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By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Charlotte Hornets Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets for the home opener now! The HEAT defeated the Hornets 106-73 in their last meeting on May 1. Tip-off is set for 8:00 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 takeaway that you had from the win in Orlando do you think could carry over to Friday night’s game?
Couper Moorhead: As Evan Fournier put it following that game, it was drives on drives on drives for Miami. The HEAT’s 44 total drives on the night (producing 23 points and another six assists) was seven more than the league leader averaged last season, and those drives along with transition opportunities and offensive rebounds led to a whopping 74 points in the paint. It’ll be tough to reach that total consistently without better outside shooting than Miami had on Wednesday, but there’s little doubt that this team’s identity is all about creating spaces and lanes and edges that Miami’s group of quick athletes can utilize in order to get into the paint. That identity isn’t going to change, but the manner in which the HEAT are going to be able to get to it will certainly have to adapt over the course of the season as teams gameplan and, better than Orlando did, stick to those gameplans.
Joe Beguiristain: While it will be extremely difficult to hold the opposition to below 40 percent shooting on a consistent basis, I believe Miami can carry over its solid defensive disposition from Wednesday night. It’s no secret that the foundation of every HEAT team, regardless of personnel, is a strong commitment to the defensive end. That was on display often against Orlando, as Miami forced the Magic to shoot just 38.6 percent on the night. Hassan Whiteside played a huge role in that, especially in a game-changing third quarter for the HEAT. Thanks to his rim protection, Orlando shot a paltry 25 percent in the period.
Another thing that might carry over to Friday night is the balanced scoring attack for Miami. Thanks to the team’s pristine ball movement and 27 assists, six players scored in double-figures against the Magic. It’s that kind of unselfishness that leads to wins more often than not.
2: What sort of issues could Charlotte’s new roster give Miami?
Couper: The Hornets lost a bit of their offensive punch from last season with the departures of Jeremy Lin, Courtney Lee and Al Jefferson, but they’ve also punched up what was already a strong defensive unit with the addition of Al Jefferson and the return of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to the lineup. Whether that means a net positive, negative or neutral gain for Charlotte remains to be seen, but pairing one of the better playmaking duos in the league (Kemba Walker and Nic Batum) with a stout defense should be a formula for success.
For Miami, that means getting into the paint as well as they did against Orlando could be much more difficult. Kidd-Gilchrist can cut off driving lanes as well as just about any defender in the league not named Kawhi Leonard and Hibbert looks revitalized in a system once again built around his rim protection. As such, Miami may have to find ways to succeed in the in-between spaces, not attacking one-on-one but not taking one or two dribbles straight at the rim either.
Joe: While it was still the preseason, Miami got a good look at Charlotte’s revamped roster on October 20. Since the HEAT were without a number of key contributors, there’s not much to glean from that game, but Steve Clifford treated that matchup last week as a dress rehearsal for the real thing.
The team is still led by Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum, while newcomers Roy Hibbert, Marco Belinelli and Ramon Sessions try to mesh with the already-established core. In particular, the Walker-Hibbert pick-and-roll should develop over time and cause some problems for the opposition. That said, perhaps the Hornets’ biggest addition is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist coming back from injury. The 23-year-old is easily one of the best defensive players in the league when healthy, and while he’s still developing his offensive game, he took a major leap forward against the Bucks on Wednesday night. In that contest, Kidd-Gilchrist scored 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting, grabbed 14 rebounds and tallied a plus-10 rating.
As a result of Kidd-Gilchrist and Hibbert inside, Miami will need to continue to move the ball well to get open looks and lanes to the basket.
3: Do you expect the same starting lineup for Miami and how can it find success against the Hornets?
Couper: Dion Waiters wasn’t a big surprise as a starter at shooting when with the thinking that Tyler Johnson would have to play some backup point guard, which he (and Justise Winslow) did, but we didn’t even know if Luke Babbitt would be healthy enough to play a couple days ago so it was good to see him not only on the court but effectively spacing the floor for a unit that was a +11 in 12 minutes. The situation may eventually change once Josh Richardson returns from injury, but we wouldn’t expect Erik Spoelstra to change things up much as far as starters go as long as the success is there.
Joe: I do. There’s no reason to get away from the same starting lineup unless there is an injury of some sort. With Goran Dragić, Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside foregone conclusions as starters, both Luke Babbitt and Dion Waiters had their moments on Wednesday night, primarily in the third quarter. Babbitt spaced the floor and opened up driving lanes for the HEAT, while Waiters dished out all four of his assists in the third (two of which were to Babbitt), and kept the offense moving in the right direction.
As I stated in my first response, Miami had a very balanced scoring effort regardless of the starting lineup. That’ll be important moving forward.
May 1-Hornets at HEAT
April 29-HEAT at Hornets
Both the HEAT and Hornets are 1-0 on the season. Miami has won 20 of the last 24 regular season games against Charlotte. Wayne Ellington (right thigh contusion) and Josh Richardson (sprained right MCL) are listed as out.
HEAT Offense: 108.0 (13) HEAT Defense: 98.6 (8) Hornets Offense: 108.6 (T-11) Hornets Defense: 97.2 (7)
By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
At 4:00 PM EST, I will ask a trivia question for a pair of tickets to the HEAT's home opener against the Hornets tomorrow night. 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: Fernando Medina
The Miami HEAT open the season against the Orlando Magic Wednesday night at Amway Center. The HEAT defeated the Magic 118-96 in their last regular season meeting on April 10. 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’s your best guess at the starting lineup and rotation for Game 1?
Couper Moorhead: It seems fair to assume that Goran Dragić, Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside are locked into the starting lineup, which leaves us with just two spots that are up in the air. At the power forward spot, Derrick Williams is the educated guess simply because he played more minutes than anyone on the team during preseason and shared a large chunk of his time with the other three starters. Part of that may have been Josh McRoberts being injured, Luke Babbitt suffering a strained groin and James Johnson dealing with a foot issue during preseason, but for now Williams makes sense. His athleticism and ability to play in the open court pairs particularly well with Dragić.
As for shooting guard, with Wayne Ellington out and Josh Richardson still rehabbing his knee, the options would seem to be either Tyler Johnson or Dion Waiters. While each player has a strong argument, I’ll guess Waiters for now since the team seems to be lining up Johnson to be the backup point guard for at least the time being – where most of his reps have come – after waiving Beno Udrih and Briante Weber. Erik Spoelstra could also find a way to start Johnson and have him back up Dragić by staggering their minutes, so this is still a tossup.
Joe Beguiristain: Based on the preseason, my best guess for the starting lineup would be Goran Dragić, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow, Derrick Williams and Hassan Whiteside. You could have penciled in Dragić, Winslow and Whiteside before Training Camp, but the two and four spot have been a main talking point for a few months now.
Of the eight preseason games, Williams started five of them at power forward. His versatility on the offensive end certainly fits well with Coach Spo’s “Pace and Space”system. Waiters, meanwhile, seems like the logical choice at shooting guard given that both Josh Richardson and Wayne Ellington are currently nursing injuries. The former Syracuse star started four games during the preseason and did a nice job of distributing the ball.
Speaking of moving the ball, the projected starting lineup of Dragić, Waiters, Winslow, Williams and Whiteside fared quite well on the offensive end throughout the preseason. In fact, that lineup tallied a 121.6 offensive rating in 37 possessions.
2: How do the HEAT match up against Orlando’s revamped frontcourt?
Couper: We probably don’t have to explain to many HEAT followers that Nikola Vučević has had his fair share of strong performances against Miami, but since the departure of Dwight Howard years ago Orlando has never had a fixture at either the power forward or backup center spots. Now, in Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo, Orlando has two of the best defensive big men in the league to mix and match with Vučević’s inside-out talents. Ibaka’s shooting in particular could unlock a number of looks under new coach Frank Vogel, as he’ll give Orlando a constant stretch option without having to sacrifice interior defense and rebounding.
Hassan Whiteside will be his own matchup issue for Orlando, but there’s no doubt it will be different defending multiple pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop options in additions to Vučević’s post-ups and offensive rebounding.
Joe: Last week against Orlando, Miami didn’t see the Magic’s full frontcourt since Bismack Biyomobo sat out due to rest. However, the team did get a heavy dose of Serge Ibaka and Nikola Vučević. With that power rotation, Orlando should be one of the better defensive teams in the league. Biyombo and Ibaka are extremely versatile and can switch on the pick-and-roll, while Vučević can crash the boards with the best of them. On the flip side of the ball, Biyombo is still developing, but Ibaka and Vučević can attack from both inside and outside.
With that being the case, it’ll take a collective effort from the HEAT’s frontcourt to combat them. While I believe Williams will start at the four, you can also expect a decent amount of action from James Johnson. The former Raptor looked pretty good defensively in his last outing against the Sixers and attacked the basket with force on the other end.
3: Is there any one thing, aside from a win, that could make this first outing a success to you?
Couper: If you’ve been reading this site for a while you’re probably well aware that we acknowledge, in the grander sense, the fickle nature of wins and losses. You can do everything you’re supposed to do, even do it better than you’re supposed to do, and still lose because some shots don’t fall or a few breaks don’t go your way.
With that in mind, the actual outcome of the opener doesn’t mean nearly as much as how the team performs. And for that one thing I want to see in this performance, it’s the same level of ball movement we saw in preseason carrying over to the real thing against real, prepared defenses. If that level of passing happens, that will likely mean the HEAT are getting good shots. And if they’re consistently getting good shots, the wins will come.
Joe: At this juncture, seeing the team continue to build chemistry would be a success in my mind. With a few players out and a bunch of new faces still feeling each other out, things are still largely a work in progress. How the team looks and performs now can be night and day from how things look a few months from now. The rotation might change, certain players might emerge, etc. That’s why it’s really important to not get too high or too low in the early going.
Just look at last season for a perfect example of how things can be different in a short period of time. Miami adjusted on the fly, played much faster in the second half of the season and received a huge boost from Richardson throughout its playoff push.
Time will tell if this year’s team goes through a paradigm shift like that, but it’s always good when you have a coach like Spo who’s open to new things.
April 10-Magic at HEAT
April 8-HEAT at Magic
The HEAT have won 15 of their last 17 games against the Magic. Hassan Whiteside led Miami in points (14.8), rebounds (10.3) and blocks (2.3) per contest during the preseason, while also shooting 65.5 percent from the field. Evan Fournier led Orlando in scoring during the preseason with 18.0 points per game.
HEAT Offense: 103.2 (7) HEAT Defense: 96.9 (12) Magic Offense: 95.8 (24) Magic Defense: 104.8 (29)