Miami HEAT vs. Brooklyn Nets Game Preview

Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon

The Miami HEAT face the Brooklyn Nets Saturday night at Mexico City Arena. The HEAT defeated the Nets 108-99 in their last meeting on Feb. 10. Tip-off is set for 6:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 5:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: What did you take away from Miami’s loss in San Antonio?

Couper Moorhead: For starters is was clearly a positive offensive outing as the HEAT scored 116 points per 100 possessions and shot an unbelievable 18-of-34 from three. The ball was moving throughout the night and against one of the league’s very best defenses, Miami generated what was one of their finest scoring nights of the season.

But the HEAT also allowed 124.3 points per 100 on the other end, which gives us an opportunity to discuss something interesting happening with the defense. Miami generally limits threes and specifically corner threes as well as ay team in the league – in attempts, which typically correlates to good defense far more than percentages allowed over shorter periods of time – as they’re even allowing the fewest “Wide Open” threes a game at just 9.8 per game. That’s a remarkably healthy fundamental, but opponents are shooting 42.6 percent on those threes, the second-highest mark in the league. There are deeper levels to those numbers we don’t have the space to get into here, but the general point is that even though teams like the Spurs didn’t get a ton of wide open looks (they did get some), when they do get them they’re falling at nearly a league-high rate. Miami has other aspects to their defense to correct, fouling among them, but sometimes you’re just a little unlucky as well.

Joe Beguiristain: My main takeaway was that the HEAT can hang with nearly any team in the league when their offense is clicking and operating like it should. Although Miami did commit 19 turnovers, the team made up for it with crisp ball movement for most of the night. In fact, the HEAT dished out 28 assists and drilled 18 treys, which was the most they've had for any game outside of their matchup with the Timberwolves on Nov. 24.

In particular, Dion Waiters was extremely efficient, as he collapsed the defense and sprayed the ball out to open shooters early on. As the game progressed, his teammates returned the favor and found him for some catch-and-shoot treys. Thanks to that, Waiters finished with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting, five assists, just two turnovers and a team-high plus-10 rating.

While things were a bit tougher for Miami on the defensive end, Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo had some nice spurts. Olynyk made things as tough as possible on LaMarcus Aldridge, while Adebayo held his own against Pau Gasol by blocking him and forcing the vet to commit a turnover on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter. We’ll see how the two big men follow that up Saturday against the Nets.

2: What changes did Brooklyn make last offseason and how are they playing so far?

Couper: The Nets made a number of deals last offseason. They traded Brook Lopez to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for former No. 2 pick D’Angelo Russell, then acquired Allen Crabbe from the Portland Trail Blazers and DeMarre Carroll from the Toronto Raptors. Then, on Thursday, they moved Trevor Booker to Philadelphia for former No. 3 pick Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas. All put together, the Nets have managed to add both former high draft picks and valuable veterans as they continue their rebuild.

It’s no coincidence, then, that this is shaping up to be a season of improvement. The Nets sit at 10-14 after finishing with the league’s worst record a season ago. They’re No. 19 in offense and No. 21 in defense which, again, is better than a year ago on both ends of the floor. And they play fast with the league’s third-highest pace of 104.79 possessions a game. This is still a team on its way back – Russell remains out after knee surgery and Jeremy Lin will likely miss the rest of the season – but they have talent and put up a ton of threes every game.

Joe: As Coup mentioned above, Brooklyn has made wholesale changes at a number of different positions. The team’s most recent move, trading Trevor Booker for Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas and a second-round draft pick, should solidify the center spot for Head Coach Kenny Atkinson. Okafor didn’t play much for Philadelphia this season, but he’s an old school type of player who can score in the post.

Overall, the Nets have played quite well despite dealing with some injuries to key players. Behind the sharp play of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert, Brooklyn has won three of four to improve to 10-14 on the year. What’s more, the Nets have given up just 99.4 points per 100 possessions over their last four games (albeit against some poor offensive teams). With the HEAT coming off an explosive offensive performance against the Spurs, it’ll be interesting to see how they fare against an improving Brooklyn squad.

3: Do you expect the starting lineup change from San Antonio to remain? How will the HEAT otherwise adjust to the Nets?

Couper: Erik Spoelstra opted to start James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk instead of Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo against the twin-towers lineup of the Spurs (LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol), but in postgame he didn’t offer many hints as to whether it was a permanent move or one more matchup-focused.

Now, the Nets generally start a little smaller with Tyler Zeller at center and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at the four, which is a configuration that would work for either of Miami’s two recent starting groups. But with the recent acquisition of Okafor we don’t know whether he will be with the team or not, much less whether he may start or not. So this may end up being an information game up until coaches have to submit their lineups 45 minutes before tipoff.

However the lineups sort out, we should mention again that Brooklyn plays very, very fast and Mexico City happens to be at elevation. This will likely be a game of conditioning and awareness in the open court.

Joe: It’s tough to make a prediction at this point. Erik Spoelstra started James Johnson and Olynyk against the Spurs to combat Aldridge and Gasol. The Nets don’t have two bigs like that, so maybe Spoelstra will go with his starters from before (Justise Winslow and Adebayo). That said, Johnson looked sharp in the first quarter against San Antonio before foul trouble got him out of rhythm. Again, it’s hard to make a determination given the way Coach Spo operates. He likes to roll with something if it’s working, but he’s also open-minded. 

As for how the HEAT should adjust to the Nets, they just need to be prepared for a hot team. Still, Brooklyn has had some trouble scoring efficiently with D’Angelo Russell out. If Miami can stick to its defensive principles for a full 48 minutes, everything should be fine.

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Highlights:

Feb. 10 – HEAT at Nets

Jan. 30 – Nets at HEAT

Game Notes:

  • This marks the first regular season game that the HEAT have played outside of the United States or Canada.
  • Miami has won five straight against Brooklyn.
  • The Nets have won three of four and are 10-14 on the year.
  • Josh Richardson is averaging 17.2 points per game on 58.6 percent shooting in his last five.
  • On Thursday, Brooklyn traded Trevor Booker for Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas and a second-round draft pick.

 

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 101.3 (27)
  • HEAT Defense: 105.4 (15)
  • Nets Offense: 104.1 (19)
  • Nets Defense: 106.8 (21)

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