Miami HEAT at San Antonio Spurs Game Preview

Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon

The Miami HEAT face the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night at AT&T Center. The HEAT fell to the Spurs 117-100 in their last meeting on Oct. 25. Tip-off is set for 8:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 8:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: Was there any significant takeaway from Miami’s loss to the Warriors on Sunday?

Couper Moorhead: Sometimes you run up against a team that might be the best team in the history of the league, and that team plays to their potential in the second half. That doesn’t require a ton of analysis.

That said, it was notable that Miami wasn’t able to slow Steph Curry and Klay Thompson as they were for much of the game in Golden State. Both those players are so talented that you aren’t going to keep their shooting percentages down forever and them shooting well likely wasn’t a particular concern. What did stick out was the scoring the Warriors were able to do via off-ball movement, cutting and curling to the rim for layups or threading tough perimeter passes to the man someone had just rotated off of. Those were the plays Erik Spoelstra seemed to key in on in postgame, and they were the ones the Warriors lacked the first time these teams met. The HEAT won’t always be playing against such a prolific team, but they’ll want to tighten up on those off-ball actions all the same – especially against their next opponent. 

Joe Beguiristain: While the HEAT hung tough in the first half thanks to Goran Dragić and a few guys off the bench, the Warriors went on a run in the third quarter and took control of the game. Kevin Durant and Steph Curry caused problems all night for Miami, but those two do that on a regular basis.

Despite the end result, Bam Adebayo impressed once more with some extended playing time. In addition to delivering some hard screens and finishing at the rim, Adebayo continued to show his ability to switch on the perimeter. After two great defensive sequences against Jimmy Butler and LeBron James earlier in the season, the 20-year-old did it again when matched up with Curry late in the second quarter on Sunday. The two-time MVP tried to cross over the rookie a few times, but he had to pass it to Durant after nearly turning it over. From there, Josh Richardson swatted Durant from behind.

Although there will be ups and downs throughout the year as Adebayo learns the NBA game, possessions like that show he has the potential to be a special player.

2: What did we learn from the first matchup with San Antonio?

Couper: That these are still the Spurs, every bit the Top 3 defense that their numbers say they are. They might not always have idealized defensive players on the floor as far as height, length and athleticism (though they do have those, when healthy), but they make so few mistakes that teams are forced to execute every action as clean as possible just to get the same looks they expect to get night-to-night.

The story, however, of the first meeting was that LaMarcus Aldridge remains as good as ever. He scored 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting, every bit as comfortable facing up off a pick as he was backing down every defender Miami threw at him. But the post-ups, good as Aldridge is in those spots, you will live with if you can make them tough enough. The issue became that the HEAT tried fronting Aldridge to make those catches tougher, as they regularly do, but the Spurs were able to twist that coverage into a backdoor pass. If Miami can rotate properly on those passes and trust Bam Adebayo to deny passing lanes as aggressively as he’s done in the past week, they’ll be on their way to making life for Aldridge as difficult as possible.

Joe: We learned that San Antonio is still one heck of a team without Kawhi Leonard. Miami had success offensively early on, but the Spurs responded and held the HEAT to 39 percent shooting in the second and third quarter combined. On the flip side of the ball, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay had big nights due to their size advantage on Miami’s defenders. As will be the case again Wednesday night, Hassan Whiteside missed that last matchup, which left Adebayo and James Johnson as the primary guys covering Aldridge.

While Adebayo did struggle a bit, that was his first-career start. As I mentioned in my previous response, the former Kentucky Wildcat has made great strides on both ends of late. If he can minimize his mistakes and continue to show quick feet on rotations, things should be better against Aldridge this time around.

3: How have the Spurs been playing without Kawhi Leonard this season?

Couper: It’s been a team effort as usual. Until Tony Parker’s recent return, Aldridge was the only player on the team with a usage rate over 25 percent. Everyone, from sophomore Dejounte Murray to Danny Green (adding more ballhandling to his repertoire) and Kyle Anderson (now injured) picked up additional playmaking duties while Rudy Gay has comfortably stepped into a bench-scoring role despite coming off an Achilles tendon injury. The result has been an offensive rating hovering around league average but when you have one of the league’s elite defenses that level of scoring is more than enough for a 16-8 record missing one of the very best players on the planet.

In the minutes since Parker has returned, the Spurs are scoring 112.0 points per 100 possessions. So their offense is trending up, and word is Leonard could make his return in the next week or two.

Joe: San Antonio has continued to be as tough as you’d expect. In fact, the Spurs have won seven of their last nine and are 16-8 on the year. In addition to Aldridge and Gay, Pau Gasol and Danny Green have also played quite well on both ends of the floor. Case in point: Gasol has the best net rating on the team (7.8) of any player averaging at least 20 minutes per game. Green, meanwhile, hasn’t shot the ball as consistently as he has in the past, but he’s still holding the opposition to 4.7 percentage points lower than their usual field goal percentage from greater than 15 feet out.

Long story short, Head Coach Gregg Popovich has kept his team moving right along in the tough Western Conference despite some injuries to key players. With Tony Parker easing his way back and Leonard returning sooner rather than later, San Antonio should become even stronger as the season wears on.  

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Highlights:

Oct. 25 – Spurs at HEAT

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT are 11-12, while the Spurs enter the contest at 16-8.
  • Goran Dragić leads Miami in points (17.6) and assists (4.4) per game.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge leads San Antonio in points (22.8) and rebounds (8.2) per contest.

 

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 100.7 (27)
  • HEAT Defense: 104.6 (15)
  • Spurs Offense: 104.2 (18)
  • Spurs Defense: 99.9 (2)