San Antonio Spurs at Miami HEAT Game Preview

Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon

The Miami HEAT host the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now for Cancer Awareness Night! 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: How were the HEAT able to pull out an overtime victory in Detroit to end a three-game skid?

Couper Moorhead: After Andre Drummond forced overtime with a last-second tip-in, it was Josh Richardson who brought it home for Miami with a timely drive, and tough pull-up jumper and a catch-and-shoot three off an incredible Goran Dragić driving pass. If Richardson doesn’t hit those shots, Miami loses, plain and simple.

The HEAT also might not have afforded themselves the opportunity to play in overtime had they not taken advantage of one of their main strengths: depth. Minus spot-starter Bruce Brown, the Pistons starters all finished plus-four or better. But just about whenever Detroit had a bench player in, the HEAT’s bench pounced to the tune of, as the best example, a minus-21 for Stanley Johnson in just 14 minutes on the court. Solid minutes from Dwyane Wade, Tyler Johnson and Kelly Olynyk kept Miami out of a deficit all night so they could be in position at the end of the game. This won’t be the last time we talk about Miami’s bench outperforming their opposing counterparts. As much as team is part of this team’s identity, so too is playing to an advantage off the bench.

Joe Beguiristain: Like they’ve been able to do time and time again, the HEAT overcame adversity and showed their mental toughness down the stretch.

After Miami led by as many as 12 points early in the fourth quarter thanks to some strong performances from Goran Dragić and Dwyane Wade, Detroit stormed back on the shoulders of Andre Drummond. And while the Pistons forced OT, Josh Richardson shut the door on them for good with nine of the HEAT’s 15 points in the extra period.

Thanks to that heroic effort, the 25-year-old now leads the team with 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting in the clutch (last five minutes of a game within five points or less) and ranks second with a plus-13 rating in those situations.

Before we wrap up this question though, we need to mention Justise Winslow and his stifling defense on Blake Griffin for most of the night. In Winslow’s 49 possessions covering Griffin, he held the five-time All-Star to just 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting and a turnover.

That's crazy.

DeMar DeRozan2: How have the Spurs changed this year?

Couper: The Spurs are an interesting case because they are unquestionably different, but they’re different because they traded a player who only played nine games last year and returned an All-Star player from the deal. In losing an MVP-caliber player in Kawhi Leonard to injury last year, the Spurs still managed to pull-out 47 wins. During the offseason they moved Leonard to the Toronto Raptors and added DeMar DeRozan in the process. And DeRozan has showed up having possibly his best season of a very strong career, carrying a heavy usage load with his best efficiency and best assist rate of his career.

Unfortunately, the Spurs have also lost some other key pieces. They moved Danny Green in the Leonard deal, losing one of their best defenders and shooters in the process. And they’ve already lost starting point guard Dejounte Murray to a torn ACL, in addition to shorter-term injuries to rookie Lonnie Walker and sophomore Derrick White.

We’ve probably buried the lede here, even in light of the Leonard deal. Manu Ginobili retired this past summer and Tony Parker signed with the Charlotte Hornets. The era that began ending when Tim Duncan retired firmly came to a close with those two elsewhere.

Joe: With Manu Ginobili retired and Tony Parker now in Charlotte, the Spurs have now fully entered a whole new era. And although that process started a few years back when Tim Duncan retired and those other guys started to play less minutes as time went on, San Antonio really looks different now with the addition of DeMar DeRozan.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should have heard by now that the Spurs made a blockbuster trade in the offseason when they acquired DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-round pick for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

While Poeltl has played sparingly thus far (that could change Wednesday with Pau Gasol out), DeRozan has been remarkable. In fact, the 29-year-old swingman is averaging 27.3 points and 6.7 assists per game on 51.6 percent shooting — all of which are career-highs. Per usual, DeRozan leads the league in drives per game (19.1) and points off those attacks (13.2), while also being near the top in field goal percentage (55.3) on those looks among players with high volume.

Outside of DeRozan and Poeltl, San Antonio added a familiar face in Marco Belinelli and former Net Dante Cunningham for added depth. Belinelli has continued to be a spark plug off the bench (he’s scored in double-figures in seven of the Spurs’ nine games), while Cunningham has been a little up and down.

We’ll see how those guys continue to acclimate (or re-acclimate in Belinelli’s case) as the season goes on.

3: Is defending the Spurs different from defending most teams the league these days?

Couper: Short answer: yes. Long answer: very much so.

In a league increasingly obsessed with efficiency and hunting the best shots available, the Spurs are decidedly old-school. They take 48.6 percent of their shots between the rim and the three-point line, and no other team takes more than 38.5 percent. Now, this isn’t because the team is resistant to change or running some out-of-date offense, they’re just the rare team with personnel suited to taking those shots between DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Rudy Gay. And it works for them – San Antonio has the No. 8 offense in the league at 111.6 points per 100 possessions – in part because they have the lowest turnover rate in the league and because most teams are generally constructed to allow better looks in the mid-range than in other zones consider of higher value and threat. So, however anachronistic is may seem on paper, the Spurs simply step on the court, run their offense, possess the ball and step into shots (and play-types, like Aldridge’s post-ups) that most teams don’t regularly expect to restrict.

Joe: Yes.

Thanks in large part to LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs are very much like the Pistons in that they post-up quite a lot. In fact, San Antonio leads the league with 22.2 post-ups per game (Aldridge accounts for a little more than half of those).

And as Coup mentioned above, San Antonio also takes a ton of shots from mid-range. That, of course, can be credited to DeRozan, who has made a living off those throughout his career. Case in point, the USC product is shooting 37-of-73 (50.7 percent) off those looks this season.

Simply put, Miami will have its hands full with two great offensive talents in DeRozan and Aldridge. Depending on Hassan Whiteside’s status, we could see Winslow or Derrick Jones Jr. on Aldridge at times and either Rodney McGruder or Richardson on DeRozan.

Time will tell. 

INJURY UPDATE: Hassan Whiteside (Right Knee Injury) is expected to play. Goran Dragić (Right Knee Injury) is listed as questionable. Dwyane Wade (Personal Reasons) will not play.

Spurs at HEAT Head To Head

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT are 4-5, while the Spurs enter the contest at 6-3 on the season.
  • Josh Richardson leads Miami in scoring at 21.4 points per game.  
  • DeMar DeRozan leads San Antonio in points (27.3) and assists (6.7) per contest.

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 109.2 (14)
  • HEAT Defense: 108.1 (14)
  • Spurs Offense: 111.6 (8)
  • Spurs Defense: 109.9 (18)

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