Miami HEAT at San Antonio Spurs Game Preview

Photo Credit: Mark Sobhani

The Miami HEAT face the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night at AT&T Center. Tip-off is set for 8:30 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: What impressed you the most about the HEAT’s win in Oklahoma City?

Couper Moorhead: Their defense. Miami’s zone actually gave up a few more points than it initially appeared because Jerami Grant was such a dynamic finisher around the rim, but the HEAT were able to switch so seamlessly between zone and aggressive, trapping man principles that the Thunder – down Russell Westbrook for the evening – never quite found a balance. The win may have ultimately been earned on the strength of Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragić and James Johnson being relatively unstoppable offensively, but it was Miami’s defense constantly putting extra defenders in front of Paul George and Dennis Schröder which created the 19 turnovers that led to 18 fast-break points. The HEAT have been able to execute modified and tailored gameplans against just about every opponent over the last few week, and when you’re able to keep things locked in on that end of the court it allows for standout offensive performances like Dragić shooting 6-of-9 from deep to put you over the top.

Joe Beguiristain: Although the HEAT’s defense was sharp — James Johnson in particular had an impressive sequence against Paul George in the fourth and led the team with four deflections, three steals and two blocks — their offense stood out to me the most.

In fact, Miami committed just nine turnovers against an OKC team that leads the league in forcing miscues. And while Russell Westbrook likely would have changed things if he had played, George is also a big reason why the Thunder are No. 1 in that category.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Goran Dragić and Dwyane Wade had strong outings off the bench once again. All told, the duo combined for 51 points on 19-of-34 shooting, as each guy helped the HEAT climb out of an early deficit and made plays later in the contest.

With both Dragić and Wade on the court this season, Miami is outscoring the opposition by 5.7 points per 100 possessions in 270 minutes. We’ll see if the veteran backcourt can keep it up as the HEAT continue their playoff push.

Hassan Whiteside2: Is there anything we can learn from Miami’s home victory over San Antonio months ago?

Couper: Neither team could get much going offensively in Miami’s seven-point victory as the HEAT led for most of the game until a late Spurs push – being that these are two of the best defenses so far in March you may not a ton of fireworks Wednesday night – but what was so striking about this game was just how uncomfortable the Spurs looked at times. Granted, they were missing Rudy Gay whose shot creation would have helped, but if you consider the sort of offenses the HEAT have struggled with at times this season, the up-tempo heavy-shooting teams, the Spurs don’t particularly fit that mold given their more methodical approach. There will be some differences Wednesday night simply due to different lineups, as LaMarcus Aldridge started at center back in November and shot 2-of-14 in one of his worst scoring games of the past seven or eight years. Aldridge was back at power forward when San Antonio beat the Warriors a couple nights ago so the Spurs may have a bit more size and physicality in this one – important given Miami’s 14 offensive boards.

Joe: It’s hard to glean too much from that matchup since a lot of guys were out for Miami, including Wade, Dragić, JJ and Dion Waiters. And for the Spurs, Jakob Poeltl (now a starter) was still trying to figure things out after being traded to San Antonio in the offseason.

One thing that really stood out in that game, however, was Hassan Whiteside’s monster performance. From the start, Whiteside just couldn’t be stopped, as he compiled 18 points, 14 boards, eight blocks and two assists in the first half alone. And while most of his rejections came at the rim as usual, a couple were actually on mid-range jumpers.

Speaking of mid-range, the Spurs do a lot of damage on those shots thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, but the team went just 6-of-30 on those looks in that previous meeting. That was pretty much the game right there.   

3: What have the Spurs been doing so well lately?

Couper: Well, considering that they haven’t lost a game in March with wins over the Thunder, Nuggets, Bucks, Blazers and Warriors, the answer is pretty much everything. The Spurs scored efficiently in each one of those wins and outside of Milwaukee held all those teams below their usual offensive rating. They’ve won slow games and fast games. They’ve won games shooting well from the perimeter and poorly, though they’ve always shot well from two-point range. And in just about every game outside of one they’ve kept their turnovers down. Essentially, in what has been something off an odd season by San Antonio’s standards, they’ve been playing San Antonio basketball. The question Wednesday night, then, is how it looks against Miami’s defense, which has changed since it performed well against the Spurs. The HEAT have excelled lately in hindering teams lacking either in shooting or depth of playmakers, pushing zones and traps on the likes of Kemba Walker and Paul George, but the Spurs have both of those things. I would expect to see the HEAT at least try what’s been working for them lately, but they might have to revisit what worked so well for them back in November, which was very physical but a bit more traditional.

Joe: The Spurs have tallied a 9.1 net rating over their nine-game winning streak, so they’ve basically dominated on both ends of the floor.

That said, they’ve really ramped things up defensively by limiting opponents from both the restricted area and beyond the arc (though they’ve been a little susceptible from the left corner). In particular, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay have been stout along the perimeter, while Poeltl and Aldridge have done their thing inside during San Antonio’s recent flurry.

As such, the HEAT will have to keep up their unselfish play and move the ball in order to find driving lanes and open shots from deep.

HEAT at Spurs Head To Head

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT defeated the Spurs 95-88 in their last meeting on Nov. 7.
  • Miami has won eight of eleven and is 34-36, while San Antonio has won nine straight and enters the contest at 42-29.
  • The HEAT’s bench has outscored the opposition by 504 points this season.
  • DeMar DeRozan leads the Spurs in points (21.6), assists (6.1) and steals (1.1) per game.
  • Justise Winslow (Right Thigh Bruise), Rodney McGruder (Left Knee Soreness) and Charles Cooke (Sioux Falls Assignment) are out. Duncan Robinson (Sioux Falls Assignment) and Yante Maten (Sioux Falls Assignment) are probable.

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 107.1 (23)
  • HEAT Defense: 107.1 (8)
  • Spurs Offense: 112.1 (7)
  • Spurs Defense: 110.7 (20)

For live in-game updates of Wednesday night’s contest, follow @MiamiHEAT, @CoupNBA and @JoeBeguiristain on Twitter.

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