Washington Wizards at Miami HEAT Game Preview
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Washington Wizards Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Wizards 117-113 in overtime in their last meeting on March 6. Tip-off is set for 7:30 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: After a series of close games, how were the HEAT able to create a little more separation against the 76ers on Thursday?
Couper Moorhead: For as well as Miami defended throughout the game – outside of transition, where Ben Simmons gave them some early trouble – the result of a 35-25 fourth quarter was largely hard work and some variance. Miami came up with big play after big play, hitting 5-of-6 from three (including some tough ones), while every 76ers possession down the stretch either seemed to result in a foul, turnover or an open three. But Philadelphia was 2-of-9 from three in the first eight minutes of the quarter, before they hit a few late trying to mount a comeback, and by that point the damage was done with Miami up 24-11 in the quarter. It’s a testament to how closely, and well, these teams play one another that each game has come down to a handful of possessions going either way in the fourth quarter.
Joe Beguiristain: Once again, Justise Winslow proved to be the X factor in a hard-fought playoff-like game.
After a slow start, Winslow exploded in the fourth quarter and helped turn a three-point lead into an 11-point advantage with 4:49 left to play. Whether he was knocking down threes or defending multiple guys, the 21-year-old simply did whatever was necessary.
While Winslow helped the HEAT ultimately pull away, Hassan Whiteside set the tone with his intensity and razor-sharp focus against Joel Embiid. In fact, Whiteside shot 7-of-8 against the Sixers’ center and kept the pressure on him throughout the evening.
At the end of the day though, it was yet another collective effort from Miami. Sure, Winslow and Whiteside were instrumental, but all 10 players who received minutes made an impact one way or another. In particular, Bam Adebayo remained ready and held Embiid to a paltry 1-of-7 shooting when matched up against him.
2: What can Miami improve, relative to this matchup, from their last loss to the Wizards?
Couper: Not playing on a back-to-back will be a nice start (Washington is playing the night before this time) and as a result not falling behind by 18 points in the first quarter. It was a very even game after that initial blitz, with Miami even taking a brief late lead, but the Wizards came up with a few more shots, including shooting 14-of-24 from three, at the end. If the HEAT stick with their starters from the 76ers victory then the rotation will be different than it was against the Wizards, but the rotation appears as though it will be matchup based for the rest of the season (while everyone is healthy). Strategically, though, there’s not much to change. Just don’t fall behind by a ton early and Miami should be just fine.
Joe: Although the HEAT rallied multiple times and forced overtime thanks to the brilliance of Dwyane Wade, they could have started off a bit sharper in that last matchup. Of course, playing on the second night of a back-to-back had a lot to do with Miami’s slow start, but it’s never good to fall behind by 18 points.
Once things settled down, the HEAT played quite well on both ends of the floor. In addition to Wade doing his thing down the stretch, Tyler Johnson was aggressive, Josh Richardson competed hard against Bradley Beal on the defensive end and Winslow was a terror in transition.
This time around, the tables will be turned with Miami at home and Washington on a back-to-back. We’ll see if the HEAT can take advantage in transition like they did against the Pistons last week when Detroit came into town after playing the night prior.
3: Is there anything the HEAT might do differently against Bradley Beal?
Couper: Aside from some of the early open threes Beal was able to get off, the HEAT defended him as well as possible for a guy who scored 30 points on 16 shots. Josh Richardson and the rest of the defense played as strong and forceful pressure defense as they have all season, getting the Wizards back on their heels and forcing one off target pass after another (Washington committed 18 turnovers). But Beal has evolved into a premier scorer and he was able to get to the rim and hit tough shots, including one late fadeaway and another late step-back three. If you haven’t caught the theme yet, the HEAT played a very strong game outside of the first few minutes and their own poor outside shooting. As such, there isn’t a ton they’ll need to change.
Joe: I don’t believe there’s much Miami should do differently.
In that last matchup, Richardson and Winslow made things as tough as possible on the All-Star for most of the evening. While Beal was able to shake free at times, he also shot 4-of-6 on contested looks, which was the best on the team.
In other words, this all goes back to what I stated in my previous response. If Miami can play with more vigor at the start and not allow Washington to get into a rhythm early on, everything should be fine.
- The HEAT have won five of seven and are 35-31.
- The Wizards have won two straight and enter the contest at 38-28.
- Hassan Whiteside leads Miami in rebounds (11.8) and blocks (1.7) per game.
- Bradley Beal leads Washington in scoring at 23.4 points per game.
- HEAT Offense: 104.0 (22)
- HEAT Defense: 104.3 (8)
- Wizards Offense: 107.2 (10)
- Wizards Defense: 105.5 (13)