. If the HEAT do that over these last three games, everything should be fine. Highlights: March 21 – Knicks at HEAT Jan. 5 – Knicks at HEAT Game Notes: The HEAT have won four of five and are 43-36 on the year. The Knicks have dropped six of seven and enter the contest at 27-51. Miami has five players with 100 or more threes in a season for the first time in franchise history. Courtney Lee leads New York with 1.1 steals per game. Efficiencies (Rank): HEAT Offense: 104.7 (19) HEAT Defense: 103.6 (6) Knicks Offense: 103.7 (24) Knicks Defense: 108.5 (23)
  21. Joe B.

    HEAT 115 - Hawks 86 Game Recap

    Photo Credit: Kevin Liles The Miami HEAT defeated the Atlanta Hawks 115-86 Wednesday night at Philips Arena. Josh Richardson and Kelly Olynyk each had 19 points apiece to lead the way for the HEAT. Click here for the full recap on
  22. Photo Credit: Sam Forencich The Miami HEAT face the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night at Philips Arena. The HEAT defeated the Hawks 101-98 in their last meeting on Tuesday. 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: Did anything stick out to you in Miami’s playoff-clinching win over Atlanta? Couper Moorhead: Atlanta’s lineups and strategy in the second half was really interesting. Coach Mike Budenholzer essentially played three big men at once in the second half with Mike Muscala-Miles Plumlee-John Collins, and then went zone with that group – the first time Miami had seen sustained zone since early January against Dallas. All that length on the floor gave Miami some trouble for a spell as they searched for the seams to attack, and even though the HEAT eventually found open shooters this will be an important sequence to remember if Miami ends up playing Boston in particular given that they’ll go zone at times. Sometimes it’s good to get another look at an unconventional defense just in case you see it again in a big spot. Joe Beguiristain: Erik Spoelstra put it best after after the victory on Tuesday night: “There’s only one way with this group, and that's the hard way.” As been the case all season, the HEAT found themselves in yet another close game and came away with a resilient hard-fought win to punch their ticket to the postseason. While James Johnson attacked the basket late and Hassan Whiteside gave Miami the lead for good off a nice tip-in, Josh Richardson came up huge on the defensive end with two clutch blocks. As much as J. Rich’s breakout season has been about his improvement on the offensive end (and rightfully so), defense will always be his calling card. His ability to defend multiple positions, including the opposing team’s best offensive player, is extremely valuable, and it showed once again versus the Hawks. 2: With Miami locked into the playoffs, what is left to sort out? Couper: The HEAT clinched their playoff spot but they didn’t get any closer to figuring out who their postseason opponent is going to be. They’re now in a three-team tie for the bottom three spots in the conference and sit No. 6 thanks to owning multi-team tiebreakers over Milwaukee and Washington (a tiebreaker they can clinch with a win over Atlanta Wednesday night). If they end up No. 8 or No. 7 they can still play either Toronto or Boston. If they end up No. 6 they can still play either Cleveland or Philadelphia. And both of those pairs of teams play each other again this week. We know a little bit more, but still know very little. All the HEAT can do is win the games in front of them and see what happens. Joe: Now the HEAT have to find out who they’re going to play in about a week and a half. At the moment, Miami is currently the sixth seed since it has a better winning percentage in all games among itself, Washington and Milwaukee. In terms of how the HEAT stack up individually with those teams, they already own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bucks, but need to beat the Hawks Wednesday night to ensure they have the tiebreaker over the Wizards (division record). Miami’s first round opponent is also up in the air, as it could be Toronto, Boston, Cleveland or even Philadelphia if the 76ers continue their winning ways and snag the third seed. Long story short, there’s a good chance that the last night of the regular season could determine a bunch of these matchups. Get ready for a fun ride. 3: What can the HEAT work on in the last week of the regular season? Couper: Staying healthy is the most important thing at this point, by far, but other than that you want to sharpen up all the tools in your toolset, running through all your regular sets and schemes and making sure you’re ready to switch between all of them at a moment’s notice. We’ve noted before that finalizing the rotation isn’t really going to happen given how dependent the postseason lineups will be on matchups, but given how rare it’s been for everyone on the team to be active and ready to go Erik Spoelstra has some time now to experiment a little as long as it doesn’t get much in the way of wins and seeding. It’s not a ton of time, but there’s always more to learn about a group. Joe: It sounds simple, but the HEAT just need to keep working on their good habits and minimize their mistakes since the postseason is a whole different animal in terms of intensity and attention to detail. If Miami isn’t sharp on one little aspect of its game, the opposition will pounce and exploit that. Luckily enough, the HEAT have been in so many adverse situations this season (league-high 52 clutch games) and have really had to dig deep, that they should be prepared for what’s to come. Highlights: April 3 – Hawks at HEAT Dec. 18 – HEAT at Hawks Game Notes: The HEAT have won three of four and are 42-36. The Hawks have dropped six of seven and are 22-56. Miami is currently the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. John Collins leads Atlanta with 1.1 blocks per game. Efficiencies (Rank): HEAT Offense: 104.6 (19) HEAT Defense: 103.9 (7) Hawks Offense: 102.5 (26) Hawks Defense: 108.2 (22)
  23. Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT host the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Hawks 110-104 in their last meeting on Dec. 18. 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: With the season series against Brooklyn now over, are there any lessons from those games that might prove valuable in the postseason? Couper Moorhead: The Nets have been a fascinating opponent this season. Their formula has generally been to play hard and smart while getting up threes with plenty of volume, and that formula clearly worked as they posted a 3-1 record against Miami. But each game had its own unique flavor, whether it was a different Brooklyn lineup giving the HEAT issues or an individual player going off. In a way, it sounds just like the HEAT appear to other teams, always with a different configuration or a different player causing problems thanks to all their depth. As far as the postseason is concerned, it was interesting to see just how much the Nets were selling out to defend the three Saturday night. Miami’s 17 attempts from three were their fewest of the season and it wasn’t by mistake. The best examples came when Wayne Ellington on the floor and the Nets had a defender practically hugging him on the perimeter, not letting him see any daylight whatsoever even if that meant taking help options away from the paint. Theoretically that type of defense gives Miami’s guards more space to attack in the middle of the floor, but it’s a strategy to look out for in the postseason when teams really zero in on an opponent’s strengths. Joe Beguiristain: Before Saturday night’s game, Nets Head Coach Kenny Atkinson talked about modeling his squad after the HEAT in terms of how hard they play, their discipline and how they go about their business. Then his team proceeded to do just that by limiting Miami’s attempts from beyond the arc and coming up with big plays down the stretch to secure the overtime victory. Above all else, the biggest lesson for the HEAT from their matchups with the Nets this season is figuring out how to manufacture enough offense when they’re not attempting their usual amount of threes. In the four games against Brooklyn, Miami averaged 23.0 treys per game, which is well below its season average of 30.6. As long as Goran Dragić attacks downhill in the pick-and-roll and James Johnson is aggressive off the bounce, things should be fine when the threes aren’t there. 2: What does Tuesday night mean for Miami’s playoff spot? Couper: Win and they’re in. Pretty simple. Any HEAT win or Detroit loss locks up Miami’s playoff spot given that the HEAT are currently four games up on the Pistons. As far as seeding goes, everything is up in the air. Not only can the HEAT realistically finish anywhere from No.8 to No. 6, the No. 1 seed in the conference is unsettled with Toronto (two games up) and Boston playing against this week while the No. 3 seed might come down to a matchup between the 76ers and Cavaliers this week. In other words, while Tuesday night is important just for locking up that spot, there are still a ton of different scenarios for the first round. Best the HEAT can do is win the games in front of them and see how it plays out. Joe: All the chatter from the HEAT at Monday’s practice was about moving forward from their disappointing loss and trying to punch their ticket to the postseason with a win Tuesday night. If Miami wins one of its final five games or Detroit loses any of its final five, then the HEAT will clinch a playoff berth. It’s also possible for Miami to move up to No. 6 if it takes care of business against non-playoff teams such as the Hawks and Knicks. The Wizards, which are currently one game ahead of the HEAT, have three tough matchups against the Rockets, Cavaliers and Celtics over the next week or so. If Miami and Washington end up with the same overall record, then the tiebreaker will be division record since the season series was split at two games apiece. We’ll see how it all plays out. 3: With most of the team healthy, how does it seem like the rotation is sorting out to you? Couper: While the center rotation has generally come down to either Hassan Whiteside or Kelly Olynyk lately, with some small-ball using James Johnson in the middle of the floor sprinkled in, and the starting lineup generally set, the rest of the rotation might stay fairly fluid. We’ve seen games where neither Bam Adebayo nor Rodney McGruder have received many minutes, but the moment Miami finds itself in a postseason matchup where one of those two is needed that could quickly change. Erik Spoelstra is not one to leave options on the table. More importantly, there is no set rotation for the end of close games, which have been over half of Miami’s slate this season. Whichever group gains the most traction in the second half generally gets a chance to close things out, and that will probably be how things remain. It all comes down to matchups. Joe: I think the rotation is sorting out just fine. At this point in the season, the guys understand their role and importance to the team regardless of their minutes. All season long, Erik Spoelstra has rolled with the hot hand in terms of certain lineups at the end of games, and I think that will continue moving forward. Most of all, that philosophy really makes things difficult for the opposition since it’s hard to prepare for such a versatile and deep group. Kelly Olynyk has been proof of that on the offensive end, as the team scores 111.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor in the fourth. That’s pretty impressive. Highlights: Dec. 18 – HEAT at Hawks Oct. 23 – Hawks at HEAT Game Notes: The HEAT have won two of three and are 41-36 on the year. The Hawks have dropped five of six and enter the contest at 22-55. If Miami wins, it will clinch a spot in the NBA Playoffs. Dewayne Dedmon leads Atlanta in rebounds at 7.9 per game. Efficiencies (Rank): HEAT Offense: 104.6 (19) HEAT Defense: 104.0 (8) Hawks Offense: 102.6 (26) Hawks Defense: 108.3 (22)
  24. Joe B.

    Hawks 98 - HEAT 101 Game Recap

    Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT defeated the Atlanta Hawks 101-98 Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Goran Dragić led the way for the HEAT with 22 points. Click here for the full recap on
  25. Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT host the Brooklyn Nets Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Nets 101-95 in their last meeting on Jan. 19. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: What did we learn from Miami’s home victory over Chicago on Thursday? Couper Moorhead: Nothing too much, which is as it should be this time of year. Every team is playing for something a little different in the last weeks of the season, and as the Bulls are out of the playoffs they’re emphasizing the development of their young players while the HEAT are still going all out in search of an advantageous playoff seed. So, the HEAT were the team that should have won, and they did in a rather business-like manner, executing everything they need to execute despite a poor shooting evening. That’s all there was to Thursday’s proceedings, and that’s all there needed to be. Joe Beguiristain: As Coup mentioned above, we didn’t learn too much from the HEAT’s double-digit victory over the Bulls on Thursday. If anything, we saw Miami continue to take care of business against a team that it was supposed to beat. While the HEAT had a little bit of trouble against non-playoff teams earlier in the season, it seems as though their loss to the Kings on March 14 galvanized them. Other than that though, it was really fun to see Justise Winslow do his thing against Chicago. Whether he was attacking the basket, setting up his teammates or defending multiple guys, Winslow had a great deal of success. That kind of versatility will be very important come playoff time. 2: What have the previous games against Brooklyn taught us about this matchup? Couper: As far as the non-playoff teams go, the Nets have been one of the trickier matchups of the season having beaten Miami twice since the HEAT prevailed in the Mexico City game. The Nets play fast and they get up a ton of threes which is usually a pretty solid recipe for beating teams with a better record than you, but beyond that they also have a deep rotation full of capable players, they have length which allows them to crowd passing lanes and switch perimeter actions when they want to and, most importantly, they play hard every single game. This is not a team anyone can afford to take lightly or Brooklyn will jump all over you as they did taking a 38-point lead in Miami back at the end of December. And remember, D’Angelo Russell is healthy and back in the rotation and this team owes its draft pick to Cleveland so they’re playing a full rotation whenever possible. Joe: Above all else, the previous matchups with the Nets have taught us to never judge a team solely by its record. Sure, Brooklyn has struggled to win games this season, but it can really light up the scoreboard. In fact, the Nets have scored 111.4 points per 100 possessions over their past 10 games, which ranks them in the top third of the league during that span. While D’Angelo Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and DeMarre Carroll have obviously led the way for Brooklyn, you can’t forget about Joe Harris off the bench. In the two most recent meetings with Miami, the 26-year-old Harris really gave the HEAT fits with his ability to stretch the floor and knock down the three. Speaking of which, it’s important to note that the Nets are also capable of winning when they’re not hitting their shots from beyond the arc. In Brooklyn’s last meeting with Miami on Jan. 19, it shot just 9-of-32 from deep (28.1 percent) and still won by six. 3: Is there anything the HEAT should be focused on from now until the end of the regular season? Couper: Staying healthy is probably the most important one, but approaching their upcoming games against non-playoff teams with a consistent effort and focus should be the main thing you’re looking for. The HEAT aren’t going to unveil any dramatic new strategies in the run-up to the postseason – they can clinch their spot Saturday night with a win or a Detroit loss – so these next couple weeks are about taking a professional approach to each game, winning every game you can and letting the matchups sort themselves out from there. There’s still a little bit we can learn about how Erik Spoelstra plans to approach the postseason given how rare a fully healthy squad has been this season, but that’s another aspect that will be incredibly matchup dependent when it comes down to it. Joe: With just six games left in the regular season, it’s important for the HEAT to keep up their good habits and hone in on what works. That means sharpening their dribble handoffs, continuing to move the ball and sticking to their defensive principles. Winslow put it best after Miami’s victory over the Bulls: “These games are important to us. Just continue to build those habits everyday and try to be at the top of our game come playoffs.” Highlights: Jan. 19 – HEAT at Nets Dec. 29 – Nets at HEAT Game Notes: The HEAT have won five of seven and are 41-35. The Nets have dropped three of four and enter the contest at 24-51. Miami has won eight straight at home. D’Angelo Russell leads Brooklyn in scoring at 16.0 points per game. Efficiencies (Rank): HEAT Offense: 104.7 (19) HEAT Defense: 104.1 (8) Nets Offense: 104.4 (20) Nets Defense: 108.9 (25)