Golden State Warriors at Miami HEAT Game Preview

Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon

The Miami HEAT host the Golden State Warriors Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Warriors 97-80 in their last meeting on Nov. 6. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 6:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: What were the HEAT able to get back on track against the Hornets?

Couper Moorhead: After two less-than-ideal efforts, beating Charlotte was more about getting back to their defensive, and competitive, standards than anything else. Miami held the Hornets, albeit a Kemba Walker-less version, to under 100 points per 100 possessions but the numbers don’t quite tell the full story. From the outset it was clear Miami was focused on applying more ball pressure, playing up on ballhandlers and even going with a full-court press early in the first quarter – something we don’t see often even with this team. That led to some early fouls for Miami’s guards but those fouls were an acceptable byproduct of the team being more aggressive. The next test is significantly more difficult but that’s why it was important for the HEAT to get back to their baseline.

Joe Beguiristain: The HEAT got it done on both ends of the floor against the Hornets, especially in the second half. After Charlotte shot 54.1 percent from the field through the first two quarters, Miami held the team to just 42.9 percent shooting the rest of the way. In particular, Josh Richardson, James Johnson and Dion Waiters answered the call defensively. Thanks to that trio, the HEAT were able to get some key stops down the stretch in a tightly-contested game.

Of course, Richardson also tallied a career-high 27 points and came through with a tough and-one finish late in the contest. When you mix that with two clutch threes from Waiters, some assertive drives from Johnson and a great drive-and-kick from Kelly Olynyk, you realize just how much Miami wanted to turn things around after two straight losses.

2: What did we learn from the last game against the Warriors?

Couper: That for all the talent the Warriors have – there is a perfectly good argument for them being the best team of all time – the HEAT have showed on multiple occasions that they can compete defensively with them. Yes, Miami lost the previous matchup by 17 points but they held Golden State below 40 percent shooting and in particular held Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to 10-of-34 shooting. Held is a relative term here since those players missed some open shots, but Josh Richardson did a remarkable job fighting over and through screens in order to contest one of the quickest releases in the NBA as he got Curry to pump-fake and pass up a couple threes. Richardson even blocked a couple of those threes.

Goran Dragić mentioned at practice on Saturday that part of what makes Golden State so tough to defend is that they have a ton of good screen-setters but also that so much of their offense is random so you never know when or where those screens are coming. For Richardson and the rest of Miami’s guards to so effectively navigate the deadly shooting waters of the Warriors was as impressive as anything they’ve done this season, even in a loss.

Joe: While the HEAT fell by double-digits in that last matchup against the Warriors on Nov. 6, their defensive intensity was quite impressive. As Coup stated above, Richardson did a great job on Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Shaun Livingston and helped hold the trio to just 12-of-40 shooting from the field. Similarly, James Johnson made things as tough as possible on Kevin Durant and helped limit him to 5-of-13 shooting on the night. Of course, replicating those numbers once more will be extremely difficult, but Miami can give itself a chance if it sticks to its good habits defensively. 

That kind of focus and discipline will be key for the HEAT, as Golden State has been on an absolute tear of late. How so? Well, the Warriors currently lead the league in net rating (12.6), assist percentage (69.7 percent) and effective field goal percentage (58.5 percent) by a considerable margin.

Even though all that is expected from Golden State, it’s still pretty remarkable stuff.

3: What will be the greatest challenge for Bam Adebayo Sunday night?

Couper: Some of it depends on who plays for the Warriors. As recently as Friday they had a number of players on their injury report and even rested Andre Iguodala, and with Sunday night being the first leg of a back-to-back Steve Kerr has said he may opt to rest a couple of his guys. Who those players are, we don’t know, but the Warriors have no shortage of centers to start alongside their stars. So Adebayo will either have to deal with the rugged strength of a Zaza Pachulia or David West, or the pure athleticism of a JaVale McGee or Jordan Bell. 

The real challenge for Adebayo is figuring out when he needs to step up and contest a potential shooter, if a guard gets hung up on a tough screen for example, and when he needs to hang back and protect the paint. The Warriors have seen every coverage in the league at this point so one step too high and they’ll find the cutting big man where he can make a play, and one step too low and they’re launching from deep. There are no easy answers, but those are the trials of a rookie big man.

Joe: It sounds simple, but I think the greatest challenge for Bam Adebayo will be dealing with how the Warriors run things. There’s very little wasted movement in Golden State’s offense, as the team executes screens very well and whips the ball from side-to-side. Still, Adebayo has done a good job of switching at the correct time and showing quick feet on the perimeter for the most part. He’s also never backed down from a challenge, with the most recent example of that coming Friday night against the Hornets. Although Dwight Howard tried to go right at Adebayo, the rookie forced Howard into some turnovers and played stout defense on the block. That moxie will certainly come in handy against some brutes in Zaza Pachulia and David West.

Above all else though, I’d really like to see how the 20-year-old fares against Draymond Green if the Warriors go small at certain points. Green hasn’t played center all that much this season, but seeing those two versatile bigs go at it would be really fun.

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Highlights:

Nov. 6 – HEAT at Warriors

Jan. 23 – Warriors at HEAT

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT are 16-12 against the Warriors in Miami.
  • Golden State has won four of five and is 17-6 on the year.
  • Josh Richardson is averaging 18.3 points and 1.7 steals per game on 59.5 percent shooting in his last three.
  • Steph Curry leads the Warriors with 26 points per contest.

 

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 100.7 (27)
  • HEAT Defense: 103.7 (12)
  • Warriors Offense: 114.2 (1)
  • Warriors Defense: 101.6 (6)