Miami HEAT at Golden State Warriors Game Preview
Photo Credit: Noah Graham
The Miami HEAT face the Golden State Warriors Monday night at Oracle Arena. The HEAT defeated the Warriors 105-102 in their last meeting on Jan. 23. Tip-off is set for 10:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 10:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What was your takeaway from the wild, close win in Los Angeles?
Couper Moorhead: That through three quarters this was as strong a performance the HEAT have put in all season. Playing at noon on the west coast is also a difficult proposition – not to mention the day after time change – just because of how it messes with your internal clock, but Miami came out incredibly active on the defensive end. Miami pressures the ball by the design of their defensive system, but there’s pressuring the ball because that’s what you do and pressuring the ball and all surrounding passing lanes with great energy and high hands. The Clippers might’ve been on the second day of a strange noon-noon back-to-back, but that can be true with Miami turning in a strong defensive showing all the same.
As for the fourth quarter, that’s where the HEAT’s offense got stuck in mud. The Clippers starting pressuring the ball themselves, the threes stopped falling and, most importantly, the team committed seven turnovers. The team is rarely going to make half of their threes for an entire game, so some cold shooting is perfectly normal, but it’s when you both start missing shots and giving the other team extra possessions that you start giving up bigger runs. That said, it’s tough to find mental stability after allowing such a big run but the team held strong, even after twice losing the lead, and made the plays in the final minutes.
Joe Beguiristain: The HEAT survived.
After dominating the Clippers for three quarters, Miami got a little lackadaisical in the fourth, which enabled Los Angeles to mount a comeback. Still, the HEAT responded to adversity like only they can and made enough plays in the end to hang on.
How Miami built a 23-point lead heading into the fourth was quite impressive. Almost every player who received minutes made their impact felt on the defensive end. Whether it was Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson wreaking havoc in the passing lanes, Hassan Whiteside deflecting lobs or James Johnson and Okaro White competing hard against Blake Griffin, it was an all-around team effort.
Offensively through the first three quarters, the HEAT moved the ball well (20 assists on 33 made field goals) and shot 13-of-27 from downtown. While the team didn’t sustain that in the fourth, an uptick in turnovers had a lot to do with that.
At the end of the day though, Miami found a way to win and discovered a blueprint for how to build big leads. That’s all that matters.
2: How can Miami stop the Warriors’ prolific offense?
Couper: The Warriors are currently scoring 118.2 points per 100 possessions, not only the best mark in the league (second place is 108.5) but one of the best marks of all time. Normally we would say a team is due for significant regression but this team is anything but normal. If any group is going to set offensive records, it’s probably this one. In other words, you probably aren’t going to stop them.
You can still slow them down. Golden State will have some games where they struggle to make threes, but that’s more about the nature of percentages than it is anything you can plan for – actively pressuring the arc, especially the corner, to prevent the threes being taken at all usually work out better. But if this team has a weakness it is with turnovers, where they have the fourth-highest turnover percentage in the league right now. The Warriors are incredibly aggressive with their passing and movement with so much of their offense being improvisational, of sorts, the more disciplined pressure you can apply to them the higher your likelihood of inducing mistakes.
By that same token, giving up extra possessions to such a strong offense is not a recipe for success. There may be no game all regular season where taking care of the ball is more important than it is Monday night.
Joe: The entire league is looking for an answer to this question. As Coup mentioned above, the Warriors have the best offense in the league by a wide margin. In addition to having the highest offensive rating, the team also owns the highest assist percentage (70.2 percent), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.85) and effective field goal percentage (60.8 percent). And with all the weapons they have, are you surprised?
Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson each have the ability to go off for 40 on any given night, which makes Golden State one of the most dangerous teams ever assembled.
All that said, no team is perfect. The Warriors have looked vulnerable in the past and tend to get a little careless at times when they go up by double-digits early. It’ll be very tough, but the HEAT need to be active in the passing lanes and sharp on their defensive rotations like on Sunday if they want to come away with the win over the defending champs.
3: Who could have a big night for Miami?
Couper: This is always a fascinating matchup for Hassan Whiteside. The Warriors start Zaza Pachulia, a brick wall if there ever was one, and have more strength, in David West, and length, in JaVale McGee, to throw at Whiteside off the bench, but where it really gets interesting is when Golden State goes small with Draymond Green at center. At that point, Whiteside has no choice but to defend a perimeter shooter which then opens up the paint for rim attack, but the opposition has to deal with him on the other end as well. So there could be a ton of different looks Whiteside has to adjust to, but he should have some form of physical advantage over most of them, leading to significant numbers even as he’s being stretched outside the paint on the other end.
Joe: Since Coup mentioned Whiteside, I’ll go with James Johnson. Recently, the burly forward has done a great job of initiating offense and attacking the basket. While Golden State can put Draymond Green, Kevin Durant or David West on him depending on the lineup, Johnson should still be able to find success when going up against the second unit.
With all the elite defenders the Warriors have, it’ll be important for Miami to move the ball well and properly space the floor. As such, all of the HEAT’s ballhandlers (Johnson, Goran Dragić, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson) must make smart decisions and keep Golden State on its toes. If that doesn’t happen and Miami has a high-turnover game, things can get out of hand.
- The HEAT enter the contest at 4-5, while the Warriors are 7-3 on the year.
- Goran Dragić leads Miami in points (19.3) and assists (4.9) per game.
- Stephen Curry leads Golden State in points (26.7) and steals (1.8) per contest.
- HEAT Offense: 102.0 (21)
- HEAT Defense: 104.1 (17)
- Warriors Offense: 118.2 (1)
- Warriors Defense: 105.7 (20)