Miami HEAT at Utah Jazz Game Preview

The Miami HEAT face the Utah Jazz Friday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The HEAT defeated the Jazz 111-110 in their last meeting on Dec. 1. Tip-off is set for 9:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 8:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: What did the HEAT get back on track in their win against the Suns?

Couper Moorhead: This was a good night for the offense regardless of it coming against a defense currently ranked towards the bottom of the league. Miami’s turnovers were down, their perimeter shots were falling – creating those looks hasn’t been an issue all season – and they were able to turn good defense into good offense whenever the opportunity was there. You aren’t going to jump back into the Top-10 on offense with just one game, but sometimes all you need is a feel-good performance to get everyone on the same page. Teams can practice as much as they want, but they all need to eventually see it so they can continue to be it. 

Joe Beguiristain: It was an offensive onslaught for the HEAT, as every player who saw action outside of Josh Richardson scored in double-figures. In particular, Goran Dragić got into the paint at will, Hassan Whiteside dominated in the fourth quarter and Justise Winslow and James Johnson euro-stepped their way to some nifty buckets late in the contest. As such, Miami tallied season highs in both points scored (126) and field goal percentage (53.1 percent) on Wednesday night.

Although the Suns aren’t world-beaters by any means on the defensive end (they were ranked 25th entering the game), the fact of the matter is the HEAT still took care of business on the road.

2: With Gordon Hayward leaving for Boston, how is Utah different this season?

Couper: This is still an elite defensive unit with Rudy Gobert in the middle of the floor, as they’re ranked No. 6 in defensive efficiency and are a whisper away from being in the top three. That’s to be expected as long as Gobert is there – adding Ricky Rubio’s perimeter stylings doesn’t hurt, either – and Quin Snyder is at the helm.

It’s the offensive side of things where Hayward’s presence appears to be missed, at least so far, though we shouldn’t discount the departure of George Hill as he turned Utah into an offensive juggernaut as times when he was healthy last season. Utah has dropped from 12th offensively (in a fairly injury-plagued season) to 27th this year. The Jazz under Snyder have always focused on ball movement so them being among the top of the league in passes per game is perfectly normal, but now their turnovers percentage has spiked to second-worst in the league. That’s to be expected when incorporating new pieces and with players adjusting to new roles – Miami certainly dealt with the same thing last year.

And like Miami last year, a slow early start on offense doesn’t mean a team can’t improve over the course of the season, even in rapid fashion. When teams emphasize team play and ball movement, they should never be underestimated because that’s exactly the style of play that can take advantage of a defense not operating at full capacity.

Joe: While there are a bunch of returning players on the roster, it’s always tough when you lose a player of Gordon Hayward’s caliber. As Coup mentioned above, the biggest drop-off from last year to this year has come on the offensive end. That said, the pieces are in place for Utah.

You have a dynamic playmaker in Ricky Rubio, three-point specialists in Rodney Hood and Joe Ingles and the formidable frontcourt duo of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. Not to mention, rookie Donovan Mitchell has the potential to be an electric player for the Jazz.

In fact, the 21-year-old Mitchell has scored 17 or more points in five of his 11 games this season, as he’s shown the innate ability to create for himself and score in a multitude of different ways. What’s more, Mitchell has held the opposition to 39.1 percent shooting, which is 4.6 percentage points less than their usual percentage. Of course, some of that might be because he’s playing against the second unit most of the time, but that number is still impressive nonetheless. 

3: Does it appear that Miami has figured out a rotation, at least for now?

Couper: While Tyler Johnson missed Wednesday’s game due to illness, the win in Phoenix still marked the most full the HEAT’s rotation has been to date. With Dion Waiters’ return, we got a look at how Justise Winslow would fit at power forward next to the other four expected regulars, and the returns in that first sting was a plus-seven showing. With Johnson probable for Friday night and likely to slide back into his usual role in the second unit, there doesn’t appear to be any immediate reason to make a change. As long as something is working, Erik Spoelstra tends not to alter it.

What was best about Winslow’s turn with the starters was that he was not relegated to a support role next to Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters. Winslow received ample touches to run pick-and-roll and was aggressive both in the open floor and off the catch following the creation of the lead guards. Hitting a couple threes helps, of course, but Winslow’s ability to make plays with the ball can find a way to fit next to two ball-dominant guards. 

Joe: It’s possible. With Tyler Johnson out against the Suns due to illness and Dion Waiters back from the birth of his daughter, Erik Spoelstra rolled with an eight-man rotation. Wayne Ellington essentially took Johnson’s minutes off the bench, while Justise Winslow started at power forward for the first time this season. Although it was a different spot for Winslow in the starting lineup, he’s played the four quite often this season off the bench. That said, Wednesday night was perhaps his best outing of the year, as he tallied a season-high 14 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists.

Winslow starting also allowed James Johnson to continue to come off the bench and be the primary ball-handler with the second unit. Johnson has been on an absolute tear of late, averaging 16.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game on 56.4 percent shooting in his last four outings. 

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Highlights:

Dec. 1 – HEAT at Jazz

Nov. 12 – Jazz at HEAT

Game Notes:

  • Both the HEAT and Jazz enter the contest at 5-6.
  • Goran Dragić leads Miami in scoring at 20.2 points per game.
  • Ricky Rubio leads Utah in points (15.8) and assists (6.0) per contest.
  • The HEAT scored over 50 points in the paint in each of their last two games against the Jazz.

 

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 101.5 (23)
  • HEAT Defense: 103.9 (17)
  • Jazz Offense: 99.2 (27)
  • Jazz Defense: 101.0 (6)

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