Charlotte Hornets at Miami HEAT Game Preview
Photo Credit: Oscar Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Charlotte Hornets Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT defeated the Hornets 106-105 in their last meeting on Jan. 20. 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. Was there anything in particular to take away from Thursday night’s loss to the Kings?
Joe Beguiristain: Not really.
The HEAT stormed back in the third after a slow first half and actually led by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter, but the Kings responded and escaped with a one-point victory.
One of the bright spots for Miami was Wayne Ellington, who set a franchise record with his ninth game this season with six or more treys. Throughout the contest, the swingman did his usual work off the ball and zigzagged his way along the baseline through screens to get open looks on the perimeter. As such, he scored 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting from deep against Sacramento.
Whenever the HEAT’s offense has been stagnant this season, Ellington has seemed to provide a spark at the perfect time. Unfortunately, it didn’t result in a win this time around.
Alex Granado: That no matter the record of the opponent you may be facing, there are NBA level players on the other bench who will make you pay for your mistakes. Sacramento managed to stay within striking distance of Miami, even closing a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter to pull off a one-point upset courtesy of a sky-high D’Aaron Fox put-back dunk in the final seconds of the game.
Also, Goran Dragić looked good in his first game back from a left knee injury, leading the team with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
Lastly, Justise Winslow is quietly racking up some encouraging numbers from beyond the arc. Small sample size, yes, but he made one more three Thursday night, which marks the fifth straight game he’s had at least one make from distance. That makes him a 44.2% three-point shooter on the year so far.
2. Why have the HEAT had so much success against the Hornets this season?
Joe: Simply put, they’ve been able to keep Kemba Walker in check. In the two games Walker has played against Miami (he missed the Dec. 1 meeting due to an injured shoulder), he’s shot just 38.3 percent from the field.
While the HEAT’s bigs have defended him well in the pick-and-roll, Josh Richardson also deserves a lot of credit for slowing down the electric point guard. Most people remember James Johnson’s five points in less than five seconds against the Hornets on Jan. 20, but Richardson’s stout defense on Walker down the stretch was perhaps just as vital.
Despite all of Miami’s past success against Charlotte, nothing is guaranteed. Walker is still capable of putting his imprint on the game, and Dwight Howard has been remarkable this season.
We’ll see how everything plays out on Saturday night.
Alex: I agree with Joe that containing Kemba Walker has been crucial to Miami’s success against the Hornets. The crafty point guard is capable of putting up explosive numbers – he’s already had a pair of 40-point games against other opponents this season and hasn’t scored below 20 in either of his previous two games against the HEAT.
Balance on offense has also been a big key for Miami. Seven players scored in double figures for the HEAT when these two teams first played in December, while five scorers managed it a week ago. That ball movement has been a key to Miami’s success so far this season, and that won’t be any different against the Hornets Saturday.
3. Outside of Kemba Walker, who else should Miami be wary of?
Joe: Although Nicolas Batum has played better of late and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has had a great year, Howard should command the bulk of the HEAT’s attention.
The 32-year-old has been an absolute monster on both ends of the floor and is a big reason why the Hornets have had a top-10 defense for most of the year. In that last matchup with Miami on Jan. 20, Howard was key in building Charlotte’s lead in the third quarter before the HEAT came back late.
While Howard hasn’t been great on post-ups this season, Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo still need to make sure he doesn’t get deep catches in the post. On the flip side of the ball, perhaps Adebayo can pull him out of the paint a little more when operating on the elbow for handoffs.
All in all, we should be in for a fun matchup.
Alex: All eyes on Nic Batum here. The versatile wing led the Hornets charge one week ago against Miami with 26 points and six assists, nearly carrying them to victory if not for an unlikely five-in-five situation at the end of that game (glorious, but unlikely.)
Also, through 11 games in January, the Hornets are 7-4 and shooting 38.1% from beyond the arc – this is a team that appears to be on the upswing and could be troublesome from the perimeter for the HEAT. I suspect Josh Richardson, James Johnson and Justise Winslow in particular will each have their hands full making sure guys like Walker, Jeremy Lamb and Marvin Williams aren’t getting any easy buckets out along the perimeter. It could be a deciding factor in this game.
INJURY UPDATE: Tyler Johnson will warm up with the intention to play.
- The HEAT have won five straight against the Hornets dating back to last season.
- Charlotte has won four of six and is 20-27 on the year.
- Goran Dragić leads Miami in points (17.4) and assists (4.8) per game.
- Kemba Walker leads the Hornets in points (21.9), assists (5.9) and steals (1.2) per game.
- HEAT Offense: 103.3 (24)
- HEAT Defense: 104.5 (T-9)
- Hornets Offense: 104.4 (T-17)
- Hornets Defense: 104.5 (T-9)