What to Watch For in Nuggets Game vs. Miami

The Nuggets continue their six-game homestand against Miami on Friday night at the Pepsi Center, the first in a home-and-home back-to-back. The 4-4 Nuggets are coming off a blowout victory on Friday night over the Toronto Raptors.

For Miami, this is the first of a six-game road trip. The Heat had played six of its first seven games at home, including six-straight. And while the Nuggets have won three of four games overall this season leading into this contest, the Heat owns a two-game win streak over the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.

How do the Nuggets stop that streak? Start with these things…

Stay in front of the ball: Miami may be struggling from deep, but it has a whole host of players that can break a defender down and get their own shot. Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Tyler Johnson and others can create offense for themselves and others. There are times when ‘iso-ball’ looks like their best offense. So, in late shot clock situations or mismatch situations, look for Heat ball handlers to pull the ball out and slash to the basket. Nuggets defenders will be challenged to contain the Heat’s many quick and crafty ball handlers.

Don’t get stretched thin: Miami does a nice job of spreading the court to its absolute limit and then gets into drive-and-kick basketball. Ball handlers get right into the lane, draw the help defense and kick the ball out to shooters. And they are adept at swinging the ball around the perimeter if the defense has rotated well. The difficulty faced is protecting the paint while still closing out to shooters. The Nuggets will have to crack that code to slow Miami down.

Don’t Be Surprised If…

Miami runs a number of plays late into the shot clock. This is more common than the Heat probably wants it to be, but much of that is simply due to ironing out the wrinkles offensively with this group of players.

The Nuggets don’t double Hassan Whiteside. In seven career games against the Nuggets (four starts), Whiteside is averaging 14.7 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game while shooting 61 percent from the field. Those are good numbers. But the bigger threat is allowing wide open shooters due to double-team Whiteside off of one of them. Even though many of Miami’s more reliable shooters aren’t making a high percentage, it takes just one game to get them going. The Nuggets would rather it not be this one.

Minutes for multiple Nuggets bigs are shortened. Miami is the ultimate small ball team. They’ll routinely have lineups with four 3-point shooters in them, and, if Kelly Olynyk is on the court at center, the Heat can have five 3-point shooters on the court at the same time. There is a very good chance the Nuggets will play small to match, and they can easily do so with subtle adjustments to substitution patterns.

INJURY REPORT: Juancho Hernangomez (mononucleosis) is out of the contest.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.

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