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Nets at HEAT Official Game Thread and Preview

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(Photo Credit: Jesse Garrabrant)

The Miami HEAT host the Brooklyn Nets Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Both teams enter on five game winning streaks. Tip off is set for 7:30 PM; coverage starts at 7 PM on Sun Sports.

1.The Nets currently have the seventh best offense in the NBA. In their first meeting against the HEAT, they weren’t able to get anything going. Does that change tonight?

Couper Moorhead: I kept waiting for the Deron Williams drive-and-kick game to get going in that first matchup, but it never quite materialized. The Nets still struggle with their floor spacing at times – a big reason why Jerry Stackhouse has been getting late-game minutes, as he can shoot the corner three – and they haven’t always made the second or third pass that offenses need to beat Miami’s defensive rotations. A few weeks more of playing together should help, though, and even without Brook Lopez, fewer post-ups for him might prove to be beneficial against a defense that feasts on one-on-one play.

Danny Martinez: I doubt the HEAT hold the Nets to an offensive efficiency of 78.1 again. The Nets have nowhere to go but up, and I expect them to. However, I don’t think we’ll see them put up a big number on the HEAT. With Brook Lopez out, the Nets are without their lone above-average offensive big man. The Nets should be more one dimensional, though I guess Andray Blatche or Kris Humphries might surprise us.

2.Gerald Wallace missed the first game against the HEAT. What does his presence mean for the Nets’ defense?

Couper: Having someone capable of cutting off-the-ball should help the Nets a ton, especially considering Miami’s recent defensive breakdowns. Wallace isn’t going to spread the floor but I wouldn’t be surprised if he snuck along the baseline for a few easy buckets. And then there’s that whole thing about Brooklyn having a good defender for LeBron James, which is nice, but it still doesn’t solve the issue of how they play James in the pick-and-roll (which should be better without Lopez).

Danny: Few players possess the combination of size and athleticism that Gerald Wallace does. He should help the Nets immensely with his ability to cover LeBron James. Without Wallace, the Nets were forced to play small and James picked them apart in his 30 minutes of action. Between Wallace and Joe Johnson, the Nets will now have to perimeter defenders to check HEAT wing players. The Nets are 6-1 in games Wallace plays. That isn’t a coincidence.

3.The Nets are 9-2 in their last 11 games, with wins against the Celtics, Knicks and Clippers. Are they now in the championship contender discussion?

Couper: If they can get their defensive efficiency into the Top 10 and keep it there for most of the season, then we can have that conversation.

Danny: Not yet, but we’re getting there. The Nets have the eighth best net efficiency rating in the NBA, but they’ve played the 11th easiest schedule in the NBA. If the Nets are in this position in late January, when the schedules should be more balanced, then they’ll be in the discussion. I’ll label them, “wait and see.”

4.The HEAT have eked out three straight home games, relying on late-game heroics to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Do you see these games as positives or negatives for the HEAT?

Couper: In the long run, they are positives. It’s frustrating for fans to watch games where the HEAT should technically be leading by double-digits at a minimum, but gaining the confidence they are now in absolutely thrashing teams in the clutch is going to pay dividends. That the defense that been otherworldly in the last five minutes of close games should tell you all you need to know about the defense right now. It’s not consistent, but it is consistently great when there is a real threat of losing – it’s not as if the HEAT’s defense has an exposed weakness, as some have suggested.

Danny: It’s November. The HEAT aren’t playing perfect basketball, but they’re winning games. They have the fourth best efficiency differential while playing the second hardest schedule in the league, so it’s not like we should be sounding any alarms. These close games have given the HEAT a chance to work in different late-game sets and lineups. I think that’s a positive going forward. Also, there is a benefit to having things to work on. This recent home stretch should give Coach Spoelstra plenty to work on.

5.If the game is close at the end, will the Nets be the first team to stick to Ray Allen?

Couper: Somebody has to, don’t they? It’s getting pretty incredible how people keep forgetting where Allen is on the floor. Then again, the more likely scenario is they start keying in on Allen too much, Spoelstra uses him as a decoy and James gets an open lane to the rim. During the regular season, at least, teams can have the tendency to compensate in extremes from game-to-game.

Danny: Someone eventually has to, right? Three teams have now fallen victim to Ray Allen daggers late in the fourth quarter. Defenders keep drifting off Allen as he shuffles along the perimeter and LeBron keeps feeding him. Whether it’s CJ Watson, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams or Keith Bogans on Allen late in the game, you know Nets coach, Avery Johnson, will be telling them to stick with number 34.

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Infernoian Preview

Today we've got Wuchuhurd, Scar and hopefully jafet6 previewing tonight's matchup.

1.The Nets currently have the seventh best offense in the NBA. In their first meeting against the HEAT, they weren’t able to get anything going. Does that change tonight?

Wuchuhurd: Hard to get a read on this Miami team right now but if I had to guess, this will be another high scoring struggle. Lopez' absence could be a blessing in disguise as it makes them faster and become more run-oriented. Brooklyn is also on a 5 game winning streak and should be coming to Miami with a bit more confidence and looking to make a statement. They know they are going to have to put up a bunch of points to pull off a victory.

2.Gerald Wallace missed the first game against the HEAT. What does his presence mean for the Nets’ defense?

Wuchuhurd: Gerald's presence gives them a versatile defender who can check LeBron and Bosh if needed. But he also makes the team faster on both ends and that will help them match Miami's pace and smaller lineup. Anytime you are lined up against Gerald Wallace, you better bring a hard hat because its going to get physical and he will make you work for every inch on the floor.

3.The Nets are 9-2 in their last 11 games, with wins against the Celtics, Knicks and Clippers. Are they now in the championship contender discussion?

Scar: Sure. But then again, you can make that argument for just about any team with a winning record.

4.The HEAT have eked out three straight home games, relying on late-game heroics to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Do you see these games as positives or negatives for the HEAT?

Scar: Positive. The Heat had issues in years past with these close game situations. James, and Wade are excellent scorers, but their long ball left a lot to be desired. With Allen in Miami, nowadays we have someone who thrives in these last second, game winning opportunities. I mean if teams are going to continue to keep Allen open as LeBron or Wade drives to the basket, he is going to continue killing them softly, so to speak.

Backcourt Breakdown by Wuchuhurd

With Lopez out, their is more pressure for Brooklyn's backcourt to produce than their is for Miami's. Still Brooklyn's all star backcourt is capable of carrying the load and getting hot from deep which seems to be the trend from Miami's opponents lately. With that I expect JJ and Deron to get into the scoring early and often. Wade enjoyed a very nice and efficient scoring outing in the last meeting. It's important he gets off to a fast start to put Nets rotation in a bind and decide if they want to bring out Watson or Bogans for defensive purposes. Rio obviously has his hands full matched up against Deron. Getting Rio off to a fast start would also be great to buy time for Ray who otherwise would have trouble defensively against their backcourt. Ray picked up 5 fouls in just 26 minutes of play during the last meeting. Bottomline is that as long as the Heats backcourt stays toe to toe with the Nets, they should be in good shape seeing that Miami's frontcourt should have it easy against a Brookless lineup.

Frontcourt Breakdown by Scar

The match up to look for will be Crash vs the King. Wallace is a good enough player that he will pester LeBron whenever he is on the court. For the Nets, Wallace will provide the best defense against LeBron. That being said, LeBron has the obvious advantage in this match up. Wallace has been playing very well ever since he came back from his injury issue, but LeBron is one of those players that will annoy him on both ends of the court.

Who knows who will start at the PF spot for Miami going forward until Shane Battier comes back. It looks like Rashard Lewis will get the starting nod for the time being. Kris Humphries is a banger in the low post area, Lewis can bang with him, but Humphries is a physical presence that will steal a rebound or two away from him. What Lewis does have to his advantage is his long frame and the rejuvenation of his long ball. Lewis currently sits as a very deadly long range assassin and that should keep Humphries out on the perimeter more then he wants.

First Tim Duncan sits out a game and now Brook Lopez is missing a game due to a legitimate injury. Chris Bosh should play another very efficient game given the fact that the Nets will probably play small ball right along with the champs. Bosh currently sits as the highest scoring center in the NBA. The Nets will try placing Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans or maybe even Humphries on Bosh to try and quiet his hot start to the season. Bosh did have one of his poorer outings of the season against the Nets in their first meeting, except a bounce back game for him.

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Prepare your umbrellas cause scrubs Keith Bogans and Jerry Stackhouse (wait he's still in the league) are going to rain 3s on us

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I'm really hoping D.WADE asserts himself this game without forcing the issue.He has to get into a rhythm without overdoing it,let the game just come to him.It should be a competitive game,can't wait...TEAM HEAT since '88!

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This is not the same Nets squad we routed early in the season, and this will be a completely different game. They have great size at every position. Bogans is an ugly mfer. The last three sentences are all facts.

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No Lopez, so they don't have all that much size.

Blatche is their next biggest person.

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I'm going to this game! Banane21.gifThis will be my first time of the big 3 era. Hopefully I'll see some LeBron and Wade fast break alley oops.

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I wonder will the WARDEN see any significant minutes tonight?SPO really need to start integrating JA into the rotation,it could pay dividends in the long run...TEAM HEAT since '88!

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No Lopez, so they don't have all that much size.

Blatche is their next biggest person.

Now we don't have to worry about lopez's 4 rebounds

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I'm going to this game! Banane21.gifThis will be my first time of the big 3 era. Hopefully I'll see some LeBron and Wade fast break alley oops.

Aye take some pics Bro!

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But if he played Miami, he would end up with 15. That is how it always has worked this year :D

he got 8 points, 7 rebounds last time he played us.

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he got 8 points, 7 rebounds last time he played us.

You get what I'm saying though. I saw a stat that concerned me, in the 123 previous minutes Matt Bonner played before us he got 8 rebounds, and he got 10 rebounds in the 30 minutes he played against us.

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You get what I'm saying though. I saw a stat that concerned me, in the 123 previous minutes Matt Bonner played before us he got 8 rebounds, and he got 10 rebounds in the 30 minutes he played against us.

that proves it!

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Deron and Lopez create some mismatches. Joe Johnson can take care of Wade without issue. I think this could be a Miami Loss if Nets play their cards right. Should be a fun game...it'll be close no doubt, could go either way. :D

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Deron and Lopez create some mismatches. Joe Johnson can take care of Wade without issue. I think this could be a Miami Loss if Nets play their cards right. Should be a fun game...it'll be close no doubt, could go either way. :D

Lopez is out genius

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our pattern is : beat bad teams by one or two points in the last seconds of the game and get blown out by good teams

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  • Similar Content

    • By Joe B.
      Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
      The Miami HEAT host the Golden State Warriors Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Warriors 107-95 in their last meeting on January 10. 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 the HEAT do well against the Milwaukee Bucks to keep their winning streak going?
      Couper Moorhead: While we almost always focus in on the defensive side of things in this space, when the HEAT put up one of their five most efficient offensive games of the season we have to change things up. It definitely, and obviously, helps when you shoot 13-of-30 from three – especially with Dion Waiters going 5-of-8 and Goran Dragic hitting from about 30 feet off the dribble – but Miami once again shot over 30 shots in the paint and over 60 percent at the rim. That’s almost always a positive combination. 
      The HEAT started out the season getting to the rim more than anyone else, but the actual finishing wasn’t there. Some of that involved players needing to regress to their usual averages, but the uptick in finishing lately has just as much to do with the team’s philosophy on player development. The coaching staff doesn’t sit back and say, ‘Well, he’s just not a very good finisher’. They go out and do something about it. And that sort of philosophy trickles down to the players as well, with Waiters saying that Dragic has been giving him some helpful tips about finishing in the paint.
      The record may not be there, but there’s overwhelming evidence that everyone involved is committed to getting better.
      Joe Beguiristain: As a whole, the HEAT’s offense was sharp once again, as four guys scored in double-figures and the team shot 53.2 percent on the night. As usual, a lot of that had to do with either Goran Dragić getting into the paint or James Johnson initiating offense. In fact, both players led the team with six assists apiece against Milwaukee.
      One of the primary beneficiaries of those passes was Dion Waiters, who tied a career-high with 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting, including 5-of-8 from downtown. While Waiters’ barrage from deep was important in the win, he also continued to show his improved touch around the basket. Take this stat for example: the 25-year-old has shot 14-of-21 (66.7 percent) in the restricted area over his last three contests. When you pair that with his perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the left corner three over that same timespan, you have a player who is hitting his stride offensively. 
      “It opens everything else up when you’re getting to the basket,” Waiters said after practice on Sunday. “The defense collapses, you got the open space, you find the open guys and it makes the game easier. I like to play inside-out.”

      2: In playing the Warriors tough the last time out, is there anything Miami can build off from that performance?
      Couper: Rising to the level of competition, which the HEAT don’t usually have much trouble doing given how competitive their players are, and taking advantage when an advantage presents itself. The HEAT hung in that game, and even led by a point at halftime, because they played incredibly hard on both ends but also because they were able to get Hassan Whiteside the ball in great position – lobs and early seals in the paint – with regularity. Though Zaza Pachulia and Draymond Green are both strong defenders, neither has a particularly long reach. So when Whiteside rolls to the rim after setting a pick, there isn’t a ton the Warriors can do to defend an on-target lob unless the weakside help is really on-point. Yes, Golden State has their own advantages with the ridiculous amount of shooting they can put on the floor – remember, Klay Thompson didn’t play last time out – but you start with getting to your strengths.
      Joe: Definitely. In that last matchup on January 10, Hassan Whiteside took it to the Warriors and utilized his size-advantage on Draymond Green from the very get-go. As a result, the 7-footer notched a double-double before halftime. Throughout the contest, Whiteside rolled to the rim with a full head of steam and threw down some thunderous jams. Obviously, Miami should exploit that matchup again on Monday to try and combat Golden State’s explosive offense.
      With Dragić and Waiters on a roll right now, the Warriors will have to pick their poison in the pick-and-roll game. Dragić has made shots from nearly everywhere on the floor of late, while Waiters’ improvement was chronicled in my previous response. Although Golden State has the personnel to disrupt the HEAT’s rhythm offensively, Miami is playing its best ball of the year and has come very close in the past against the Warriors.

      3: How have the Warriors changed with Kevin Durant in their lineup?
      Couper: Well, they’ve gone from being one of the best offensive teams of all time to . . . an even better version of one of the best offensive teams of all time. Stylistically, Durant slides right into Harrison Barnes spot in all those incredible small-ball lineups as a power forward pretty seamlessly, but overall he’s changed the complexion of their usage. Before, it was Steph Curry with a usage rate over 30, Thompson a little below that and then a very balanced number of shots spread out over the rest of the team. Adding another incredibly high-usage player has reduced the amount of offense for everyone else as Curry is down a few percentage points and nobody outside of Curry, Durant and Thompson has a usage rate over 20. This is, in part, because Steve Kerr can stagger Curry and Durant as primary ballhandlers when he chooses, which means they can share the ball when they are on court together and then get shifts where they can dominate the ball as if they were alone.
      That might sound like a taking turns type of offense, but the Warriors also average a remarkable 31 assists a game. They can have dominant ballhandlers, incredible shooters, and still share the ball as much or more than anyone else. So, hey, they’re pretty good.
      And Durant can be one heck of a defender, too.
      Joe: Adding one of the best players in the league to an already stacked team obviously makes Golden State better, but Steph Curry has had to make a bit of an adjustment with Kevin Durant in the fray. After a tough month of December, Curry has bounced back to average 27 points and seven assists per game on 47 percent shooting in his 10 games in January. While his three-point percentage is still lower than it has been, it should increase as the season continues.
      Other than Curry and Durant still getting used to one another, the Warriors have had pretty much no hiccups this year. Despite the feeling out process, Golden State leads the league in nearly every advanced metric. That just goes to show how talented and well coached the team is.
      Speaking of which, Coach Spo lauded Steve Kerr for the job he’s done with the Warriors.
      “I think what he’s done a tremendous job of is building a team culture there,” Spoelstra said after practice on Sunday. “Guys have bought into it, to their standards, to what they feel is important, and have been able to get some of the best players in the game to sacrifice and commit to a team game, commit to team defense. That’s not easy to do in this league.”
      *INJURY UPDATES: Tyler Johnson (strained left shoulder) did not participate in Monday's shootaround and is officially listed as questionable. For the Warriors, both Andre Iguodala (rest) and David West (non-displaced fracture, left thumb) are out. 

      Highlights:
      January 10-HEAT at Warriors
      February 24-Warriors at HEAT
      Game Notes:
      The HEAT have won three straight and are 14-30 on the year. The Warriors have won seven in a row and stand at 38-6 on the season. Hassan Whiteside leads Miami in rebounds (14.2) and blocks (2.1) per contest. Kevin Durant leads Golden State in points (26.0) and blocks (1.7) per game.  
      Efficiencies (Rank):
      HEAT Offense: 101.2 (28) HEAT Defense: 104.7 (11) Warriors Offense: 113.6 (1) Warriors Defense: 101.0 (1)
    • By Joe B.
      Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
      The Miami HEAT defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 109-97 Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Dion Waiters led the way for the HEAT with 33 points. Click here for the full recap on HEAT.com.
    • By Joe B.
      Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
      The Miami HEAT host the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Bucks 116-108 in their last meeting on January 13. 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 was your main takeaway from Miami’s victory over the Dallas Mavericks?
      Couper Moorhead: Mainly that Miami found a way to win a close game down the stretch. Much was made of the interesting Hassan Whiteside-Dirk Nowitzki matchup at center, and while Nowitzki earned more open jumpers on the perimeter than Whiteside got efficient looks inside overall, with the rest of the Mavericks so unwilling to challenge Whiteside in the paint those open pick-and-pop looks became one of the only options for Dallas when mostly starters were in at the end. This was especially true when Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews were off the floor to start the fourth quarter, when you got the sense Dallas was trying to hang in long enough to buy their closers some rest, but when James Johnson effectively shut down Barnes in the post the Mavericks were again left with mostly perimeter shots. Miami’s offense enjoyed an explosive performance from Goran Dragic, but it was their defense throughout the quarter which kept Dallas at bay.
      Joe Beguiristain: My main takeaway was that Miami continued to play solid defense and got out in transition whenever the opportunity presented itself. After limiting Houston to 40 percent shooting on Tuesday night, the HEAT forced the Mavericks to shoot just 38.1 percent after halftime. In particular, Rodney McGruder and Dion Waiters did a nice job of defending Wesley Matthews, while Tyler Johnson made things tough on J.J. Barea. When you couple that with yet another fantastic offensive outing from Goran Dragić (32 points on 11-of-15 shooting), you have yourself a recipe for success.
      As a whole, Miami’s improved defense of late has allowed the team to get easier buckets on the other end. In fact, the HEAT have tallied a plus-6.5 net rating over the past two games, which is pretty good. Of course, it’s a very small sample size, but things are trending upward on what has become a nice little run this week.
      2: What did we learn from last week’s game against Milwaukee?
      Couper: These aren’t the defense-first Bucks that you might be used to. Milwaukee is sitting comfortably as a Top 10 offense right now, with news that one of their best scorers in Khris Middleton could return around the All-Star, and they showed why against a Miami team at the end of a six-game road trip with a relentless attack in the paint coupled with efficient outside shooting.
      Some of this can be attributed to tired legs for Miami. Slow rotations to the rim led to a number of dunks and layups, and 13 offensive rebounds kept allowing Milwaukee to put pressure on those same rotations. Rested and at home, some of that should be cleaned up, but we also have to note that Greg Monroe was back in Milwaukee’s rotation for this one and the scoring combination of him and Michael Beasley proved to be too much once the HEAT were playing from behind.
      The good news is that Miami did pretty well scoring themselves, especially in hitting 12 threes, but when they opened the game with a 30-point quarter the Bucks were scoring 42.
      Joe: You may remember that game for a few monster jams in transition from Giannis Antetokounmpo. To put it simply, the “Greek Freak” lived up to his moniker and nearly notched a triple-double against Miami on January 13.
      That said, the HEAT actually outscored the Bucks in the second half and fought back to cut the deficit to 99-91 with 7:53 to play. Naturally, both T. Johnson and James Johnson led the charge on Miami’s comeback bid, combining for 10 points, eight assists and two blocks in the fourth. Unfortunately, Antetokounmpo proved to be too much in the end and helped seal the deal for the Bucks. Since then, nothing has really changed for the newly minted All-Star, as he’s been on an absolute tear over his last five games.
      While he’s been fantastic, we also learned from that last matchup that Milwaukee has a decent amount of depth at a number of positions. In particular, Greg Monroe and Michael Beasley have been the catalysts for the team off the bench. Ever since Beasley’s offensive explosion against the Spurs on January 10, he’s received more playing time. Monroe, meanwhile, has experienced nearly the same increase in minutes in the month of January.
      3: How can Miami do a better job of slowing the Bucks’ offense this time?
      Couper: While the HEAT only wound up with 8 turnovers, many of those came early and helped Milwaukee to get out in transition where Giannis Antetokounmpo was seemingly dunking from the free-throw line. As talented as the Bucks are, you can grind their offense down a little just by keeping bodies back in transition and getting your defense set. If that means being a little less aggressive on the offensive glass then that’s probably a fair trade.
      Otherwise, it’s everything we mentioned before. Back at home, just defend with more energy and more awareness. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting back to what you normally do and being better.
      Joe: For starters, the HEAT could do a better job of taking care of the ball. A big reason why the Bucks jumped out to such a quick lead was due to a few early turnovers by Miami. While the HEAT cleaned things up later in the contest, Milwaukee established a nice rhythm in the first quarter and rode that momentum until Miami came back in the fourth.
      Otherwise, the HEAT have to turn Antetokounmpo into a jump shooter. Although he’s started to knock down the mid-range jumper recently, you’ll live with that over giving up an easy drive to the bucket. Like with any great player, it’ll take a collective effort from McGruder, J. Johnson and even Waiters to limit the 22-year-old as much as possible.

      Highlights:
      January 13-HEAT at Bucks
      November 17-Bucks at HEAT
      Game Notes:
      The HEAT have won two straight and are 13-30 on the year. The Bucks have lost four straight and are 20-22. Goran Dragić leads Miami in points (19.4) and assists (6.3) per game. Giannis Antetokounmpo leads Milwaukee in points (23.5), rebounds (8.8), assists (5.6), blocks (2.0) and steals (1.8) per contest.  
      Efficiencies (Rank):
      HEAT Offense: 100.8 (29) HEAT Defense: 104.6 (11) Bucks Offense: 107.0 (9) Bucks Defense: 105.8 (18)
    • By Joe B.
      Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
      The Miami HEAT defeated the Dallas Mavericks 99-95 Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Goran Dragić led the way for the HEAT with 32 points. Click here for the full recap on HEAT.com.
    • By Joe B.
      Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
      The Miami HEAT host the Dallas Mavericks Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT defeated the Mavericks 93-90 in their last meeting on February 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: What can the HEAT build on from their win over the Houston Rockets?
      Couper Moorhead: Plenty, given that this was one of Miami’s most complete efforts of the season. Offensively they were able to get Hassan Whiteside the ball with deep position early on and once he was established, similar to a football team establishing the run game, and the Rockets spent a little extra energy trying to keep him away from the rim, Miami punished that Houston defense by attacking the paint again and again and again. Getting to the rim has been a primary focus all year for this team, but shooting 24-of-35 in that zone was one of their most efficient performances of the year.
      Defense was where Miami really went above and beyond. The Houston Rockets were and are having a historically good offensive season – or would be, were it not for the Warriors and Raptors – and are taking more threes than any team in the history of the league by a wide margin. So to hold that team to a 94.2 offensive rating and just 9-of-39 shooting from deep was the story of the night. Some of that had to do with Houston’s two best shooters either being absent (Ryan Anderson out with an illness) or ice-cold (Eric Gordon shot 3-of-17), and three-point shooting is notoriously difficult to affect no matter how well you are contesting, but the HEAT did everything in their power to attack Houston’s strength. For that, they were rewarded with a win.
      Joe Beguiristain: The HEAT did a lot of things right against the Rockets on Tuesday night, but let’s start off by discussing the offensive side of the ball. As usual, Goran Dragić was the catalyst with his team-high 21 points and eight assists, and thanks to his ability to get into the paint, five other players scored in double-figures for Miami. While Dragić didn’t connect with Hassan Whiteside for any alley-oops, he did find Wayne Ellington on the perimeter quite often, including an important setup that led to a three that put the HEAT up 105-94 with 1:41 to play. In fact, three of Dragić’s eight assists went to the swingman, which was the most he had to any player on the evening. In all, it was great to see the Dragon take advantage of Houston’s fast pace and get out in transition where he is at his best.
      On the flip side of the ball, Miami did a great job against one of the best offenses in the league and held the Rockets to 40 percent shooting. In particular, Tyler Johnson held his own while defending James Harden and tallied an 87.9 rating against Houston. Additionally, the HEAT forced the Rockets to commit 18 turnovers and scored 20 points off those.
      In short, it was easily one of Miami’s best wins of the season.  
      2: How has this season gone for the Dallas Mavericks so far?
      Couper: As far as record goes, this season has probably been just as disappointing for Dallas, a team largely made up of veterans, as it has been for Miami. Certainly, neither team expected to be this low in the standings just a few weeks before All-Star Weekend. The reasons have been somewhat similar as well, with Miami losing so many games to injury and Dallas having been without Dirk Nowitzki for all but 16 games and Andrew Bogut, their best defender, for all but 22. But while Miami has struggled to score this season, the Mavericks have struggled to defend as they’re giving up over 108 points per 100 possessions (in the league’s bottom third) despite an offense that’s almost exactly the league median at the moment.
      This will be similar to the previous matchup with Portland – a good small-ball offensive team against a good defensive team – with a variety of interesting matchups on both sides. But where the Trail Blazers have two ballhandlers uniquely capable of shooting off the dribble, Dallas relies a bit more on pick-and-roll spacing to create a similar rate of three-pointers.
      Joe: While the Mavericks have struggled for a majority of the season due to injuries, things have gotten better of late with the team playing small-ball. In fact, Dallas has won three straight since Rick Carlisle started the three-guard lineup of Deron Williams, Seth Curry and Wes Matthews alongside Harrison Barnes and Dirk Nowitzki. In total, that five-man lineup has produced a 122.8 offensive rating in 63 minutes. 
      Although all three guards have played pretty well, Curry has really taken advantage of his opportunity. The 26-year-old is averaging 12.3 points on 54.2 percent shooting in his last three, including 53.8 percent from downtown. When you also factor in the continued strong play of Barnes and the return of Nowitzki, you have a team that should get better offensively as the season continues. 

      3: Are there any matchups Miami can try to take advantage of Thursday night?
      Couper: This depends on whether or not Dallas makes a pre-game adjustment. In Andrew Bogut’s absence (he’s dealing with a hamstring injury) the Mavericks have been starting Dirk Nowitzki, now 38 years old, at center along with Harrison Barnes at the power forward spot. If Dallas stays with that alignment then the HEAT would have a significant size advantage in the middle of the floor with Hassan Whiteside, even with Dallas playing at such a slow pace that they’ll be more than willing to send a ton of bodies to the defensive glass. Yes, this would mean Whiteside would also have to track Nowitzki in the pick-and-pop and on the perimeter, but that’s a tradeoff Miami will more than likely be happy with given how much attention the Mavericks would have to devote to the HEAT’s center on the other end.
      What’s probably more likely, however, is that Dallas plays seven-footer Salah Mejri over his usual minute allotment to try and match size-for-size. Dallas has actually been an above-average defensive team with Mejri (or Bogut) on the floor.
      Joe: The clear-cut one for Miami is Whiteside against Nowitzki. On Tuesday, the big fella out of Marshall used his size advantage wisely against both Clint Capela and Montrezl Harrell and tallied a double-double early on in the third quarter. That could be the case once more against a Mavericks team that is thin on bigs with Andrew Bogut out. Of course, Whiteside will also have to go out on the perimeter to defend one of the best shooters in NBA history in Nowitzki. Still, the 27-year-old has the right disposition needed to limit the sure-fire Hall of Famer.
      “I’m a defensive-minded guy,” Whiteside said after practice on Wednesday. “I’m a guy that takes pride in defense regardless of wherever we’re at on the court.”
      Other than Whiteside vs. Nowitzki, another matchup the HEAT could take advantage of is James Johnson against either Barnes or Dwight Powell. The versatile forward should be able to use his unique blend of brute force and fancy footwork to make plays at the rim against Dallas. 

      Highlights:
      February 3-HEAT at Mavericks
      January 1-Mavericks at HEAT
      Game Notes:
      The HEAT are 12-30, while the Mavericks enter the contest at 14-27. Miami has won nine of its past ten games against Dallas. Tyler Johnson and James Johnson are the only two players in the NBA this season to record at least 400 points, 150 rebounds and 100 assists apiece off the bench. Harrison Barnes leads the Mavericks in scoring at 20.6 points per game.  
      Efficiencies (Rank):
      HEAT Offense: 100.7 (29) HEAT Defense: 104.7 (11) Mavericks Offense: 102.2 (25) Mavericks Defense: 106.9 (22)