Milwaukee Bucks at Miami HEAT Game Preview

Photo Credit: Joe Murphy

The Miami HEAT host the Milwaukee Bucks Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT defeated the Bucks 106-101 in their last meeting on Jan. 17. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: Dwyane Wade is back. What does this mean for the Miami HEAT?

Couper Moorhead: That the best player in franchise history is back home. After all of Cleveland’s trades yesterday before the deadline, including bringing in a number of additional guards, the Cavaliers agreed to trade Wade to Miami. While there are certainly basketball repercussions we can discuss in a moment, there’s clearly a sentimental value to Wade’s return and for a fan base at large, that value means something. There are hundreds of thousands of HEAT fans who grew up knowing nothing but the HEAT with Wade and every single one of them gets to feel something special when he takes the court for them again Friday night. Not every legend gets to finish their career with the franchise they started with, and even fewer still get to finish their career after leaving the franchise they started with. The basketball aspects matter, but sometimes you can take a step back and just appreciate what a player and fan base mean to one another. Friday night, we get to do just that.

Joe Beguiristain: It means that Wade County is back.

For 13 seasons, the South Florida community witnessed a young man from Marquette University become one of the greatest players in NBA history. From three NBA championships and an NBA Finals MVP to a scoring title and countless All-Star selections, the list of Dwyane Wade’s accomplishments goes on and on.

Although the HEAT had some impactful players before Wade (Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning and Glen Rice to name a few), the 36-year-old was the one who really put Miami on the map.

Wade burst onto the scene during his rookie campaign and led the HEAT to an improbable playoff run into the second round before teaming up with Shaq and winning the 2006 NBA Championship. After having one of the best all-around seasons ever in 2008-09, Wade then played a major role in the Big 3 Era and added two more banners to the AmericanAirlines Arena. 

Simply put, it just seems right that Wade gets to put on that number three once again for the HEAT.

2: How do you expect Wade to fit into Miami’s rotation Friday night?

Couper: While we’ll learn more once the team holds shootaround, it won’t surprise anyone to see Wade in the starting lineup Friday night, especially since there have been so many different iterations of the starting lineup since Dion Waiters went down with an ankle injury. Wade had been coming off the bench in Cleveland, a move he graciously accepted, so that option may be on the table should certain lineups take shape where it benefits the rotation at large, but for now we’ll assume he’s the starter.

Two years ago, whenever Wade was on the court with Goran Dragić and Hassan Whiteside the HEAT scored 104.2 points per 100 possessions and allowed 101.4 per 100 – both marks would be upgrades over the team’s current season marks. We don’t have much lineup data with Richardson because he was nominally the backup for both Wade and Dragić as a rookie that season, but there’s not much to worry about with him in any lineup combination.

Where the HEAT are going to benefit the most from Wade’s return is his playmaking. Yes, he can create his own shot at will and that’s going to come in handy during any of the many close games Miami plays in (seemingly every game, these days), but Wade’s ability to get into the paint and find his teammates, either kicking out to shooters or finding bigs for a lob (Whiteside and Bam Adebayo will be happy) should boost the offense where its otherwise fallen into a lull. And if Wade does start, it would make sense that his minutes with be staggered somewhat with Dragić so that the HEAT will always have a primary ballhandler on the floor.

Joe: Although Wade primarily came off the bench with the Cavaliers, I expect him to start Friday night given all the injuries Miami is currently dealing with. As Coup mentioned above, there’s already some familiarity with the other four probable starters in Goran Dragić, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside.

In particular, Whiteside should really reap the benefits of having the future Hall of Famer back. During the 2015-16 season, 92 of Wade’s 344 assists went to Whiteside, and the big fella converted those looks at a 59.1 percent clip. Yup, that’s impressive.

Dwyane Wade, Josh Richardson Otherwise, I’m really interested to see how Wade and the new-and-improved Richardson play together. While we’ll likely see the wily vet get to the bucket and create open looks for J. Rich, perhaps the 24-year-old can return the favor and find Wade for the ghost cuts that Dragić has been so successful with recently.

In any event, it should be pretty fun.

UPDATE: After Friday morning's shootaround, Coach Spo said that Wade would not start.

3: What have we learned from the previous games against Milwaukee and how will Miami’s new look affect the matchup?

Couper: After an early run by the Bucks the first game between these teams, in Miami, was controlled largely by the HEAT as Milwaukee shot just 4-of-28 from and 31.6 overall. The second game, a six-point Miami win, was a much more balanced affair and the story of the evening was Hassan Whiteside scoring 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting. The Bucks start John Henson at center and while he’s a good shotblocker he doesn’t have the size to move Whiteside around in the paint, and when he sits or is in foul trouble the Bucks used Thon Maker against Whiteside – and Maker has even more trouble dealing with Whiteside’s size and strength.

Since those games the Bucks have let go of coach Jason Kidd and lost guards Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova to multi-week injuries, with Henson’s status also unclear for Friday night, while getting back Jabari Parker. The Bucks also traded for Tyler Zeller so their center rotation might be Maker-Zeller, but there’s a good chance the Bucks play small with Giannis Antetokounmpo at center with Parker and Khris Middleton at the forward spots. 

As for how Miami’s new look factors in – the HEAT also acquired Luke Babbitt from the Hawks yesterday, in exchange for Okaro White, in order to add shooting to the lineup – Wade’s skill should help get the HEAT out of trouble when Milwaukee’s length and athleticism pushes them into a short shot clock. With Babbitt, don’t be surprised if he joins the starting lineup at some point, as he did last year, at least as long as Kelly Olynyk is dealing with a shoulder injury.

Joe: The HEAT have won both prior matchups with the Bucks this season thanks in large part to their defense. After holding Milwaukee to a paltry 31.6 percent shooting on Jan. 14, Miami followed that up by limiting the Bucks to 43.4 percent three days later. As Coup mentioned above, Whiteside had a monster game against Milwaukee in their most recent meeting and came through with a clutch block on Giannis Antetokounmpo as the Greek Freak was trying to tie the game down the stretch.

Looking ahead to Friday night, Jabari Parker will be playing this time around, but Milwaukee is easing him back from injury. One guy I’d be wary of is Eric Bledsoe. Even though the HEAT have locked him down this season, the 28-year-old can catch fire in a hurry. Over his past four contests, Bledsoe has averaged 15 points on 57.5 percent shooting.

As for how Miami’s new look will affect this matchup, I expect Wade to put pressure on the Bucks and make life easier for his teammates, including another returning player in Luke Babbitt. In 68 games with the HEAT last season, Babbitt hit a career-high 87 triples and shot 41.4 percent from beyond the arc. We’ll see if he can replicate that production once again.

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Highlights:

Jan. 17 – HEAT at Bucks

Jan. 14 – Bucks at HEAT

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT are 29-26 on the year.
  • The Bucks have won seven of eight and enter the contest at 30-23.  
  • Miami acquired Dwyane Wade and Luke Babbitt before the trade deadline on Thursday.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo leads Milwaukee in points (27.9), rebounds (10.4) and assists (4.7) per game.

 

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 103.1 (24)
  • HEAT Defense: 104.5 (8)
  • Bucks Offense: 107.4 (9)
  • Bucks Defense: 106.0 (16)

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