Miami HEAT at Charlotte Hornets Game Preview
Photo Credit: Bill Baptist
The Miami HEAT face the Charlotte Hornets Tuesday night at Spectrum Center. The game is presented by Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida. The HEAT defeated the Hornets 95-91 in their last meeting on Jan. 27. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What were your takeaways from Miami’s first outing in the preseason?
Couper Moorhead: The HEAT were fast. Not because the team, in general, is in very good shape – though the players certainly are – but they were running in transition with such a purpose it’s impossible not to come away from the game thinking it was a clear emphasis during training camp. It wasn’t just Goran Dragić and Justise Winslow grabbing rebounds and sprinting down the floor with the ball, is was nearly every player on the team. And when they got there, they got shots up early – both Dragić and Dwyane Wade took very early pull-up threes in transition, shots Miami typically doesn’t take a bunch of – and used the speed to initiate offense with cutters following up on attacking drives. Some teams can mistake speed with pace, but the HEAT were clearly trying to attack and initiate as early as possible to capitalize on a scrambling defense. Their pace of 115.8 in the first half, when the regulars were playing the bulk of the minutes (though the team was not without its own injuries), would have been Miami’s fastest half during the regular season last year.
Joe Beguiristain: Outside of the team getting out in transition more, which Coup chronicled above, my main takeaways were that Hassan Whiteside and Rodney McGruder looked good.
Whiteside was active and engaged from the start, as he set solid screens, remained ready for the catch in the post and defended well in the pick-and-roll. In fact, the big fella contested a game-high 12 shots and tallied an 82.9 defensive rating (second best on the team behind only McGruder). Sure, Whiteside's 20 points and 13 boards were great, but he also did the little things well.
McGruder, meanwhile, did a nice job of defending multiple guys, including DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray. And while the 27-year-old McGruder did the bulk of his scoring off the ball, it’s clear that he’s been working on creating offense in the pick-and-roll. We’ll see how that new wrinkle progresses as the preseason rolls on.
2: Given that there are always things to tune up in preseason, what aspects of Charlotte’s roster and play style will help Miami to work against?
Couper: It’s all about Kemba Walker. Charlotte does have a new head coach in James Borrego, Dwight Howard is now in Washington and Jeremy Lamb may be in the starting lineup now in the stead of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but the central challenge of this team has always been Walker.
Walker is in an elite class of NBA guards who have shepherded the rise of pull-up threes over the last few years, a shot that has seen remarkable growth over that time. No shot challenges a defense more when the ballhandler is just as capable at making it as they are at penetrating into the lane, so this will be a nice warmup for Miami’s pick-and-roll coverage to track Walker over the top of screens, limit his airspace at the arc and still contain the middle of the floor.
Joe: Like the HEAT, the Hornets have played pretty fast in the preseason. And although Kemba Walker is a big reason why that’s the case, Miles Bridges has also turned some heads.
After showcasing his athleticism with two thunderous put-back jams against the Celtics on Sept. 28, Bridges ran the floor well and got to his spots versus that same Boston team two nights later.
A game-high 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-6 from deep, a game-high plus-14 rating and a team-best 87.8 defensive rating.
Needless to say, it’ll be fun to see McGruder and Justise Winslow match up with the rookie out of Michigan State on Tuesday night.
3: Of the players fighting for a spot on the regular-season roster who have played so far, who has stood out to you?
Couper: Duncan Robinson’s 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting may not have stood out in the box score at the end of the day, but he has a clearly definable set of skills – the shooting is very impressive – that could some day fast-track him to big-league minutes just as his Summer League performance earned him a two-way contract. There’s still plenty to learn for the rookie (particularly on defense, as is true for most any rookie), but his range, quick release and accuracy all help him stand out.
Joe: Since Coup already mentioned Duncan Robinson, I’ll go with Jarnell Stokes.
The 24-year-old big man followed up his strong performance in the Red, White and Pink Game with another high-energy outing against San Antonio. Not only did Stokes work hard on the offensive glass for his two buckets, but he also led Miami with two screen assists and a plus-10 rating in nine and a half minutes of play.
“I thought in his short minutes, Jarnell played well, and that’s what you want,” Erik Spoelstra said after the game. “You want to stay ready, and then, regardless of when your minutes are, [you want] to make them productive, and he did that.”
• Bam Adebayo (Right AC Joint Sprain) – Out
• Wayne Ellington (Left Ankle Soreness) – Out
• James Johnson (Sports Hernia Surgery) – Out
• Josh Richardson (Left Thigh Contusion) – Out
• Dion Waiters (Left Ankle Surgery) – Out