The Miami HEAT face the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night at Barclays Center. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What jumped out to you about Miami’s fourth-quarter loss to the 76ers on Monday?
Couper Moorhead: Anytime you allow 125.3 points per 100 possessions, defense is going to be the focus. What was interesting the following day at Miami’s practice was that the team felt they were beat in that final period on a number of the same actions and sets that Philadelphia beat them with during the playoffs last season – particularly a high back-screen lob for Ben Simmons the 76ers tend to break out in the final minutes. It was so similar to last season that Erik Spoelstra said it could have been Game 6 of the playoffs last year and nobody would have missed a beat. The good news is that the issues appeared to be clear to everyone involved, and with the offense putting up more than enough points it’s just a matter of cleaning up all the low hanging fruit and getting the defense back on track.
Joe Beguiristain: Once again, it was Miami’s difficulty on the defensive end.
Thanks to 15 points combined from Wayne Ellington and Tyler Johnson early in the fourth quarter, the HEAT were actually within four points with 4:49 to play. But then the 76ers responded with an 11-1 run to seal the deal. And as Coup mentioned above, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid found success against Miami using similar actions to last year’s playoffs.
While the result was disappointing, the HEAT got right back to work on Tuesday to try and work out the kinks.
“We talked a little bit [to] try to figure out…what we did wrong and what we have to do to be more successful in the [upcoming] games,” Goran Dragić said. “And we feel like that we had a pretty good session. We talked a lot, and we’re going to see how that’s going to carry on to the next game.”
2: How have the Nets changed this season?
Couper: Believe it or not after Brooklyn has seemingly gone through so much turnover over the past four or five years, but this is generally the same roster that beat Miami three out of four times last season. Sophomore Jarett Allen has a hold on the starting center position now and veteran Jared Dudley starts alongside him at power forward, but the Nets still have a variety of flexible and versatile guards and wings that play extremely hard and with pace, giving them a chance to win every single night. We’ll discuss Caris LeVert’s injury in a moment, but one important addition to keep in mind Wednesday night is that of backup center Ed Davis. The Nets are not a particularly strong rebounding team – they’re among the league’s worst the defensive side of the glass, where Miami can take advantage – but Davis has long been one of the league’s premier second-chance creators. If the HEAT don’t keep eyes and bodies on him at all times, he will be a headache.
Joe: The Nets made marginal moves over the offseason, as they added Jared Dudley, Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier, Kenneth Faried and a few others. And while Davis is coming off a nice outing against the Timberwolves on Monday (seven points and a season-high 14 rebounds), Dudley has made more of an impact thanks to his veteran leadership. In fact, the 33-year-old leads Brooklyn in charges drawn and is among the team’s best in box-outs (83), screen assists (28) and loose balls recovered (12).
In other words, he leads by example.
As of this writing Tuesday night, Jarrett Allen is questionable due to an illness, so Dudley, Davis and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (who looked very good starting in place of Jarrett on Monday) should play major roles.
We’ll see how it all shakes out.
3: With Caris LeVert unfortunately out with a severe foot injury, how will Miami need to re-align their defensive focus Wednesday night?
Couper: First, it was heart-wrenching to see the injury Monday night. LeVert was having a true-breakout season and in one moment it seemed to be taken away from him. As Spoelstra said on Tuesday, no matter how or when you’re competing against a team, you always hope for their health. Fortunately there was a bit of a sigh of relief on Tuesday when it was revealed that LeVert’s injury did not include a fracture or major ligament damage, meaning he could return this season but it still out for the time being. Hopefully he’s back sooner than later.
In the meantime, that versatile perimeter rotation of Brooklyn’s is still going to be a load. Despite LeVert’s usage, he was somewhat similar to Josh Richardson’s situation where despite taking more shots, he did a fairly good job doing it in the flow of the offense. So the Nets should be able to evenly distribute those shots among the remaining players and keep their offensive rhythm. They are not a team against which you get to lock in on a specific player.
Keep an eye on Joe Harris, though. Much of the shot creation is going to run through D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie (likely still coming off the bench, but we don’t know yet who will replace LeVert there), but Harris is similar to Wayne Ellington in that he only needs the ball in his hands for about 15 total seconds to drop 21 points on you. He’ll be higher up on the scouting report than you might guess.
Joe: In addition to Hollis-Jefferson, who’s fared well against Miami in the past, I think the team has to zero in on D’Angelo Russell. With LeVert out, conventional wisdom tells us that Russell will likely shoulder the playmaking load until he returns. However, that process has already kind of started in a way, as Russell is averaging 20.4 points, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game on 40.5 percent shooting from deep over his last five outings. Now, his 31-point, nine-trey barrage against Minnesota on Monday inflates those averages a bit, but the fact is he can get the job done on the offensive end. And since he really likes to attack in the pull-up game, the HEAT have to be quick with their defensive rotations and be ready to react without a moment’s hesitation.
- The HEAT are 5-8, while the Nets enter the contest at 6-8.
- Miami has hit at least 10 three-point field goals in 12 straight games, marking the second-longest streak in franchise history.
- Josh Richardson leads the HEAT in points (20.5) and steals (1.2) per game.
- D’Angelo Russell is averaging 16.8 points and a team-high 5.1 assists per contest.
- HEAT Offense: 107.9 (14)
- HEAT Defense: 108.5 (19)
- Nets Offense: 109.8 (9)
- Nets Defense: 110.2 (24)