The Miami HEAT face the Utah Jazz Wednesday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Tip-off is set for 9:00 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What did you take away from Miami’s loss to the Lakers?
Couper Moorhead: Let’s start with some quick technical things. Despite having closer to a full complement of players and not dealing with much foul trouble, the HEAT again went to a zone against the Lakers after it essentially won them the game against the Clippers. This time, they allowed 13 points in 17 zone possessions (0.77 points per possession), which is elite defense extrapolated over an entire game. That said, the Lakers scored much more efficiently against it when LeBron James was in the game, and again some of the shots they missed were open threes – which can be inescapable at times with zone even if your closeouts are on point.
Not many will remember zone from Monday night. Over the course of a season you don’t want every evening to be so focused on this being Dwyane Wade’s final go-round, but it was entirely appropriate that this evening came down to James defending Wade, up three with the clock ticking down and the game on the line. Credit James for giving it his full effort and not allowing an easy shot to his friend, and in general this game felt like something we’ll all remember years down the line. That’s a feeling earned by Wade and shared with all of us. Not every night is going to be like that, but that’s what made this one special.
Joe Beguiristain: It was a fitting way to end the Dwyane Wade vs. LeBron James saga, as both guys guarded each other down the stretch in a tightly contested game throughout. And even though the HEAT ultimately fell short, they showed a lot of moxie in an electric environment.
In addition to Wade doing his thing in the fourth, Justise Winslow kept up his offensive onslaught and scored a career-high 28 points, Derrick Jones Jr. used his length often and played good help defense and Josh Richardson hit some big buckets late.
Since we’ll get into Winslow later, let’s delve into Jones Jr.’s night. The 21-year-old recorded a career high for the second straight game with 14 rebounds, five of which came on the offensive glass, and also had a team-high 13 contested shots, three deflections and two loose balls recovered.
That kind of effort has been palpable over the first three games of Miami’s current road trip, as the team is giving up just 97.7 points per 100 possessions during that timespan with Jones Jr. on the floor.
Erik Spoelstra summed up Jones Jr. perfectly after Monday night’s game.
“He makes you watch him, and then he makes you play him. And that’s what you want with young players when they get their opportunity. Nothing is guaranteed…we all had an impression from the last game, but we have guys back and so I thought it would be half the minutes…in this game, but it got to a point where we couldn’t afford to take him out.”
2: What did we learn about this matchup from the narrow victory in Miami?
Couper: We learned the lesson we continuously learn again and again each and every year: when the HEAT and Jazz play, the games are slow, the scoring is low and the margin is going to be close in the last five minutes almost no matter what.
It was also pretty close to the Miami blueprint for a victory. They held their opponent to below 100 points per 100 possessions, their bench outscored Utah’s bench by a good margin and they hit 40 percent of their threes. More often than not, when those things happen, they win. And yet it took some Wade heroics and two open Donovan Mitchell misses in the final minute to seal the victory not because Miami did anything particularly wrong, but that’s just how slim the margin for error is against a team that matches up well in most respects.
What will be most interesting Wednesday night is what rotation Miami uses, given how many players are healthy and how well certain players are playing. For that, we don’t yet have an answer.
Joe: As Coup mentioned above, we just continued to see the grit and grind that is HEAT vs. Jazz. (Speaking of grind, we’ll likely see the same thing against the Grizzlies on Friday, but that’s for another day.)
In that last matchup between Miami and Utah on Dec. 2, defense reigned supreme and both teams shot below 44 percent from the field. Of course, Winslow and Bam Adebayo were among the HEAT’s leaders in defensive efficiency on the night. And while Miami did a great job of sending different guys at Donovan Mitchell to keep him guessing, that doesn’t guarantee anything this time around. Sure, Mitchell hasn’t shot the ball particularly well this season (42.4 percent), but he will keep attacking (he’s averaging a team-leading 12.8 drives per game) and keep shooting (he’s attempting a team-high 6.7 threes per contest).
That means guys like Winslow (who defended Mitchell very well that last time out), Richardson and Jones Jr. need to be ready at all times.
3: What has Justise Winslow been doing so well in scoring 20-plus points in three consecutive games?
Couper: Well, everything. Over the last three games Winslow is shooting 92 percent at the rim and 57 from three to go with seven rebounds and six assists a game while running the offense with the ball in his hands. Even if the shooting numbers will naturally come down, as they would for anyone, that’s all you could ask for from Winslow.
More importantly, the HEAT are winning Winslow’s minutes when he’s on the floor. Through the first 12 games of the season, the HEAT were -67 when Winslow played, the worst plus-minus on the team. In the 10 games since, they are +110, best on the team.
Joe: Coup hit the nail right on the head.
Over the past three games, Winslow has vastly improved from both the restricted area and from beyond the arc, while also being the versatile playmaker and defender he’s always been. As such, the HEAT are outscoring opponents by 19.4 points per 100 possessions with Winslow on the floor during this current road trip.
Outside of the numbers though, the 22-year-old’s attitude and demeanor has been quite the sight to behold. And while it’s true that Winslow has always been focused and mature for his age, it just seems as though he’s taken that to another level of late.
- The HEAT defeated the Jazz 102-100 in their last meeting on Dec. 2.
- Miami has won two of three and is 11-15, while Utah has dropped two straight and is 13-15.
- The HEAT have tallied a 12.4 net rating over the first three games of their current road trip.
- Donovan Mitchell leads the Jazz in points (20.8) and steals (1.7) per game.
- Tyler Johnson (Left Hip Contusion) is probable, while Dion Waiters (Left Ankle Surgery), Hassan Whiteside (Personal Reasons), Duncan Robinson (Sioux Falls Assignment) and Yante Maten (Sioux Falls Assignment) are out.
- HEAT Offense: 106.0 (25)
- HEAT Defense: 106.1 (8)
- Jazz Offense: 106.5 (21)
- Jazz Defense: 107.4 (12)