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By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the New York Knicks Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT defeated the Knicks 107-103 in their last meeting on Jan. 5. 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: How did the HEAT score the most points in franchise history Monday night?
Couper Moorhead: You don’t score 149 points without remarkably hot shooting (they were 20-of-36 from three) nor do you without getting into overtime, but the story of the night was how the HEAT took advantage of every one of Denver’s defensive mistakes. For as well as the Nuggets were playing offensively, and they were firing on all cylinders, they were also committed to switching on many of the HEAT actions and when they didn’t they were helping hard in the paint. The issues for them, then, came when those switches weren’t executed seamlessly or when that help was drawn too far away from it’s initial assignment, and every time that happened the HEAT were able to swing the ball to the open man or to the isolated mismatch and have at it. You still have to make the shots no matter how open you are, but the HEAT helped keep their Shot Quality high all night thanks to quick recognition and unselfish passing. Miami’s offense can be prone to occasional lulls, but the ability to force opponents into mistakes and capitalize on those is a valuable skill.
Joe Beguiristain: While the night certainly belonged to James Johnson, who scored 18 of his career-high 31 points in the two overtime periods combined, the HEAT as a whole moved the ball very well. In fact, Miami recorded a season-high 36 assists and shot 54.9 percent on 102 attempts. Yes, you read that last number right.
To no one’s surprise, Goran Dragić led the team with eight dimes, but it was Kelly Olynyk who really made Denver pay late in the contest. With the Nuggets worried about him continuing to score, Olynyk wisely attacked off the dribble and set up Johnson with some great feeds down the stretch. As a result of their superb play, the KO/JJ pairing tallied a team-high plus-23 rating in 29 minutes on the floor together Monday.
That’s pretty good.
2: How has the season series with New York gone so far?
Couper: The first game was entirely in New York’s favor as they jumped on Miami, in New York, early and sustained their lead for the entire game despite an early injury to Kristaps Porziņģis. The second game was an overtime affair with Michael Beasley shooting 8-of-11 until a late-game injury took him off the floor and Miami cleaning things up in the final minutes. In a way, neither game seems to matter much right now given that Porziņģis is now out for the season with an ACL tear, but with him missing most of the first game and New York’s offense coming from elsewhere in the second it’s clear that the Knicks have the ability to compete with Miami. Note as well that Tim Hardaway Jr. is healthy again after missing the second matchup.
Aside from Porziņģis’ injury, the Knicks have also remade their rotation a bit. Emmanuel Mudiay, acquired from Denver, is now starting where Jarrett Jack was playing the bulk of the minutes previously. Sharpshooting Troy Williams has been acquired and so, too, has point guard Trey Burke, who often plays alongside rookie Frank Ntilikina.
Joe: The first matchup with the Knicks on Nov. 29 was one of the HEAT’s toughest losses of the season, but they bounced back the next time out against New York and came away with an overtime win. Although Miami didn’t shoot a high percentage in that most recent meeting, the team still obtained good looks and did enough to seal the deal late. And at the end of the day, winning is all that matters.
Other than that though, there isn’t too much to glean from that last matchup since the Knicks’ probable starting lineup for Wednesday night contains three guys who didn’t start against the HEAT on Jan. 5. Amongst them, Tim Hardaway Jr. has played pretty well, averaging 21.3 points on 46.6 percent shooting over his past 13 outings. Since we’ll likely see Josh Richardson on Hardaway Jr. for most of the night, things should work out well with his ability to apply pressure on the perimeter and force tough outside shots.
3: What will the HEAT need to focus on defensively Wednesday night?
Couper: Lowering New York’s Shot Quality. Porziņģis or no, the Knicks have had one of the lowest expected effective field-goal percentages in the league all season long, so the HEAT won’t want to do them any favors by allowing more open shots than they’re used to getting. The Knicks aren’t lacking in capable scorers and attackers, but as long as the HEAT can stay in front of their man one-on-one and avoid bringing a third defender into pick-and-rolls as much as possible, they should be able to live with any shots the Knicks create off the dribble. But loosen the reins just a little too much and the Knicks are capable of going on a roll and playing downhill for long stretches.
And then, if you do get them to miss shots, keeping Enes Kanter off the offensive glass is a must.
Joe: Even though the Knicks are ranked near the bottom of the league in most advanced offensive metrics, they do have some guys who can light up the scoreboard. In particular, Michael Beasley can really cause some trouble for the opposition with his innate ability to score in bunches. While JJ competed hard against Beasley that last time out against New York, the 29-year-old still hit some very tough shots and was 8-of-10 on contested looks. More recently, Beasley has gotten even better and is actually New York’s most efficient offensive player in terms of field goal percentage over the past seven games.
In other words, the HEAT have to stick to their principles and not allow the Knicks to get any breathing room when looking to attack off the dribble. New York doesn’t move the ball a whole lot or drive to the bucket, but the team does take a bevy of pull-up jumpers.
Jan. 5 – Knicks at HEAT
The HEAT have won two straight and are 38-33. The Knicks have also won two straight, but enter the contest at 26-45. James Johnson is averaging 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game on 66.7 percent shooting over his past five outings. Enes Kanter leads New York with 10.8 rebounds per game. Dwyane Wade (mild left hamstring strain) and Hassan Whiteside (left hip pain) are out.
HEAT Offense: 104.6 (20) HEAT Defense: 104.6 (9) Knicks Offense: 104.1 (21) Knicks Defense: 107.9 (21)
By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
At approximately 2:00 PM, I will be conducting trivia for two pairs of tickets to tomorrow night’s game against the Knicks (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.
By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Denver Nuggets Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Nuggets 95-94 in their last meeting on Nov. 3. 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: Are there any positives that can carry over from Miami’s win in Los Angeles?
Couper Moorhead: To borrow a term from another NBA franchise, the HEAT did a much better job making this a grit-and-grind game rather than the Lakers’ typical full-court affair. Both teams still got out into transition plenty, largely due to Los Angeles’ 20 turnovers, but those turnovers were caused by the HEAT applying consistent pressure to all of the Lakers’ offensive actions. Miami crashed the offensive glass and, most importantly, had an unbelievably high 29 deflections. On a night when Miami was a little shorthanded and at the end of a West Coast trip, struggling to shoot from the perimeter along the way, they won because they defended long enough to give Goran Dragić a chance to win it for them at the end. As Erik Spoelstra has referred to it often this season, that’s the team’s blueprint for winning.
Joe Beguiristain: Definitely.
As been the case all season, the HEAT grinded out a tough victory and weren’t fazed down the stretch when the Lakers took a brief lead with 1:23 left. While Goran Dragić deserves a lion’s share of the credit for the win, other guys like Bam Adebayo, James Johnson and Josh Richardson also came up big.
In particular, Adebayo and Johnson applied pressure to Julius Randle for a majority of the contest and kept him in check after halftime. Adebayo perhaps limited Randle the most, but JJ was just as important with a team-high six deflections. Richardson, meanwhile, made a lot of hustle plays and ended up with five deflections, four offensive rebounds and a team-high four steals.
Gritty, hard-nosed performances like that go a long way when things aren’t going perfectly on the offensive end.
2: What has stuck with you about Miami’s loss in Denver way back at the beginning of the season?
Couper: That game was so long ago that Paul Millsap essentially missed three months of the season with an injury and he’ll still have played in both games against Miami. And not only was Dion Waiters starting but so was Okaro White, who recently signed a contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was also a game played at Miami’s pace and with Miami’s defense showing up to hold Denver to 100 points per 100 possessions. There were some interesting splits, however, as the Nuggets’ starters generally scored well and defended poorly in that game while their bench played some great defensive minutes, influencing a 13-point Miami third period. In the end some big plays, and free-throws, from Millsap sealed the deal, but it’s worth remembering what style of game it was.
It was also another excellent night from Dragić, who shot 8-of-15 with seven assists as he relentlessly attacked Nikola Jokić in pick-and-roll. To avoid that, Denver will likely put Millsap on Bam Adebayo and Jokić on James Johnson (assuming the starting lineup remains consistent) which means it will be important for Johnson to get off to an aggressive start attacking the rim as he has for the past ten days or so.
Joe: While both teams had slightly different looks in that last matchup, there are some things to note from that game. Above all else, James Johnson’s stout defense against Paul Millsap really stood out, as he held the 33-year-old versatile big to just 2-of-6 shooting when assigned to him. Of course, there’s no guarantee that will happen again, but Johnson has continued to show a lot of grit on the defensive end.
Another thing that jumped out from that previous meeting was Miami’s three-point shooting, as four guys hit multiple treys and the team shot 15-of-37 (40.5 percent) from downtown on the night. Although the Nuggets haven’t given up a ton of threes this season, they are susceptible from the left corner (allowing four attempts per game from that area). Not to mention, opposing teams are shooting 37.4 percent from deep against Denver, which is one of the higher percentages in the league.
We’ll see how it all plays out Monday night.
3: What aspect of Denver’s offense will be most important for Miami to slow down?
Couper: Getting Denver to slow down will be important but they’re actually only No. 15 in pace, which is unusually low for a Nuggets team. Theirs is a very balanced offense with shooters, post players and isolation players all around when they’re called upon. But it’s the passing, and therefore the cutting, that can hurt Miami the most if they aren’t showing the defensive activity level they showed against the Lakers. Both Jokić and Millsap are both willing and skilled passers and the Nuggets excel at taking advantage of defensive miscommunications and either cutting to the rim or to an open shooting spot. Because cutters typically only get the ball when they’re open, that means a shot off a cut is typically an open shot and therefore one of the most dangerous ones. It’s one thing if Denver has a hot shooting night or they’re scoring well one-on-one – those kind of games you can both survive and deal with – but if they’re supplementing everything with a ton of effective movement, you’ve got a long night ahead of you.
Joe: As Coup mentioned above, the Nuggets can do a little bit of everything on the offensive end thanks to their personnel. While Nikola Jokić is the key to it all with his ability to create for his teammates and score from anywhere on the floor, Denver is loaded with a bunch of guys who can fill it up. As a result, the Nuggets are ranked among the league’s elite in shot quality (expected effective field goal percentage of 52.5).
In particular, the HEAT have to be wary of Denver’s guards off the dribble. Among them, Jamal Murray and Will Barton pose the biggest threat, especially with Gary Harris out due to a right knee injury. The 21-year-old Murray has been on a nice little run recently, averaging 20.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game over his last five. It’ll be up to Dragić, Richardson and Tyler Johnson to help slow him down throughout the contest.
Nov. 3 – HEAT at Nuggets
The HEAT enter the contest at 37-33. The Nuggets have won three of five and are 38-32 on the year. Goran Dragić is averaging 24 points per game on 56.5 percent shooting over his past four outings. Nikola Jokić leads Denver in rebounds (10.5) and assists (6.0) per game. Dwyane Wade (mild left hamstring strain) and Hassan Whiteside (left hip pain) are out.
HEAT Offense: 104.2 (20) HEAT Defense: 104.4 (8) Nuggets Offense: 109.0 (6) Nuggets Defense: 108.6 (22)