The Miami HEAT host the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! 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: Were there any silver linings to Miami’s 1-3 road trip?
Couper Moorhead: It obviously wasn’t the prettiest of winter excursions on the HEAT’s part, despite a late comeback bid in Boston, but it was great to see Dion Waiters finish the trip with consecutive good games, shooting 9-of-13 in Chicago and 8-of-16 in Boston. It wasn’t only hot three-point shooting, either, as Waiters shot a perfect 9-of-9 at the rim in those games, which has long been key for a player who has never had an issue getting into the paint. It’s never easy coming back and working your way into a rotation after missing an entire calendar year, so it’s nothing but encouraging to see Waiters put in performances like this. The HEAT obviously have a lot of players vying for regular minutes and there’s no surer way to earn those minutes than by consistently playing well.
Joe Beguiristain: There were.
In addition to Dion Waiters finishing at the rim with ease as Coup mentioned above, Derrick Jones Jr. also did his thing on both ends of the floor for most of the trip. After hitting all four of his shots against the Bulls on Saturday, the 21-year-old continued to move well off the ball versus Boston and recorded a career-high 18 points as a result.
That said, the most important thing he brought was energy. And since the HEAT struggle at times in the half court, Jones Jr.’s ability to force turnovers with his length and get his teammates fired up with crazy jams and finishes on the other end is very important.
Thanks to impact plays like that, Erik Spoelstra had a lot to say about Jones Jr. after Monday night’s game.
“For a young player, it’s unique to continue to commit to our player development program, which is not for everybody, and wait for your opportunities,” Coach Spo said. “And opportunities for a while were a little bit inconsistent and irregular. But to make an impression on those minutes, and [when] you keep on putting those impressions in the bank, the coaching staff notices, your teammates notice [and] you start to develop more trust. And then it becomes tough to take you out, and that’s where he’s getting right now.”
2: What has stayed with you from the surprising and shorthanded victory at the Clippers?
Couper: With Miami missing Josh Richardson, Goran Dragić, Hassan Whiteside and then Tyler Johnson playing less than seven minutes due to injury, this was effectively the genesis of Miami’s zone defense. The HEAT simply didn’t have the bodies, much less the energy on the second night of a back-to-back, so they created a shell around the paint and relied on their disciplined closeouts as they forced the Clippers – a high percentage but low volume three-point shooting team – to beat them on the outside. Fortunately, that led to the Clippers having one of their worst shooting games of the year, going 7-of-29 from deep, as they scored just eight points in the fourth quarter en route to the blowout loss. Granted, that fourth quarter was a little on the weird side as some technical fouls led to the Clippers letting go of the rope, so to speak, but Miami’s defense played a major role. That same zone has played less and less of a role as the weeks have gone on, so it will be interesting to see if Erik Spoelstra goes back to it against the team it worked the best against.
Joe: While Justise Winslow has been one of Miami’s best ball handlers for years now, I’ll always remember this game as the birth of “Point Justise”.
With Goran Dragić out on the second night of a back-to-back, Winslow wheeled and dealed his way to what was then a career-high nine assists, including a fantastic no-look bounce pass to Bam Adebayo early in the fourth. Naturally, three of his assists on the evening went to the big fella.
Another thing that stood out from that game was the sheer number of deflections the HEAT had. All told, Miami racked up 17 deflections, with Winslow and Kelly Olynyk leading the team with four apiece. Now, the HEAT’s zone defense likely played a role in that, but they can still disrupt the Clippers with their length and tenacity even if they go to traditional man-to-man looks on Wednesday night.
3: How might this game be different?
Couper: For starters, the HEAT will be mostly healthy minus Dragić and the Clippers might not be as they’ll likely be missing Danilo Gallinari. And if Miami does use the zone again, they won’t be catching the Clippers by surprise this time.
Perhaps the most interesting question is regarding who will be starting at center for the Clippers. Boban Marjanović got the start last time despite Whiteside being out and Marcin Gortat didn’t play at all. Gortat has generally been the starter, though Montrezl Harrell got his first start of the season last weekend while Marjanović has generally seen few, if any, minutes of late. We know Harrell is going to play, but Whiteside has historically played Gortat extremely well while Marjanović is a tough matchup, size-wise, for just about any center in the league who doesn’t stretch the floor out to the three-point line.
This is also where we make the obligatory note about the Clippers not being likely to shoot so poorly again, but on a back-to-back and without Gallinari, that’s less of a sure thing than it typically is.
Joe: As Coup mentioned above, things could be tough for Los Angeles if Danilo Gallinari is indeed out. The 6-foot-10 Italian has missed the past two games with back spasms, including Tuesday night’s contest against the Mavericks, so his outlook for Wednesday night looks murky at best.
Luckily enough, both Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley have filled the void thanks to some more playing time. In addition to lighting it up from downtown over the past two games (they’ve combined to shoot 44.8 percent (13-of-29) from deep during that span), the duo has also locked things down on the defensive end. In fact, the Clippers held the Spurs and Mavs to just 91.9 points per 100 possessions in the 66 minutes that Beverley and Bradley shared the floor.
INJURY UPDATE: Gallinari (Low Back Spasms) is out.
- The HEAT have won three straight against the Clippers, including a 121-98 victory on Dec. 8.
- Miami is 22-23, while Los Angeles enters the contest at 25-22.
- This will be Erik Spoelstra’s 850th game coached, which is the most in franchise history.
- Tobias Harris leads the Clippers in points (20.7) and rebounds (8.0) per game.
- HEAT Offense: 106.4 (22)
- HEAT Defense: 106.3 (6)
- Clippers Offense: 110.7 (11)
- Clippers Defense: 110.3 (21)
Source: “Los Angeles” – Google News