Miami HEAT at Washington Wizards Game Preview

Photo Credit: Ned Dishman

The Miami HEAT face the Washington Wizards Friday night at Capital One Arena. The HEAT fell to the Wizards 102-93 in their last meeting Wednesday. 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 did we learn from the first night of this two-game series with Washington?

Couper Moorhead: We didn’t necessarily learn this on Wednesday since it's common sense, but the best way to get yourself back into a game is to get stops. Miami shot very well from deep throughout the game, but with the Wizards shooting equally well in the first half the HEAT still wound up with a 12-point deficit at the break. It was in the third when Miami held their opponent to just 10 points that they closed the gap and even took a lead – and the HEAT only needed a 25-point third of their own to do so. You can’t count on holding opponents to 10 points in a quarter any more than you can hitting ten threes in a single half, but keeping them below 30 and making the shots tough enough so as to facilitate a possible cold spell goes a long way toward keeping the game close.

Getting those stops is even tougher on the road and Washington still has a variety of lineups that match up very well with Miami. Last year the HEAT were able to get a win by going with James Johnson at center when the Wizards had Jason Smith at the same position. But Wednesday Scott Brooks was able to toggle between small lineups involving Markieff Morris, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre. On the bright side, however, Washington’s starting lineup which ranks as one of the best five-man groups in the league wound up a minus-two for the evening. 

Joe Beguiristain: We continued to see the HEAT respond to adversity. After Miami started off slowly in the first half, both Goran Dragić and Dion Waiters erupted in the third quarter with 15 points combined on 5-of-9 shooting from deep. Thanks to the duo, the HEAT held a seven-point lead with 9:47 left in the fourth, but turnovers marred the rest of the period and the Wizards took it from there. That kind of inconsistency has plagued Miami for most of the season, but as Waiters stated after practice on Thursday, “It’s still early. It’s a long season.”

Despite the struggles offensively, Miami continued to wreak havoc on the defensive end on Wednesday night. In fact, the HEAT held Washington to just 10-of-36 shooting (27.8 percent) after halftime.

Waiters reflected on the team’s strong defensive play and talked about how it will go a long way once the offense improves.

“Our defense is…where we want to be in [the] top ten right now, hopefully [we] keep going forward [and] move in the top five like last year,” Waiters said. “But we got so many skill players on the team that once we just figure it out and really put it together [offensively], then we’re going to put ourselves in a position to win night in, night out because our defense is going to be there night in, night out.”

2: With turnovers an issue on Wednesday, what steps can Miami take to help keep those numbers down?

Couper: That was the question of the day after practice on Thursday, and there’s no easy, complete answer. As we’ve discussed before, not all turnovers are bad because some come from being aggressive with attacks at the rim and passes searching for good opportunities. Those turnovers are the byproduct of good offense. But there’s a fine line between the good ones and the ones that are simply mistakes – especially when it’s a live-ball turnover that leads to a transition opportunity for the other team. Both Erik Spoelstra and his players commented that some of the mistakes are mental errors and in the end that’s what it comes down to – making good decisions without pulling back from your offensive goals. Given that this HEAT team has a good idea of what it wants to do with the ball would lead you to believe they can reduce their turnovers by two or three a game, but defenses being more familiar with Miami’s formula for success isn’t going to make it easy on them.

Joe: As Coup mentioned above, Erik Spoelstra and the players addressed the issue at length after practice on Thursday. While it’s been such an issue that Coach Spo stated that “turnovers are crippling our team right now offensively”, the good news is the team is aware and understands what it needs to do in order to get things going in the right direction.

Perhaps the first step in doing that is making things more simple, which is something Spoelstra hinted at. Of course, when you attack the basket as much as Miami does (55.1 drives per game), you’re naturally going to turn the ball over at times. That said, errors like stepping out of bounds or driving to the rim without a plan need to be avoided as much as possible.

3: As Bradley Beal and John Wall combined for 53 points, does Miami need to do anything differently in defending them?

Couper: Yes and no. Overall, Miami did pretty well in forcing both players into the mid-range, especially getting Wall to take pull-up jumpers in that zone. Those are shots each player is more than adept at hitting, but they are less damaging than either Wall getting to the rim or Beal getting an open three. That said, there were definitely moments where Wall got an easy driving lane or Beal got an open look from deep – he just happened to miss some of those – that can reduce the margin for error that your defense is working with. But in general, it was a strong effort.

That said, Wall and Beal also drew a combined 22 shots at the free-throw line. Some of those came in the final minutes when Miami was trying to extend the game, and some were on jumpers that maybe could have gone either way, but if you’re doing well limiting the other team’s best scorers to as many contested shots as possible, putting them on the line is only doing them a favor. But that’s the trick, isn’t it? Defending as aggressively as possible while not fouling is the ideal for many players, but it’s easier said than done.

Joe: For the most part, the HEAT did a nice job of defending the duo and threw a bunch of different guys their way. While Beal and Wall did score 53 points combined, they did so on 15-of-40 shooting. In particular, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson answered the call more often than not and made things difficult for them.

Still, there were some instances when Wall got to the basket easily thanks to his elite speed, but in that case Miami’s help defense needs to be sharp. That shifts the onus on guys like Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson or whomever is near the basket at the time.

Like we’ve stated before, the HEAT’s defense has been one of the bright spots of the season. There’s no reason to believe that won’t continue on Friday night.  

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Highlights:

Nov. 15 – Wizards at HEAT

April 12 – Wizards at HEAT

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT are 6-8, while the Wizards enter the contest at 9-5 thanks to winning four straight.
  • Josh Richardson leads Miami with 1.4 steals per game.
  • Six Wizards players average over 10 points per contest.

 

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 100.5 (24)
  • HEAT Defense: 103.1 (11)
  • Wizards Offense: 108.2 (5)
  • Wizards Defense: 103.0 (10)

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