Miami HEAT at Brooklyn Nets Game Preview

Photo Credit: Nathaniel S. Butler

The Miami HEAT face the Brooklyn Nets Friday night at Barclays Center. The HEAT fell to the Nets 111-87 in their last meeting on Dec. 29. 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: How were the HEAT able to finish out their win in Milwaukee?

Couper Moorhead: It started with a major second-half run started by Kelly Olynyk as he faked, stuttered and scooped his way to the rim to keep Milwaukee from pulling away with a double-digit lead. And with the game close in the final minutes the HEAT won it with defense. Thanks in part to the Bucks not being one of the league’s better shooting teams, the HEAT were able to shrink the floor and pack the paint against the drive, limiting the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton to either pull-up jumper or contested shots in the paint. With the Bucks struggling to score, it took a couple timely scores and a lob from Justise Winslow to Hassan Whiteside to put Miami over the top.

Joe Beguiristain: It was all about ball movement and defense. After giving up 57 points on 47.6 percent shooting in the first half to Milwaukee, Miami clamped down after halftime and forced the Bucks to shoot just 38.2 percent the rest of the way. While Hassan Whiteside was the man of the hour with a team-high six blocks, including a clutch rejection on Giannis Antetokounmpo late, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow did their thing on the perimeter. Based on who was on the floor at the time, both guys fared well when defending Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton. Having guys like Richardson and Winslow who can switch pretty much everything is so important when trying to gut out wins down the stretch.

On the flip side of the ball, the HEAT continued to move the ball exceptionally well and tallied 28 assists on 38 made field goals. In fact, that type of offensive cohesion has been prevalent throughout Miami’s recent run, as the team has the third-highest assist percentage (62.9) in the league over its past nine games.

Impressive.

2: Is there anything to be learned from Brooklyn’s dominant victory last time out in Miami?

Couper: That you cannot take the Nets lightly. Brooklyn may not have any perennial All-Stars but they play hard and they play together, with a roster full of players more than capable of punishing your mistakes. The HEAT simply weren’t at their best in trailing by as much as 38 at the end of December, but the Nets still had to take advantage and they certainly did with seven players scoring in double figures as they pushed up the floor at every opportunity, launched as many open threes as possible and attacked the rim. Joe Harris was the high scorer, shooting 4-of-4 from three and cutting off the ball, but it was Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who paced the team’s offense, creating shots where there otherwise were none with his improved jumper.

And while there’s no official word, don’t be surprised if D’Angelo Russell makes his return to the Nets lineup Friday night after missing over a month of game action.

Joe: That last matchup really showed how potent Brooklyn is offensively when the team is firing on all cylinders. As Coup mentioned above, the Nets had seven guys score in double-figures and did plenty of damage from beyond the arc.

Like Miami, Brooklyn attacks the basket often to collapse the defense and open things up on the perimeter. As such, the Nets average 49.8 drives per 100 possessions and 25.0 catch-and-shoot three-point attempts per game while also tallying a 59.2 assist percentage. Each of those metrics ranks in the top third of the league.

In other words, this is a team that the HEAT need to be wary of even though Brooklyn has dropped six of its last seven contests.

3: If this game is close going down the stretch, what lineups do you expect Erik Spoelstra to use based on the past few weeks?

Couper: This might sound like a cop-out answer, but it’s the lineup that best fits the game being played. During Miami’s recent stretch of success Spoelstra has been using lineups with a ton of shooting, even going with four guards at times, and rotating out different big men – Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo or Kelly Olynyk – based on the opponent. Those lineups are all made to maximize the open-floor driving ability of Dragić, with shooting to capitalize on the collapsed defenses. But against Milwaukee Spoelstra opted to focus on defense with Dragić being flanked by Whiteside, James Johnson, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson – with Johnson and Winslow both hitting important threes in the final minutes. So, and it shouldn’t be surprising, the HEAT will go with whatever is most appropriate. That doesn’t mean it will always work, but that type of mindset gives it the best chance to work.

Joe: Like Coup mentioned above, it honestly all depends on the flow of the game. All season long, Erik Spoelstra has done a fantastic job of using creative combinations that work in crunch time. Sometimes he rolls with lineups to create more space offensively, while other times he goes with a more defensive-oriented approach. Again, it really depends on who’s performed well and who’s on the opposite side.

If I had to take a guess, perhaps we’ll continue to see Winslow in a more prominent role if Tyler Johnson is out once again. As I mentioned in my first response, the 21-year-old did a great job defensively against Milwaukee (obviously), but he also made some key plays with the ball in his hands on the other end.

The fact that we can’t really predict the lineups shows just how tough it must be to game plan for Miami. When the team is really clicking, there are so many versatile pieces that can beat you in a number of different ways.

That’s a good thing.

INJURY UPDATE: Tyler Johnson (left ankle sprain) will not play in Friday night’s game against the Nets.

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Highlights:

Dec. 29 – Nets at HEAT

Dec. 9 – HEAT vs. Nets

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT have won eight of nine and are 26-18 on the year.
  • The Nets have dropped six of seven and enter the contest at 16-29.
  • Over the past nine games, Miami has the third-highest assist percentage (62.9) in the league.
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson leads Brooklyn in scoring at 14.7 points per game.

 

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 103.8 (23)
  • HEAT Defense: 104.6 (10)
  • Nets Offense: 102.6 (27)
  • Nets Defense: 106.4 (18)