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By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT defeated the Clippers 104-101 in their last meeting on Nov. 5. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What did you like most about Miami’s win in Charlotte?
Couper Moorhead: This felt like a formulaic win for the HEAT, which is a good thing. They defended consistently throughout the game, they hit their threes with Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington shooting 9-of-14 from deep and, in putting both those aspects together, outscored the other team’s bench. And then the lead they build from that was enough to absorb a late run by the best player on the opposing team. That’s how this Miami team can win consistently.
But Johnson and Ellington shooting like this, and by this we mean they’ve been both been hot for about 10 days now, brings up another point that’s always healthy to make. At some point, they will both cool off. If they stay cool long enough, people will begin to wonder what is going on with their jumpers (as happened with Johnson early this season). That’s not how the narrative should operate. Both are proven shooters, and shooters can be streaky – or perhaps a better word is cyclical. For every time you are scorching hot, you’ll have other games when you aren’t shooting as well. That’s how percentages balance themselves out. Enjoy the hot streak while it happens, just treat it as much like an outlier as the valleys.
Joe Beguiristain: I liked that the HEAT dominated on both ends of the floor for pretty much the entire contest, as seven Miami players scored in double-figures and the Hornets shot just 41 percent on the night. As Coup mentioned above, Wayne Ellington and Tyler Johnson led the way, but James Johnson and Goran Dragić also had strong performances.
JJ picked up steam in the second quarter with aggressive attacks to the basket and some nice feeds to his teammates, while Dragić got into the paint often and led the team with seven assists.
Another encouraging thing about Friday night was how the HEAT responded to adversity. Even though Kemba Walker went off in the fourth, Dion Waiters hit an important bucket with 1:09 left and Miami got enough stops down the stretch.
As Erik Spoelstra said after the game, “You have to be prepared to play a full 48 minutes. I like our guys having to go through all that stress and anxiety and have to execute under duress…in context of a close game.”
2: What we did learn from the last game with the Clippers and what has changed since then?
Couper: The most important changes are health related, as Patrick Beverley underwent knee surgery and is out for the season while Blake Griffin suffered a knee injury and was declared out for up to two months in late November. With Danilo Gallinari in and out of the lineup and now Austin Rivers out Friday night with a concussion, there’s been a struggle for consistency despite remaining in the Top 15 offensively (though that ranking figures to drop the more time Griffin misses).
As for the lesson of that game, it was one Miami has learned a couple times this season which is that no matter how good your offense is early on and how much you’re able to stretch a lead, it’s your defense in the second half that holds off the opponent. The HEAT led by as much as 25 points in the second half but the Clippers stormed back in the final period, scoring 35. The HEAT may have gone cold down the stretch, but if you don’t allow an explosive scoring period the game doesn’t come down to a Griffin jumper missing the target in the final seconds.
Joe: It’s hard to glean too much from that last game in terms of individual performances since Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers and Hassan Whiteside will all be out this time around. That said, the HEAT should be wary of Lou Williams, who was the catalyst in the Clippers’ comeback bid.
Since then, Williams has actually played even better. With so many guys hurt, the 31-year-old vet has seen a major uptick in minutes over the past month or so. In fact, Williams has averaged 23.3 points, 5.7 assists and 1.2 steals in 35.1 minutes per game over his last 17 outings.
We also should mention Miloš Teodosić, who missed that last matchup in early November. Teodosić is currently on a minutes restriction since he’s easing his way back from a plantar fascia injury, but he’s a fantastic passer who makes LA’s offense run much smoother.
3: Without Blake Griffin, who will Miami have to focus on stopping defensively?
Couper: While it depends on whether or not Gallinari or Rivers are available to play, the man who can do a ton of damage (and is using 28 percent of the team’s offensive possessions with Blake out) is Lou Williams. While he may not be an All-Star, Williams has some of the elite skills of one as he’s capable of shooting and making off the dribble just about anywhere on the floor and doubles as one of the best in the league at getting to the free-throw line. Given that Miami’s recent slate of games has included Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Kemba Walker, they’ll be practiced at using the same coverage (should they choose to do so) against Williams and force him to give the ball up. Because if you give him space, he’s going to shoot. After that, do your best not to foul. Easier said than done.
Joe: Like I stated in my previous response, Williams really is the guy Miami has to watch out for. Although he’s not as proficient in the pick-and-roll as Damian Lillard or Kemba Walker, he can still hit some really tough shots like both of those guys. A perfect example of that came on Dec.9 when he hit a well-contested three with 1.2 seconds left to give the Clippers a narrow victory over the Wizards.
Since Williams is one of the only offensive threats on LA thanks to all the injuries (especially if Danilo Gallinari can’t play), it’ll behoove the HEAT to play up on him and make nothing come easy. As long as Miami sticks to its principles and minimizes its mistakes, all should be fine.
Nov. 5 – HEAT at Clippers
Jan. 8 – HEAT at Clippers
The HEAT have won three of four and are 14-14. The Clippers have also won three of four, but they enter the contest at 11-16. Erik Spoelstra is one win away from breaking Pat Riley’s record for most regular season wins in franchise history. DeAndre Jordan leads Los Angeles in rebounds (14.7) and blocks (1.1) per game.
HEAT Offense: 102.5 (23) HEAT Defense: 104.4 (13) Clippers Offense: 105.0 (15) Clippers Defense: 106.9 (20)
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)