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By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Oscar Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the New York Knicks Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT defeated the Knicks 98-81 in their last meeting on February 28. 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: Despite the end result, did Miami continue any positive trends from the three-game road trip as they took on Portland?
Couper Moorhead: Until the road trip and long minutes appeared to take a toll of the team down the stretch, Miami’s offense had continued to be full of energy and movement as Goran Dragic led the way through drive after drive after drive into the paint. And when Dragic didn’t have the ball in his hands, it was Josh McRoberts running the point for stretches or Hassan Whiteside finding deep position in the paint (where he was incredibly efficient) or Wayne Ellington running off screens. The offense wasn’t perfect, but it kept things moving and all the little things the HEAT have added to their scoring diet in the past week should help them build a more complete approach as players return from injury.
The defense, however, was also significantly stronger against Portland. That was partially due to Utah being red-hot from the perimeter, but the HEAT guards did very well chasing Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum around screens so they wouldn’t have enough air space for a comfortable jumper. A lot of that came from Rodney McGruder, who is proving himself to be a most dependable defensive option.
Joe Beguiristain: While Miami ultimately fell short in Portland, the team did continue to show improvement on both sides of the ball. Perhaps most impressive was how the HEAT limited Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to a combined 13-of-37 shooting from the field. In particular, Rodney McGruder, Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragić did a great job on both guys for a majority of the contest. As a whole, Miami held Portland to just 40.4 percent shooting.
On the flip side of the ball, the two-man game between Dragić and Hassan Whiteside continued to be extremely effective. The Slovenian attacked the basket and knocked down jumpers thanks to good screens from Whiteside, while the big fella did a little bit of everything against Portland’s bigs. In short, both guys emptied the tank and gave it all they had in a valiant effort against the Trail Blazers.
2: How has New York’s offseason moves affected their team so far?
Couper: After adding Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in the offseason, the Knicks are scoring over 108 points per 100 possessions with either of them on the floor and with another acquisition in Courtney Lee shooting well over 40 percent from three they’ve been an above-average offense overall so far. But additions can also come from internal development as Kristaps Porzingis has entered this season as a significantly improved offensive player, scoring 20 points per game on about the same number of possessions he used during his rookie season when he averaged 14. This is as dynamic an offense as the Knicks have had since their playoff runs a few seasons ago. They’re also 11-9 based on a defense that currently ranks below average, but that doesn’t take away from this being one of the tougher teams to gameplan for in the league these days.
Joe: The Knicks have improved on the offensive end thus far thanks to the additions of Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Jennings. While Jennings provides a spark off the bench for New York, both Rose and Lee have been producing well in the staring lineup. In the case of Rose, the 28-year-old is averaging 19.3 points, 4.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game on 46.8 percent shooting in his last ten. He’s also been getting to the free throw line at a higher rate during that time frame. We all know what Rose is capable of when healthy, and he seems to be in a good place right now. Thanks in part to the playmaking point guard, the Knicks have won three straight and are two games over .500 for the first time this season.
3: How do you think Miami will defensively handle New York’s leading scorers in Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis?
Couper: To answer this we must first discuss Miami’s injury situation. James Johnson, Justise Winslow and Dion Waiters have all been ruled out for the game. Josh Richardson and Luke Babbitt are both doubtful. So Miami will be shorthanded in general but could also be missing a chunk of its non-center size, meaning anyone other than Derrick Williams could potentially be giving up both inches and pounds to the 6-foot-8 Anthony. Miami still has a ton of gritty defenders, but if Anthony has a size advantage in the post it will take a disciplined array of help defenders to keep him away from the rim.
As for Porzingis, you could see some cross-matching between him and Whiteside. Miami could want Whiteside to get Porzingis switched on to him so Whiteside can get good position in the post, but by the same token asking Whiteside to chase the Knicks’ high-volume shooter feet beyond the three-point line is quite the task for a full game. The guess would be that Whiteside starts the game defending Noah or Kyle O’Quinn, depending on who is in the lineup, and then we see the Whiteside-Porzingis matchup later in the game when New York goes small with Anthony at the four spot.
Joe: As Coup mentioned above, things will be tough without James Johnson, Justise Winslow or Dion Waiters. Last season, we were treated to great matchups between Winslow and Carmelo Anthony, but unfortunately that won’t be the case this time around. Even though McGruder is giving up a bunch of size, perhaps we’ll see him defending Anthony on the perimeter at certain points in the game. Otherwise, we could see Derrick Williams or Josh McRoberts on Anthony from time to time.
Kristaps Porzingis, meanwhile, has really taken a leap forward in his sophomore season. The 21-year-old has upped his production in nearly every facet, with the biggest jumps coming in points per game and field goal percentage. McRoberts will likely start on the talented big unless Miami wants to cross-match like Coup stated above. Regardless of who guards Porzingis, they will have to give him no space on the perimeter since nearly 43 percent of his shots come off catch-and-shoot opportunities. Again, it’ll be tough, but we’ll see how it all pans out on Tuesday night.
February 28-HEAT at Knicks
January 6-Knicks at HEAT
The HEAT have won two of three and are 7-13. The Knicks have won three straight and stand at 11-9. Hassan Whiteside leads Miami in points (17.8), rebounds (14.9) and blocks (2.6) per game. Carmelo Anthony leads New York in scoring at 22.5 points per contest.
HEAT Offense: 100.2 (24) HEAT Defense: 102.1 (11) Knicks Offense: 104.4 (13) Knicks Defense: 107.2 (27)
By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Oscar Baldizon
At 3:00 PM EST, I will ask a trivia question for a pair of tickets to tomorrow night’s game against the Knicks. 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 or Monroe County. Also, you are ineligible if you've already won tickets this calendar month.
Please only play/answer if you can attend and qualify based on these rules.
By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Cameron Browne
The Miami HEAT face the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday night at Moda Center. The HEAT fell to the Trail Blazers 110-93 in their last meeting on April 2. Tip-off is set for 10:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 9:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: How did Miami pull off such an impressive victory in Utah, on the second night of a back-to-back?
Couper Moorhead: There were contributions all across the board in what was Miami’s most impressive win of the season. Wayne Ellington couldn’t miss for the second night in a row, James Johnson was a bulldozer getting to the rim and locking up on the defensive end and everyone else chipped in to help make responsive runs to every Utah burst. But this game was about Goran Dragic coming out of the gates attacking the rim relentlessly and constantly keeping the defense on its toes. That he hit a pair of late threes to keep Miami ahead certainly helped, but the shooting is just the icing on the cake. When Dragic is playing like this, and shooters are hitting off his creation, it looks like an offense that has been fully actualized.
Joe Beguiristain: Sheer effort. Despite having just nine available players once Luke Babbitt exited the game, Miami gutted it out and made big plays down the stretch to secure the win. No player was perhaps more impactful than James Johnson, who scored 14 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists after halftime. He also forced Gordon Hayward to double-clutch and ultimately miss what would have been the game-winning jumper. While we’ve seen Johnson have impressive spurts throughout the year, this was easily his most complete performance.
Of course, I’d be remiss without also mentioning Goran Dragić, who scored 14 points in the fourth quarter. Thanks to both he and Johnson, Miami scored 64 points in the paint against one of the best defensive teams in the league. That’s something to be proud of.
2: What’s different about Portland’s roster this season and what sort of start are they off to?
Couper: After a successful year last season with a relatively young group, Portland had some money to spend during the offseason. With flexibility in hand, they retained Allen Crabbe, Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard and then signed both Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli. So it’s not a vastly different roster, but it could have been given how much was up in the air during the summer.
As for their start, it’s been up and down so far. With Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum leading perimeter heavy offense, the Blazers have locked in a legitimate Top 10 offense that has almost underachieved at times with how the bench has struggled to incorporate the newer pieces and lineups. But for as good as the offense has been, the defense has been about the opposite as it currently sits as the worst in the league. With Al-Farouq Aminu missing a chunk of time and Portland allowing the second-highest three-point percentage in the league that ranking might be a little flukey, but Portland still allows teams to get into the paint with regularity.
Joe: As Coup said above, Portland’s roster hasn’t changed all that much since the team re-signed a bunch of guys. However, they did bring in Festus Ezeli (who is currently rehabbing from knee surgery), Evan Turner and former HEAT player Shabazz Napier. Turner has provided a spark off the bench for the Trail Blazers, as he’s averaging 13.7 points, 3.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game on 52.4 percent shooting in his last six. The 28-year-old has been doing the majority of his damage in the paint and restricted area, so Miami will have to contain him off the dribble.
Overall, Portland hasn’t started off as quickly as it probably wanted to. While they’ve won two of their last three, the team is currently 10-10. A lot of that has to do with their defense, which ranks last in the league in terms of efficiency. That said, the Trail Blazers have one of the best offenses in the league thanks to the dynamic backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. As usual, those guys will be a handful to contain.
3: What sort of matchup issues could there be for both sides Saturday night?
Couper: The Dragic-Hassan Whiteside combination could be a tough one for a Portland team that doesn’t have elite defenders at either position and with the Blazers not being a particularly strong defensive rebounding unit so far and Whiteside’s size advantage in the middle, there should be plenty of opportunities on the offensive glass.
But Portland is a good offense for a reason. Both Lillard and McCollum can shoot from anywhere but can do it off the dribble, which means any and every screen set for them is a potential shot. Last season’s Portland game in Miami was one of Whiteside’s bigger challenges of the year as he was forced to step out and defend on the perimeter. And if Portland plays Meyers Leonard, a strong shooter, at the same time there will be even more ground for Whiteside to cover and manage. But it’s not all on Miami’s center. Miami will have to be disciplined in their help on to shooters – something Portland doesn’t make easy given their emphasis on spacing.
Joe: For the HEAT, they need to try and limit Lillard and McCollum as much as possible. The two guards provide a unique challenge since both can run the pick-and-roll well. In fact, Lillard is among the league’s elite with 1.06 points per possession as the pick-and-roll ball handler. McCollum isn’t ranked quite as high, but his shooting splits are pretty solid. The majority of his shots this season have come from mid-range, where he is shooting 49-of-104 (47.1 percent).
On the flip side of things, Portland could have some trouble stopping Miami from getting into the paint. The HEAT have just been in attack mode of late, averaging 58 points in the paint per game over their last three. Of course, with Dragić attacking the basket and getting to the rim at will, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Winning at Moda Center is no easy feat, but we’ll see if Miami can cap off an already successful road trip with yet another victory.
April 2-HEAT at Trail Blazers
The HEAT have won two straight and stand at 7-12. The Trail Blazers have won two of three and are 10-10 thus far. Miami and Portland split the season-series a year ago, with each team winning on its home floor. Since returning from injury, Goran Dragić is averaging 23.3 points and 10.0 assists per game on 45.3 percent shooting.
HEAT Offense: 100.5 (25) HEAT Defense: 102.1 (10) Trail Blazers Offense: 108.0 (7) Trail Blazers Defense: 110.4 (30)