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Danny

Bucks at HEAT Official Game Thread and Preview

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(Photo Credit: Gary Dineen)

The Miami HEAT return to action tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks. It's the HEAT's first game after the six-game road trip that ended Saturday night with a victory over the Phoenix Suns. The HEAT enter tonight's game at 8-3 and the Bucks enter at 6-3. Tune in to Sun Sports to catch the action.

1. The Bucks seemed to have Miami's number, relatively speaking, last year beating the HEAT twice. Was there anything to that?

Couper Moorhead: There were two main issues cropping up for the HEAT in those two games. For starters, they happened to be playing some of their worst interior defense of the season in those games as the Bucks were able to stay in games with smart passes off penetration when Miami's help lagged a step or two behind. Then there was some incredible three-point shooting, particularly from Brandon Jennings, that was more an aberration than anything that exposed a hole in Miami's defense. One of those problems was fixed, and the other one fixed itself through natural regression.

Danny Martinez: I guess the main takeaway is that you never can tell what will happen on any given night. In the first loss Andre Bogut anchored the paint for the Bucks and the HEAT weren’t able to get anything going offensively. In the second loss Brandon Jennings caught absolute fire late and finished with seven made threes. Bogut is gone and Jennings’ seven threes were his season high. There may be something to Scott Skiles defense against the HEAT, but I think we might be over thinking this.

2. Of course, these Bucks are not the Bucks of last year. How has the Ellis-Bogut trade changed them?

Couper: The Bucks are currently an above-average offensive team. Does that sound like a typical Scott Skiles-coached squad to you? Ellis has given the team a much needed boost of offensive creativity, which in turn has taken quite a bit of pressure off Jennings. Their overall ball movement might not be to the point that they are going to beat Miami with flawless possessions, but there will be plenty of off-ball movement that defenders need to be aware of and if help is even a little slow, Ellis and Jennings can beat you with some excellent one-pass playmaking.

Danny: When healthy, Bogut is one of the top defensive players in NBA. With him gone, the Bucks play faster and don’t have the elite defense was their staple just a couple of years ago. Ellis and Jennings give the Bucks a backcourt that can explode in an instant, whch has to scare any opposing coach. Epke Udoh, another player that the Bucks got in the trade, has been a plus/minus beast since he entered the league and that hasn’t changed since the trade. Udoh, Larry Sanders and John Henson give the Bucks all kinds of interior length to frustrate attackers. It will be interesting to watch this Bucks team evolve over the course of the season.

3. Other than Jennings and Ellis, who is another Buck you'll have your eye on?

Couper: I don't know where Larry Sanders has been all my life, but I'm glad he's here now and getting almost 25 minutes per game. He's been one of the best defensive players in the league so far, with incredible plus-minus numbers supporting his on-off court splits. He might not immediately jump out at you in the same way that Kevin Garnett would, but watch him for a handful of possessions off the ball and you'll appreciate what he's going. Someday, I'd like to see him on the same team as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Danny: I’m excited to watch Larry Sanders. I watched a fair amount of him in college and think he’s a lot of fun on the court. Also, I thought his show on HBO was great. Hey Now.

4. With a couple days of practice under their belt, do you expect the HEAT's defense to look a little better?

Couper: It won't quite be a cure all, but I doubt anyone will be coming out of this game with any real concern about the defensive effort, unless the Bucks hit a ton of uncontested threes again -- Ersan Ilyasova might be due for a hot game -- but then the concern would be entirely unwarranted.

Danny: Definitely. This HEAT core has always been able to fix their issues fairly quickly. Two practices, and maybe more importantly some rest, will plug some leaks. I think there’s a chance we’ll look up in mid-December and all of a sudden the HEAT will be back to being an elite defense. The team finished the road trip strong and I don’t think it’s crazy to see that trend continue.

5. Miami has a number of shooters hitting threes at a likely unsustainable rate. If percentages start to dip, will it matter?

Couper: Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen are shooting over 50 percent from three. Shane Battier is close to that mark. LeBron James is over 40 percent, as is Mike Miller. The chances are all those players continuing to shoot that well over the course of the season and as close to impossible as you can get without being absolute. That said, Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh should probably have their percentages tick up, and it's not like those guys are going to fall off a cliff if they get closer to 40 percent. In the end, the exact percentages don't matter as long as they're all taking the open shots they get and defenses are respecting their shots enough to space the floor.

Danny: The HEAT should be an elite three-point shooting team considering who is on the team and the kind of shots they get. Right now the HEAT have the second best three-point percentage since 2001 (behind this year’s Thunder), which is not likely to stick. However, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the HEAT finish with a top 10-15 mark for the last 13 seasons. Some regression will knock the HEAT’s offensive efficiency down, but the reality is that the HEAT offense, barring injury, will still be top five in the NBA.

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Infernoian Preview

Today we've got Scar returning and the world famous ThunderDAN makes his preview debut:

1. The Bucks seemed to have Miami's number, relatively speaking, last year beating the HEAT twice. Was there anything to that?

ThunderDAN: I don't believe in that. It's just right place, right time usually for these teams. Besides, even if there was truth to it in the past, its got nothing to do with this game. Just ask the Bulls and Celtics.

Scar: Considering that Joel Anthony started all three games last year and only contributed five points total, and now Anthony rarely sees the court, plus the fact that the Bucks did not have Ellis those games makes me think this game will have an entirely different outcome.

2. Of course, these Bucks are not the Bucks of last year. How has the Ellis-Bogut trade changed them?

ThunderDAN: Well they traded size for perimeter scoring. If Jennings and Ellis can share the ball better than Curry and Ellis, I think they'll be a better team.

Scar: Well they traded Bogut for a player that actually stays healthy, so I'd say it was a win-win for the city of Milwaukee.

3. Other than Jennings and Ellis, who is another Buck you'll have your eye on?

ThunderDAN: ERSAN. He's always a pain in the sova. And looking at his 25% from three this season, you know he's going 7 for 8 tonight.

Scar: Larry Sanders. The Bucks have tons of shooters on their team, but I'm guessing Sanders will get some easy buckets in the paint.

4. With a couple days of practice under their belt, do you expect the HEAT's defense to look a little better?

ThunderDAN: It should, but I always feel like we play like * after long breaks. It could be my imagination though.

Scar: Yes. This team takes pride in their defense. I imagine it will continue to improve as the players ease into or back into the system.

5. Miami has a number of shooting hitting threes at a likely unsustainable. If percentages start to dip, will it matter?

ThunderDAN: I don't see it dipping that much. We're just so open all the time. LeBron's average will probably dip a lot. But I cant see these vets missing so open.

Scar: It means the Heat will have to eventually give up passing up those good looks for the three ball that they are trending to right now. At least it just so happens that they have yet to see a considerable drop, so why bother changing something that seems to work?

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We must protect the Triple A.Let's see if our perimeter defense has improved,I surely hope so...TEAM HEAT since '88!

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Wade is playing. Let's see how well he can play with these young guards. lol

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Wade is playing. Let's see how well he can play with these young guards. lol

It's definitely going to be a challenge,especially with that ailing ankle.Hopefully MIAMI's defense is on point tonight...TEAM HEAT since '88!

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Good to see Wade match his point total from that Clippers game already. lol

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This team and FT's... Even Ray Allen is missing them.

Guess you have to complain about something when the team is up by 14.

edit: Well there goes Sanders.

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This team and FT's... Even Ray Allen is missing them.

It seemed Ray Allen FTs was like 100% while he was in BOSTON CELTICS. What is it with MIA HEAT that everyone loses there FT skill. The few exception is CHRIS BOSH. He is the only one with whom I can sleep while he is at the line. No worry.

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Wade.... you got great teammates playing with you

Pass the faawkin ball

It isn't just Wade, LeBron has been pounding the ball too.

Wow even Dalembert makes 3's against us :(

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    • By Joe B.
      Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman
      The Miami HEAT face the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena. The HEAT defeated the Cavaliers 122-101 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.
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      Couper Moorhead: This is where we throw the statistics out the window for a bit and talk about just how much this HEAT team, even with just nine available players for a stretch of four games in five nights, just seems to keep on coming no matter the score. Even with 15 losses, Miami’s net rating (pace adjusted average scoring differential) is -2.6, meaning they rarely actually get blown out. It just seems this team is allergic to being down double digits, and with players like Tyler Johnson and Rodney McGruder going all out all the time they tend to make enough hustle plays and run enough in transition to keep the team in it even on nights like Wednesday when the offense isn’t quite flowing as they would want it to. That sort of grit doesn’t always translate to wins, but it says a lot about the collective character of this group.
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      March 19-Cavaliers at HEAT
      December 5-Cavaliers at HEAT
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      Efficiencies (Rank):
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    • By Joe B.
      Photo Credit: Scott Cunningham
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      Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox
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      Highlights:
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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.
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      2: How has New York’s offseason moves affected their team so far?
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      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. 

      Highlights:
      February 28-HEAT at Knicks
      January 6-Knicks at HEAT
      Game Notes:
      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.  
      Efficiencies (Rank):
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