When: 7:30 pm EST
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena; Miami, Florida
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
After grinding out an impressive late win against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Hornets travel to South Beach to take on the reigning Eastern Conference champions in the Miami Heat. It’s bizarre to think the Heat were playing in the Lakers in the NBA Finals last October becasue much has changed for Erik Spoelstra’s team since nearly winning last year’s title.
Miami Heat overview
The main reason the 7-12 Heat have been so slow out of the gates this year is injury and the league’s COVID protocols. Jimmy Butler missed 12 games due to COVID protocols while new addition Avery Bradley missed eight games. Both Bam Adebayo and Moe Harkless missed two games under the same league provisions.
From an injury standpoint, second year sensation Tyler Herro has missed seven games with a neck injury, Goran Dragic has battled foot and groin injuries, and Meyers Leonard has been out since January 9th with a left shoulder strain. With so many starters missing extensive time this year, the Heat have been forced to give multiple starts to players like Gabe Vincent, KZ Okpala, and Precious Achiuwa.
The most reliable Miami player this year has been their brilliant young center, Bam Adebayo. After making the All-Star team last year and being voted Second Team All-Defensive, the 6-foot-9 big man has elevated his game even more this year. In over 32 minutes per game he’s averaging over 20 points, nine rebounds, and five assists while shooting around 58 percent from the floor. Adebayo is dominant on both ends of the floor and is one of the better passing big men in the league.
How the Hornets can win
Unfortunately for the Hornets, it looks like the Heat are finally getting most of last year’s Finals roster back on the floor. Both Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro have returned to action in the last week which will make life harder for the Hornets, though Goran Dragic has yet to return.
One of the keys for a Hornets win tonight could be pushing the pace more than Charlotte is accustomed to. The Heat are still gelling and some of their key players are still playing themselves back into shape. The more the Hornets push the pace the more likely it will be for some Heat players to have heavy legs in the fourth quarter and start clanging shots off the front of the rim. A faster tempo would be a change of style for both teams as each of them play at below average paces with Charlotte currently at 19th and Miami at 18th.
This is an important game for the Hornets who are two games into a brutal four-game stretch. After beating Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, the Hornets now face a healthier Heat team tonight followed by the Philadelphia 76ers then the white-hot Utah Jazz. Charlotte needs to find a way to at least go 2-2 over these four games and a win against the Heat tonight gets them there.
What do you predict from tonight’s game?
This poll is closed
Hornets win big
Hornets win a close one
Heat win a close one
Heat win big