The Miami HEAT host the Utah Jazz 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: What was your main takeaway from Miami’s win over New Orleans?
Couper Moorhead: In some ways, this felt like a prototypical victory for this particular HEAT group. No, not the part where the team nearly relinquished a 31-point lead after the Pelicans struggled mightily out of the gates, but the part where the home team got 49 points from its bench and New Orleans got four field-goals, total, from its own second unit. When you’re as deep as the HEAT are, even with the injuries they’re carrying, you have to play to your intended strength, especially when you’re up against an MVP-level performance from the likes of Anthony Davis and his 41 points on 23 shots. Getting the defense to look more consistently cohesive and not allow much in the way of transition points was a step forward, but that level of bench production is just as much of a must going forward.
Joe Beguiristain: Simply put, it was good to see Miami respond to adversity and bounce back after a tough loss to the Hawks on Tuesday. And while it took a team effort to get the job done (six guys scored in double-figures), Josh Richardson hit the biggest shot of the night.
After missing what would have been the go-ahead three against Atlanta with 1.1 seconds to play, Richardson made amends on Friday and converted a tough hook shot over Julius Randle with 26.1 seconds left to keep New Orleans at bay.
Before that huge shot, Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk also made some noise in the fourth quarter. In fact, KO led the HEAT with eight points in the fourth, while Adebayo competed hard against Anthony Davis and Randle throughout the night, contested a game-high 12 shots and came away with five screen assists for 12 points when it was all said and done. In total, the duo recorded a plus-25 rating in 21 minutes on the floor together.
Not too shabby.
2: How has Utah changed this season?
Couper: Until very recently, the Jazz hadn’t changed much at all. In a season that nearly mirrored Miami’s 2016-17 turnaround, Utah struggled in the first half of last year and then tore through the league in the second half en route to a playoff berth. Then they lost Jonas Jerebko to the Warriors and no longer have Joe Johnson on the roster, either, but otherwise returned the same group to build off the momentum of their torrid finish.
Then, when the team started below .500 and in particular found itself shooting the third-worst rate from deep despite getting some of the most open looks in the league, they made a move, trading Alec Burks to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for sharpshooting legend Kyle Korver. Fortunately for Miami Erik Spoelstra typically schemes for Korver well, having his team go well out of its way to ensure Korver not get even mildly open catches, but that sort of coverage does open up the lane more for a creator like Donovan Mitchell.
Joe: Not much has changed personnel-wise for Utah outside of the team trading for Kyle Korver a few days ago and drafting Grayson Allen in June. That said, Head Coach Quin Snyder has tweaked his rotations and lineups throughout the season to try and find answers for his team’s slow start. And while Derrick Favors getting less minutes has been one of the bigger changes, Donovan Mitchell’s recent tear has been even more important. After leading his team to victory down the stretch against the Nets on Wednesday, Mitchell played more at point versus the Hornets two nights later and racked up 30 points and six assists in a 119-111 win.
And now with Korver in the fray, Mitchell and Ricky Rubio have another sharpshooter that can space the floor along with Joe Ingles. In fact, the 37-year-old Korver wasted little time to get going in his Jazz debut on Friday, as he scored 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting from deep. If he can keep up that kind of production, Utah’s offense should improve.
3: What sort of game do you expect Sunday night?
Couper: The HEAT and Jazz strangely profile very similarly on paper, with both teams ranked in the Bottom 5 offensively and in the 10-14 range defensively (separated by less than a full point allowed per 100 possessions). The main difference is where they’ve been inefficient – the Jazz, as we’ve mentioned, have been one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league so far, while Miami has struggled from two-point range. Utah’s two-point defense hasn’t been at the elite level it was last season, which is a good sign for the HEAT, but it’s tough to expect anything outside of the usual when these two teams meet. That means slow, low-scoring and a heavily-defensive affair. It will be a surprise if the game isn’t close down the stretch, at which point we’ll get another chance to see Miami in a closing situation while Mitchell shoulders the bulk of the scoring load on the other end. This might not be the most attractive game you’ve ever watched, but it should be dramatic.
Of course as soon as we say that, these teams will probably combine for 30 made threes Sunday night.
Joe: We’re talking about the HEAT here, so you should already know to expect a close game.
Seriously though, we should be in for a tightly-contested affair between two very well-coached teams. And despite the Jazz’s offensive woes for most of the year, they move the ball very well (they own a 62.0 assist percentage) and have started to hit their stride of late. As such, that puts the onus on guys like Richardson and Rodney McGruder to try and limit Mitchell as much as possible, especially if the 22-year-old plays point at times like he did on Friday. That said, Richardson has fared well in these situations before, as he limited Jrue Holiday to 5-of-13 shooting his last time out.
On the flip side of things, Miami could have some success in the paint (non-restricted area) since Utah gives up 16.7 attempts per game on 43.3 percent shooting from that zone. Otherwise it could be tough, but the HEAT should be fine as long as they move the ball and work their habits.
- The HEAT have won three straight against the Jazz.
- Miami is 8-13, while Utah enters the contest at 11-12.
- Josh Richardson leads the HEAT in scoring at 20.5 points per contest.
- Donovan Mitchell leads the Jazz in points (21.5) and steals (1.7) per game.
- HEAT Offense: 105.5 (25)
- HEAT Defense: 106.9 (10)
- Jazz Offense: 105.2 (27)
- Jazz Defense: 107.7 (14)