The Miami HEAT face the Orlando Magic Saturday night at Amway Center. The game is presented by Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida. The HEAT fell to the Magic 110-99 in their last meeting on March 3. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What did we learn from Miami’s loss in Brooklyn?
Couper Moorhead: That even though there’s plenty of continuity on the roster and training camp was mostly about getting everyone back up to speed, there is plenty of work left to do. While the offensive numbers haven’t been great, the 20 turnovers were pretty typical of preseason, especially with the officials clearly watching for traveling violations across all games, and Miami going 4-of-28 from three made the scoring effort look worse than it was when many of those were solid looks. The offense can be much sharper, but even a below-average number of threes in Thursday’s game would have had things looking differently. Just as they did last season, those shots will eventually fall.
Defensively, however, this hasn’t yet been the team we came to know last season. You don’t expect regular-season intensity in early October, so there’s hardly reason for concern, but this team – like any Miami team – will find success as it finds its highest level of defense. It’s one thing if an opponent is shooting well, as those numbers will typically fluctuate over the course of a season, so the area that needs most attention right now is the paint. The HEAT limited attempts at the rim to an elite level last season and they will most likely get back to doing the same, they just aren’t there yet. Again, this is all normal for the preseason, which exists for this very reason – you don’t know where you need to put more work in until you see how your work plays out against real opponents.
The best news so far, of course, is that the bench unit has looked highly viable. The HEAT are thought of as having one of the deepest rosters of rotation players in the league. So far, they’re living up to that reputation.
Joe Beguiristain: We learned that the team still has to work on some things. While Hassan Whiteside came out with a vengeance and Tyler Johnson was masterful once again off the bench, Miami looked a step slow against Brooklyn. The HEAT’s 20 turnovers didn’t help matters, but they also shot a paltry 37.2 percent from the field.
All that said, it’s important to keep things in perspective. As Johnson said after the game, it’s early and guys are getting used to new roles and positions. One of those guys, Justise Winslow, had some aggressive drives to the bucket against the Nets. While he didn’t always finish those plays, it was good to see him get a step on his man with relative ease and draw contact time and time again. In fact, he led Miami with nine free throw attempts.
At the end of the day, the team knows what it needs to do in order to correct its mistakes. It all starts with a stronger disposition on both ends of the floor and more time on the court together. We’ll see how it all shakes out.
2: Do you expect any changes to Miami’s lineups in Orlando?
Couper: Before the game in Brooklyn Erik Spoelstra noted that he was going to go with the same starters as against Atlanta because he wanted to give that group another shot. Based on that and other comments made, it seems fairly likely that we’ll see more variations on both the starting and bench lineups, and those variations could come as soon as Saturday night. Exactly what those changes are remain to be seen – Josh Richardson has looked particularly spry so far – but this is not a coaching staff that leaves any stone unturned.
Joe: I do. Like I’ve said before in this space, I believe Erik Spoelstra will tinker a bit with the three and four spot. Maybe Josh Richardson will get a chance to show what he can do in the starting lineup or James Johnson will come off the bench like he did last season. It’s tough because you can make a case for pretty much every wing player on the roster, including the incumbent Rodney McGruder, who started 65 games last season. Although difficult decisions will have to be made at some point, too much depth is a good problem to have.
3: How does playing Orlando help with regards to preparation for the season?
Couper: Orlando is one of the toughest teams in the league to get a read on because of how many different lineups they can use. That Aaron Gordon is a power forward again gives both James Johnson and Justise Winslow a similar-in-style matchup, while Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo each offer a unique look for Hassan Whiteside. But this is preseason and the matchups and results aren’t particularly important, what is important is that Elfrid Payton might be on his way to being one of the better paint-attacking guards in the league. For a defense that has had trouble allowing penetration so far, this is a good opportunity to get the most important area on the floor sealed off.
Joe: After seeing a Nets team that likes to get up a bunch of threes, the HEAT will likely get more of the same from the Magic. Case in point: Orlando has attempted 60 treys in the preseason, which is just two shy of Brooklyn’s total through the same amount of games. While the Magic don’t convert at an efficient rate by any means (26.7 percent), they still take them.
Where Orlando does differ from the Nets is in its passing metrics. In fact, the Magic are ranked in the top half of the league with a 66.2 assist percentage. Of course, a lot of that has to do with skilled playmakers in Elfrid Payton and Evan Fournier.
On the defensive side of things, Orlando has been very good thus far, giving up just 87 points per 100 possessions.
In short, Miami will have to be sharp both offensively and defensively in order to come away victorious.
March 3 – HEAT at Magic
Feb. 13 – Magic at HEAT
Both the HEAT and Magic are 1-1 in the preseason.
Tyler Johnson is averaging 17.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game on 57.1 percent shooting.
A.J. Hammons (illness) is out.
HEAT Offense: 86.4 (26)
HEAT Defense: 91.2 (9)
Magic Offense: 95.8 (18)
Magic Defense: 87.0 (7)