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By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Kent Smith
The Miami HEAT defeated the Charlotte Hornets 104-98 Friday night at Spectrum Center. Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington led the way for the HEAT with 16 points apiece. Five other players scored in double-figures for Miami. Click here for the full recap on HEAT.com.
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 Los Angeles Clippers (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: Joe Murphy
The Miami HEAT face the Charlotte Hornets Friday night at Spectrum Center. The HEAT defeated the Hornets 105-100 in their last meeting on Dec. 1. 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: What was your takeaway from the home loss to Portland?
Couper Moorhead: We’ll discuss Miami’s defense in this one shortly, as it relates to Friday’s matchup, but this is a good time to highlight just how good Wayne Ellington has been. The HEAT’s offense wasn’t operating at peak efficiency on Wednesday, though the earlier quarters involved some nice away from the ball movement, but Ellington was incredible as he hit 6-of-7 from three in the first half and 7-of-10 overall for 24 points. While the HEAT do quite well generating open catch-and-shoot opportunities for their shooters, Ellington has a rare ability to succeed by almost creating his own offense without the ball in his hands. He’ll often cover the width of the court twice before ever touching the ball, and teams are so keyed in on stopping him that he has less than half a second to catch and release before the defense recovers. Those shots won’t always fall due simply to degree of difficulty, but Ellington has been such a strong source of offense that it almost hasn’t mattered which lineups Miami uses off the bench lately. If he’s in the lineup, it’s had success at one point or another.
Joe Beguiristain: It was just a tough loss.
After Miami jumped out to a double-digit lead thanks to Wayne Ellington’s torrid start, Damian Lillard took over down the stretch to give Portland the narrow victory. While Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined for 46 points, Josh Richardson did a solid job of defending the dynamic backcourt duo for a majority of the night.
The odd thing is McCollum actually shot slightly better on contested field goal attempts (57 percent) than he did on uncontested field goal attempts (55.6 percent), and the Trail Blazers as a whole connected on 48.2 percent of their contested shots. Now, Portland tends to take tough jumpers off the dribble anyways, but that’s still pretty crazy.
Although it wasn’t the HEAT’s best defensive game and there were some breakdowns here and there, they still competed hard against a team that’s improving on the offensive end.
2: What did we learn from the previous matchup with Charlotte?
Couper: The only real concrete thing we learned in that game, or were at least reminded of, is how important Kemba Walker is to the Hornets offense. With Walker on the floor the Hornets are a well above-average offense, scoring 109.2 points per 100 possessions. Without him, they score 90.8 per 100, which would be below the No. 30 offense in the league. Charlotte managed reasonably well on December 1, splitting that On/Off difference with an Offensive Rating of 99.8 per 100 thanks to a balanced scoring effort, but that efficiency was on very poor shot quality and it was clear how much Walker’s absence was felt. Now that he’s good to go for Friday night, even with the always underrated Cody Zeller out, this should be a different game.
Joe: That last matchup was memorable for a couple of reasons. For starters, Richardson went off for a career-high 27 points, including an impressive and-one finish late in the contest. Of course, he also defended Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist quite well.
Another guy who stood out was Bam Adebayo, who didn’t back down one bit from Dwight Howard. Throughout the contest, the vet tried to go at the rookie in the post a number of times, but Adebayo remained disciplined and played a part in Howard’s whopping nine turnovers.
All that said, Friday night will be very different with Kemba Walker back in the lineup. While the Hornets have still struggled overall with or without him this season, he’s clearly the guy who makes their offense work.
3: How might the HEAT attack the Kemba Walker matchup?
Couper: Playing Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on Wednesday was a nice tune-up for Walker, who takes even more off-dribble jumpers than either of Portland’s guards (per 100 possessions). Against Portland, Erik Spoelstra had Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo play higher up in pick-and-roll coverage than they normally do (they usually hang back closer to the paint to squeeze the ball into the inefficient mid-range. For a time, that coverage worked wonders as it jammed up Portland’s offense, and Lillard in particular. As the game wore on Portland started to find the seams, hitting the rolling big in the middle of the floor so he could find the open shooter (due to rotations caused by the higher-up coverage) and then splitting the coverage once those roller passes loosened things up. I would expect the HEAT to try something similar with Walker, but they’ll have to stay tight on their helps and recovers because even if that coverage can be effective, Walker has seen it before and knows where to look for weaknesses.
Both Lillard and McCollum also went with a little more isolation attacks than usual to avoid always bringing a second defender to the ball, so if Walker goes that route it puts extra pressure on the HEAT’s one-on-one containment.
Joe: After dealing with Lillard on Wednesday, the HEAT will have another tall task in trying to stop Walker. While Lillard is a little more efficient in the pick-and-roll, the two have nearly identical shooting splits in terms of volume and field goal percentage by shot area.
As Coup mentioned above, Miami’s bigs played up a bit more than usual in the pick-and-roll to impede Lillard and the rest of Portland’s guards. Since Walker is the clear focal point on offense and he doesn’t have a guy like McCollum to really make the defense pay off the ball, I think the HEAT will cover him the same way. That said, Marvin Williams could get hot from deep if Miami’s rotations aren’t quick enough after the initial pass from Walker.
In any event, the HEAT put in work at practice on Thursday and reviewed film to correct their mistakes. We’ll see how it all shakes out.
Dec. 1 – Hornets at HEAT
April 5 – HEAT at Hornets
The HEAT have won three straight against the Hornets. Miami has won two of three overall and is 13-14. Charlotte has dropped eight of ten and is 10-17 on the year. Josh Richardson has the best defensive rating on the HEAT (103.1) among players who average at least 27 minutes per game. Kemba Walker leads the Hornets in points (22.1) and assists (6.0) per game. Justise Winslow (left knee strain) and Hassan Whiteside (left knee bone bruise) did not travel with the team.
HEAT Offense: 102.3 (23) HEAT Defense: 104.7 (14) Hornets Offense: 103.1 (22) Hornets Defense: 104.5 (12)
By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Trail Blazers 115-104 in their last meeting on March 19. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What did we learn from Miami’s win over Memphis?
Couper Moorhead: Not much more than we learned from the win over Brooklyn. The Grizzlies have their own issues to sort out at this point of the season, particularly with Mike Conley out of the lineup, and teams like that generally don’t reveal many truths about a team past the first few weeks of the season. The HEAT simply defended to their identity, jamming up set plays, pressing the ball and preventing the Grizzlies from getting to easy actions. Memphis was able to keep the game close by doing some of the same, but they never scored over 20 points in a quarter after the first. And once Miami scored off a few turnovers and caught fire from three late, that was the game. That’s the HEAT’s formula, and it worked exactly as intended the past two outings.
Joe Beguiristain: We continued to see Miami impose its will and take care of business. After holding the Nets to 40.7 percent shooting on Saturday, the HEAT carried that over to Monday night and limited the Grizzlies to just 38.9 percent from the field. In particular, Dion Waiters, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Johnson were brilliant on the defensive end.
Throughout the contest, Waiters pressured Dillon Brooks, James Ennis and Chandler Parsons to the tune of four deflections, two steals and a block. Adebayo, meanwhile, made an immediate impact in the first quarter and showed quick feet on rotations and switches. As a result, he tallied two steals, two blocks, three deflections and a plus-10 rating. Johnson, on the other hand, competed hard against Tyreke Evans and fought over screens well to help hold the 28-year-old to just 5-of-17 shooting.
On the flip side of the ball, Miami got into the paint at will and had Memphis scrambling for most of the night. In all, it was good to see the HEAT dominate and close out a successful road trip.
2: How has Portland been different this season?
Couper: While the Blazers did add two big men at draft time in Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan and traded shooter Allen Crabbe to the Nets in the offseason, their most significant move of late was adding Jusuf Nurkić at center at the last trade deadline. Half a year later, Portland has been one of the best defenses in the league in part because they allow only 99.7 points per 100 possessions when Nurkić is on the floor. Now, that hasn’t held up recently as the Blazers have lost five games in a row, including a thriller against the Houston Rockets, but they’ve still played some of their best defense with Nurkić on the floor – he just happens to have missed the past two games and his availability for Wednesday is unknown as of the time this was written.
But for all the positive changes Portland has seen on the defensive end, they’ve been well below their offensive standards after finishing No. 11 on that end scoring 107.8 points per 100 possessions last year. Currently, they’re No. 22 at 103.1 per 100. Some of that might just be early season randomness as Damian Lillard has broken out of a mild slump (he was hovering just above 30 percent from three for a while) with three straight 30-point games. And everyone should remember Lillard dropping 49 in Miami last year.
Joe: While Portland has struggled recently on the defensive end during its five-game losing streak, the team has greatly improved in that area this season. After giving up 107.8 points per 100 possessions a year ago, the Trail Blazers have bettered that number by 5.4 points.
As Coup mentioned above, a lot of that has to do with Jusuf Nurkić. That said, Evan Turner has also played pretty well on that end for Portland. In fact, he has the fourth-best defensive rating on the team (101.5) and is limiting the opposition to 6.8 percentage points less than their usual field goal percentage. With Moe Harkless hurt, Turner has started the last two games for Head Coach Terry Stotts. We’ll see if Harkless can give it a go on Wednesday or if Turner will get the nod once again.
3: How are the Blazers going to test Miami?
Couper: Even in what’s been a down offensive season, Portland is never a team to take lightly as they’ll be one of the league’s most explosive teams as long as Lillard and CJ McCollum are around. Only the Oklahoma City Thunder take more jumpers off the dribble than Portland, and only Houston and Indiana have a higher effective field-goal percentage on those shots (Portland is at 49.7 eFG). In other words, this is as prolific a pull-up team as there is, which puts a ton of pressure on guards to fight over screens and on bigs to step up and contest. Miami generally is happy to force teams to shoot in the mid-range, especially off the dribble, but against Lillard and McCollum they’ll have to be much more aggressive as bad shots for the league aren’t really bad shots for them. In other words, the HEAT will have to step out of their defensive comfort zone a bit against a pair of players that leave defenses anything but comfortable.
Joe: Although the Trail Blazers haven’t been as sharp on the offensive end as in years past, I believe they will still test the HEAT’s defense. As usual, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are the two main focal points of Portland’s offense. Lillard has continued to put pressure on defenses in the pick-and-roll (he’s averaging 1.04 points per possession as the P&R ball-handler, which places him in the 90.4 percent tile), while McCollum has done a good job of getting open off screens and pulling-up quickly from mid-range (the 26-year-old is shooting 47.1 percent from that area this season).
As such, Miami has to make sure it fights over screens and rotates quickly. The last thing you want is Lillard and McCollum getting into an early rhythm thanks to some clean looks. Like I stated before though, the HEAT have been playing well on the defensive end of late. From Waiters and TJ to Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow, Miami has enough strong perimeter defenders to get the job done.
March 19 – Trail Blazers at HEAT
The HEAT have won two in a row and are 13-13 on the year. The Trail Blazers have dropped five straight and are also 13-13. Erik Spoelstra is one win away from tying Pat Riley for the most wins in franchise history. Damian Lillard leads Portland in points (26.6) and assists (6.2) per game.
HEAT Offense: 102.2 (24) HEAT Defense: 104.3 (10) Trail Blazers Offense: 103.1 (22) Trail Blazers Defense: 102.4 (7)