The Miami HEAT face the Brooklyn Nets Thursday night at Barclays Center. The game is presented by Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida. The HEAT defeated the Nets 108-99 in their last meeting on Feb. 10. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What did we learn from Miami’s first foray into the preseason?
Couper Moorhead: The most immediate note from that game was that Erik Spoelstra used Rodney McGruder and James Johnson alongside assumed-starters Goran Dragić, Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside. I wouldn’t read too much into that beyond its simply being the first group Spoelstra tried as, based on all previous preseasons when there hasn’t been a clear starter he will experiment with all available options just to see how the pieces fit. That being said, both McGruder and Josh Richardson performed well in their roles against Atlanta, with Richardson looking as athletic, energetic and healthy as he has at any point in his young career.
We also learned the lesson that we learn early in every preseason, which is that it’s early in the preseason. While the schemes on either side of the ball were clearly recognizable from a year ago, the offense had a bit of lag time as far as execution goes and the defense had some holes that will most likely be tightened up in the coming weeks. This is all perfectly normal. In fact, even not quite looking themselves at times the HEAT were ahead of where many other teams will be right now given that so much of what they do is a refresher course.
Joe Beguiristain: We learned…well continued to see how versatile and deep the HEAT are. From obvious choices like Goran Dragić and Tyler Johnson to wing players Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow, there are just so many guys who can handle the ball. For example, Winslow came off the bench for James Johnson in the first quarter on Sunday and played power forward for a bulk of the first half. However, the 21-year-old pretty much ran the offense late in the third quarter and early into the fourth.
Another standout was Josh Richardson, who led the team with four blocks. Yes, four. Simply put, Richardson looked like he did towards the end of last season when he wreaked havoc on both ends of the floor.
While things could have been smoother for Miami as a whole both offensively and defensively, it’s important to remember that it was the first game of the preseason. There are a lot of the same faces, but some guys have to adjust to new roles. We’ll see how things look as the preseason continues.
2: Do you expect Spoelstra to try anything new Thursday night?
Couper: Spoelstra said at practice that, given that this preseason is shortened to six games, he’s going to address things game-to-game rather than approach his rotations with a pre-planned approach. In other words, even though it’s expected to see change at some point there’s no set-in-stone plan to start one player one night and a different player the next. So against Brooklyn we might see the exact same rotation and minutes distribution.
Joe: Since you can pretty much bank on Dragić, Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside being in the starting lineup, I think Spoelstra might try something new in terms of the three and four spot down the road in the preseason. As Coup mentioned above, Spo went with Rodney McGruder and James Johnson against Atlanta. Perhaps we’ll see Winslow in the starting lineup alongside McGruder or Richardson with Johnson. Even if the starting lineup does remain the same, there is a chance certain guys will get more burn with one another as opposed to Sunday night.
3: How might playing Brooklyn help the HEAT as they prepare for the regular season?
Couper: While the Nets have so far started Timofey Mozgov at center – acquired from the Lakers along with D’Angelo Russell in exchange for Brook Lopez – they still play an aggressive, floor spacing type of game that should be another good test for Miami’s defense. It’s easy to forget that Jeremy Lin was signed by Brooklyn last year but spent most of the season injured. Now he’s back and starting at shooting guard, which means between him and Russell the Nets have multiple attackers along with a number of multi-positional wings and forwards.
Joe: For starters, Brooklyn is a fast team that can beat you with a number of different guys. Case in point: seven Nets players scored in double-figures against the Knicks on Tuesday, including newcomers D’Angelo Russell (19 points on 7-of-14 shooting) and DeMarre Carroll (10 points on 4-of-7 shooting). Linchpin Sean Kilpatrick, meanwhile, ensured the victory with an eight-point fourth quarter. It’s also worth mentioning that Brooklyn shot 16-of-32 from deep against New York, so the HEAT’s perimeter defense and rotations will likely be put to the test.
Feb. 10 – HEAT at Nets
Jan. 30 – Nets at HEAT
The HEAT swept the season series with the Nets last year.
Brooklyn is coming off a 115-107 victory over the Knicks on Tuesday.
A.J. Hammons (illness) is out.
Caris LeVert (sprained right ankle) and Allen Crabbe (sprained left ankle) are out.