The Miami HEAT host the Minnesota Timberwolves Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! Tip-off is set for 6:00 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: Is there anything worth taking a deeper look at from Miami’s win over a depleted Cavaliers team?
Couper Moorhead: It was not a game many people will have clear memory of a month from now outside of the odd visuals of seeing teams play zone against one another at the same time, but it’s worth revisiting the performance of Justise Winslow for just a moment. Yes, he had a great stat line with 24 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists, yet what was most interesting about his evening was the defense he was facing. Against Toronto earlier this week the Raptors were chasing Winslow over the top of screens, as is their and many other teams’ base coverage, and Winslow was using that allowed space to get to the rim. The Cavaliers, however, played a much more conservative defense, going under on all of Winslow’s pick-and-rolls as if daring him to shoot. And shoot he did, missing his first few jumpers but hitting a number of looks off the dribble as the night wore on. Even better, Winslow was still able to use his physicality to get to the rim against that sort of coverage, albeit against an inefficient Cavaliers defense lacking in the way of an interior presence. It’s likely that Winslow will see similar coverages throughout the season, so any success against it is a positive sign.
Joe Beguiristain: While multiple guys contributed to the win, Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo really stood out.
From start to finish, Winslow had the Cavs on their heels, as the 22-year-old relentlessly attacked the basket and made plays for himself and his teammates. In fact, he scored 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting and dished out two assists on his 16 drives to the bucket against Cleveland. And a big reason why Winslow found success was due to great screens by Adebayo.
All told, the 21-year-old big out of Kentucky led Miami with eight screen assists for 18 points. Then again, Adebayo also did his thing on the defensive end with 10 contested shots, a team-high seven box-outs and a team-high three deflections. Speaking of defense, we can’t forget about Hassan Whiteside, who led the team with 13 contested shots and two blocks on Friday.
Now, all of this came against a struggling Cavs squad that’s likely lottery bound due to injuries, but it was still good to see the HEAT take care of business on their home floor.
2: How have the Timberwolves changed this season?
Couper: After making the playoffs last season the Wolves made the biggest trade of the season so far in sending Jimmy Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Dario Šarić and Robert Covington. Since that deal the Wolves are 12-10 but that record is probably slightly below how they’ve actually played with a +3.7 net rating as the No. 10 team on both ends of the floor. Otherwise, for a team that made such a major deal, this is relatively the same group as last year, one that still takes a ton of mid-range shots compared to the rest of the league and, in good news for Miami, allowing a ton of threes as they focus on protecting the paint.
Joe: By now you should know that the Timberwolves traded away disgruntled superstar Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton for Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington, Dario Šarić and a 2022 second-round draft pick. And as Coup stated above, the results since then have been generally positive, with Covington really starting to pick things up of late. Case in point: the 28-year-old is averaging 16.8 points per game on 39 percent shooting from deep over his past five outings (and that’s with him attempting 8.2 treys per contest during that span).
But at the end of the day, Minnesota’s core is largely the same with offensive juggernaut Karl-Anthony Towns and the soon-to-be 24-year-old Andrew Wiggins (how is he still so young?) leading the charge. And with Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague doubtful for Sunday as of this writing, Towns and Wiggins will have to carry the load more than usual.
3: How will the new additions, along with possible absences from a couple of point guards, affect this matchup?
Couper: As the HEAT learned in the playoffs last year, Covington can make life miserable for any player he’s assigned to and Šarić can be a matchup nightmare given his size and shooting. As of Saturday evening, both Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague are listed as doubtful and even though the Wolves have another highly capable guard in Tyus Jones who can start, losing both guards would dramatically shorten their perimeter rotation. Still, assuming Jones starts, we’ll likely see him on either Josh Richardson or Rodney McGruder at the outset with Covington drawing the Justise Winslow assignment.
With both Šarić and Anthony Tolliver available off the bench and Karl-Anthony Towns’ shooting ability always a threat, it could be tough at times to zone for long stretches with that much shooting from the frontcourt, but given the players who are out the Wolves might be lacking in attacking ballhandlers who can create for those shooters. For one night, at least, it’s not all too different from the New Orleans Pelicans roster that is loaded in the frontcourt but that frontcourt was taken out of the game when Miami zoned and the wings couldn’t create enough.
Joe: As I mentioned above, Covington has made a seamless transition to the Timberwolves thanks to his shooting and strong defense, so the HEAT will definitely need to be wary of him. The same rings true for Šarić, who can catch fire in a hurry and be a major spark plug off the bench for Minnesota.
As for the point guard situation, things will be tough if Rose and Teague are unable to go. Rose, who signed with the Timberwolves late last season and re-upped over the summer, has revitalized his career in Minnesota with 18.9 points and 4.8 assists per game on the year. In the event that both he and Teague are out, Tyus Jones and Bayless would get the bulk of the reps at point.
Jones knows how to set up his teammates, as he already has a 10-assist game to his credit this season, while Bayless is fresh off a left knee sprain that kept him out for the first two months of the season. We’ll see how those guys fare if the injuries to Rose and Teague hold up.
- The HEAT have won six of seven and are 17-17.
- The Timberwolves have won two of three and enter the contest at 16-19.
- Justise Winslow is averaging 18.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game on 56.1 percent shooting over his past four outings.
- Karl-Anthony Towns leads Minnesota in points (21.2), rebounds (11.8) and blocks (1.7) per game.
- Goran Dragić (Right Knee Surgery), Dion Waiters (Sioux Falls Assignment), Yante Maten (Sioux Falls Assignment) and Duncan Robinson (Sioux Falls Assignment) are out. Wayne Ellington (Illness), Udonis Haslem (Illness), James Johnson (Illness) and Derrick Jones Jr. (Migraine Headache) are questionable.
- HEAT Offense: 106.5 (21)
- HEAT Defense: 105.6 (8)
- Timberwolves Offense: 109.1 (16)
- Timberwolves Defense: 109.5 (18)