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By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Gary Dineen
The Miami HEAT fell to the Milwaukee Bucks 116-108 Friday night at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Hassan Whiteside led the way for the HEAT with 19 points. Five other players scored in double-figures for Miami. Click here for the full recap on HEAT.com.
By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Gary Dineen
The Miami HEAT face the Milwaukee Bucks Friday night at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The HEAT defeated the Bucks 96-73 in their last meeting on November 17. 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 about how Miami played against the Golden State Warriors?
Couper Moorhead: Nobody who has been following the HEAT this season should have been surprised that the team, relatively healthy, came out ready to play against one of the league’s premier clubs. Steve Kerr made a point afterwards to credit Erik Spoelstra for keeping his team ready to play, and for the team playing as hard as it does, and that tracks with everyone we’ve come to expect from this group, regardless of result.
Sure, there were some shortcomings, particularly a lack of scoring between the third and fourth quarters and some difficulties defending in transition, but those are hardly things you hold against a team in a game like this. And the offense was interesting in itself as the HEAT were able to attack space in pick-and-roll and take advantage of the Warriors’ length at center with lobs to Hassan Whiteside all night, but there was some natural regression at play from the perimeter (6-of-30 from three) after a few weeks where it seemed like Miami couldn’t miss for at least two quarters a night. The shot quality was consistent enough, however, against a switch-heavy defense, and combined with Whiteside’s play in the middle that was enough to give Miami a shot.
Joe Beguiristain: I liked that Miami went right to the matchup where it had an advantage. That matchup, of course, was Hassan Whiteside against Golden State’s slew of bigs. Whiteside was active and engaged from the opening tip, as he finished with 28 points and 20 rebounds for his third 20-20 game of the season. A big reason why he had success was due to the aggressiveness of the HEAT’s perimeter players. In particular, both Dion Waiters and James Johnson had little trouble getting into the paint and either finished themselves or lobbed it to the big fella. Early on, Goran Dragić did the same and had a very quick start to the contest.
Otherwise, Miami continued to play hard and remained focused on the task at hand. At this point though, that should be expected from this group. No matter who’s in, who’s out or who’s on the opposing side, the HEAT never make excuses and just compete. Guys like Tyler Johnson (who scored 18 points and grabbed seven boards against the Warriors) are the epitome of what the franchise stands for.
2: Can we take anything away from Miami’s victory over Milwaukee back in mid-November?
Couper: The Bucks are a fascinating team this year. When they lost Khris Middleton to a torn hamstring it was reasonably to expect them to struggle to stay in the playoff race, but with Giannis Antetokounmpo making a major leap and Jabari Parker making good on his talent, here they are with a Top-10 offense sitting right in the heart of the mix for the postseason.
The last game against them, however, felt like it could have been last season considering all the lineup permutations the HEAT have gone through since then. But everyone who was available for Miami in that game could be available again given that neither Josh McRoberts or Justise Winslow played against the Bucks. On Milwaukee’s side, however, Greg Monroe was out of the rotation entirely last time around and now he’s firmly back in it.
Milwaukee also scored just 80.2 points per 100 possessions that time around as they were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, and considering how good their offense has been otherwise Miami should expect a bit more of a defensive challenge.
Not to mention the Bucks are coming off a nice road win at San Antonio, with Antetokounmpo playing just nine minutes (he’s good to go, reportedly, for Friday) and Michael Beasley scoring 28 points off the bench, and surprise rookie Malcolm Brogdon has played his way into a starting role.
Joe: While things were tight through the first two quarters in that last matchup, Miami clamped down defensively and held Milwaukee to just 23.3 percent shooting in the second half. Naturally, Whiteside led the charge on that front and swatted six shots after halftime. In turn, his rim protection led to easy buckets in transition for his teammates. With Whiteside coming off one of his better games of the season against Golden State, perhaps his strong play can continue on Friday night.
Otherwise, there isn’t too much to takeaway from that last meeting with the Bucks since rotations for both teams have changed. Josh Richardson and Derrick Williams started against Milwaukee, but now Luke Babbitt has been getting most of the starts at power forward and Richardson is out Friday with a left foot sprain.
On the Bucks’ end, Matthew Dellavedova started at point guard and Greg Monroe got a DNP-CD. Dellavedova now comes off the bench, while Monroe has received much more playing time since December. In Dellavedova’s place, Malcolm Brogdon has fared very well in the starting lineup, averaging 14.1 points, 6.4 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game in his last seven outings.
3: Where can Miami find an advantage Friday night?
Couper: The Bucks have been one of the best pick-and-roll defenses in the league this year, allowing just 0.92 points per used screen, so attacking them head on with the usual diet of Goran Dragic-Whiteside pick-and-rolls could lead to some difficult shots, but the Bucks also allow three-pointers (attempts) at a fairly high rate so if those pick-and-rolls can remain enough of a threat to draw an extra defender, the spot-up opportunities should be there.
This is another game where Whiteside has a size advantage. Where the Warriors, playing Zaza Pachulia, David West and Draymond Green, often lacked the height and length to combat high passes to Whiteside, the Bucks with John Henson, Miles Plumlee and Monroe have athleticism in spades but not quite the bulk to really move Whiteside off position. There should be opportunities for him on the offensive glass and flashing in the middle of the floor for deep position.
Joe: While the Bucks have a lot of long and athletic defenders, they have struggled on the defensive end in their last 12 games. In fact, the team has tallied a 109.3 defensive rating during that timespan. As such, the HEAT should find some success offensively. Of course, it all starts with Miami’s perimeter players and their ability to attack the basket and collapse the defense. If Dragić, Waiters and J. Johnson can put pressure on Milwaukee, the HEAT should be just fine.
On the flip side of the ball, things might be a little tougher for Miami. The Bucks have been quite good on the offensive end over their last 12, as they own an impressive 112.5 offensive rating. As you might expect, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker have been their usual steady selves, but Monroe and Brogdon have really emerged as well. In that previous meeting, it took a collective effort from J. Johnson and even the smaller Dion Waiters at times to limit Antetokounmpo and Parker to a combined 10-of-35 shooting. We’ll see how it all pans out this time around.
November 17-Bucks at HEAT
March 9-HEAT at Bucks
The HEAT are 11-29, while the Bucks stand at 19-18. Hassan Whiteside leads Miami in rebounds (14.4) and blocks (2.2) per contest. Giannis Antetokounmpo leads Milwaukee in points (23.3), rebounds (8.8), assists (5.6), blocks (2.1) and steals (1.9) per game. Willie Reed (bruised sternum) and Josh Richardson (left foot sprain) are listed as out.
HEAT Offense: 100.3 (29) HEAT Defense: 104.5 (10) Bucks Offense: 107.4 (8) Bucks Defense: 104.6 (11)
By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Noah Graham
The Miami HEAT face the Golden State Warriors Tuesday night at Oracle Arena. The HEAT fell to the Warriors 118-112 in their last meeting on February 24. Tip-off is set for 10:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 10:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: With Hassan Whiteside back in the lineup, how did things change for Miami against the Clippers?
Couper Moorhead: While the offense trended down, especially early, in Los Angeles, that didn’t have nearly as much to do with Whiteside (or anyone else in or out of the lineups) than it did with simple natural regression after the team had been scorching the first-half nets over the past couple of weeks. Even when you split game up into segments, shooting nearly 50 percent from three in first halves is always something that is going to come down eventually.
But where the HEAT let themselves down wasn’t in shotmaking, where they’ve fought through struggles before. They wound up with a very solid defensive rating of 99 points allowed per 100 possessions overall, but that included some garbage time at the end of the game. The more important number was that the Clippers scored 128.9 points per 100 whenever Chris Paul was on the floor, as he was an absolute terror in the pick-and-roll. There’s not much anyone can do when a Hall of Fame point guard is playing at a Hall of Fame level, but that’s where the game was lost.
Joe Beguiristain: While Whiteside got off to a slow start offensively, he got back into the flow of things after the first quarter. Throughout the contest, the 7-footer did his usual damage on the glass and converted a number of put-backs for Miami. The big fella also hit a fadeaway jumper and a few hook shots over a stout defender in DeAndre Jordan. On the flip side of the ball, the 27-year-old altered a few shots at the rim and came away with two blocks.
In the grand scheme of things though, not much changed for the HEAT with Whiteside in because Willie Reed did a great job of filling the void before Sunday afternoon. While Whiteside is the more complete player, both bigs can really roll to the basket and finish at the cup. As long as Reed continues to develop, Miami will be able to attack teams with a dangerous one-two punch at center.
2: What can Miami do to slow down Golden State’s prolific offense?
Couper: With the Warriors in the midst of not only one of the best but the best offensive season of all time, with a 113.4 offensive rating, the HEAT will have to put forth their very best defensive effort just to keep the Warriors to an average evening. There’s no secret scheme, though being able to switch every pick-and-roll and encourage one-on-one play like the Cleveland Cavaliers did is nice if you have the personnel. You just have to be on point with every little detail. You have to close out on every shooter hard, but if you close out too hard just about every shooter on their team is capable of taking you off the dribble. You have to be ready to help on every dribble drive, but if you help too early those shooters are going to be ready and willing.
Above all, you have to limit how much you help them. You can’t give up free points with turnovers and you have to get back in transition. The Warriors are going to score, but the first step to making that a little more difficult for them is forcing them to play in the half-court.
Joe: Not many teams have had success slowing down the Warriors on the offensive end, as Golden State leads the league in offensive rating (113.4), assist percentage (71.4 percent) and effective field goal percentage (56.6 percent). While these numbers are staggering, they shouldn’t be that surprising since the best regular season team of all time (record-wise) added Kevin Durant in the offseason. In other words, the Warriors are like a real life cheat code.
Getting back to the question though, Miami will really have to communicate on the defensive end if it wants to stop Golden State. As I mentioned above, the Warriors are the best passing team in the league, so the HEAT will have to be sharp with their defensive rotations. If guys are a step slow, Draymond Green, Steph Curry or Durant will exploit it almost every time.
Although Golden State is easily one of the best teams in the league, it has given up leads on a few occasions this season. The HEAT, meanwhile, have shown time and time again that they never give up. Just a little something to think about heading into Tuesday night.
3: When the Warriors go to their small lineups, what is Miami’s best counter?
Couper: This is one of those eternal questions, the same one that always came up when Miami would go small a few years ago – do you match up to your opponent’s most deadly lineup or do you stay with what you do well even if that leaves you with some on-paper disadvantages. The good news is that Miami is used to playing small with their lineups featuring James Johnson at center, even if as Erik Spoelstra pointed out part of what made those lineups effective was Justise Winslow (likely out for the season after shoulder surgery) playmaking at the four spot. But the main advantage to exploit would be Hassan Whiteside’s size against Draymond Green at center – something that worked quite well last year in Miami when Whiteside played very well in a narrow loss to the Warriors.
The trap you can fall into when you’re cross-matching lineups is you can end up chasing the obvious mismatches to the detriment of your offensive flow. So the best way to take advantage of Whiteside might be to let him attack the glass and use his length for deep catches in the paint. However things play out, with how dynamic the Warriors are and how quickly they can go on a big run, Spoelstra will likely use each and every option available to him.
Joe: Coach Spo can opt to do a few different things when the Warriors go small. He can either stay with Whiteside at center and attack with that mismatch or slide James Johnson to the five. It’s tough to say which would work better since there are pros and cons to both. Whiteside obviously has the size advantage on Green, but the former Michigan State star has shown that he can defend guys that are bigger than him. On the other end, Green would likely pull Whiteside out of the paint and operate from the perimeter.
With Johnson at center, you have a guy who can initiate offense, bring the ball up the floor and defend multiple positions. That said, Johnson hasn’t played the five a whole lot recently, with a nice burst against DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings being the last time he’s done so extensively.
In all, part of what makes Golden State so tough is its versatility as a team. As such, the HEAT will need to have all hands on deck to come away victorious.
February 24-Warriors at HEAT
January 11-HEAT at Warriors
The HEAT are 11-28, while the Warriors stand at 32-6. Tyler Johnson and James Johnson are averaging 25.5 points per game combined, which is the highest total for a duo without a single start this season. Kevin Durant leads Golden State in points (25.9), rebounds (8.7) and blocks (1.7) per game.
HEAT Offense: 100.5 (29) HEAT Defense: 104.5 (12) Warriors Offense: 113.4 (1) Warriors Defense: 102.0 (4)