TV/Radio: Fox Sports Sun/WAXY 790AM, WAQI 710AM (Spanish)
Records: Miami 12-13, Memphis 8-18
Line: Grizzlies favored by 1.5 points
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
F: Josh Richardson
F: James Johnson
C: Kelly Olynyk
G: Dion Waiters
G: Goran Dragic
F: Dillon Brooks
F: JaMychal Green
C: Marc Gasol
G: Andrew Harrison
G: Tyreke Evans
Scouting report: The Heat are still without swingman Rodney McGruder (left tibia surgery) and forward Okaro White (left foot surgery). Center Hassan Whiteside will also miss Monday’s game due to a bone bruise on his left knee. … The Grizzlies will be without point guard Mike Conley (left Achilles), shooting guard Wayne Selden (right quad) and power forward Brandan Wright (right groin). … Since starting the season with a 7-4 record, Memphis has lost 14 of its past 15 games. This stretch has included a head coaching change, as the Grizzlies fired former Heat assistant coach David Fizdale on Nov. 27. J.B. Bickerstaff is Memphis’ interim head coach. … The Grizzlies are 1-13 without Conley this season. … Memphis plays at the slowest pace in the league, averaging 95.85 possessions over 48 minutes. … Marc Gasol leads the Grizzlies with team-high averages of 19.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.5 blocks this season. … The Heat are 4-6 without Whiteside this season … Defense is a big part of the Heat’s winning formula, obviously. In its 12 wins this season, Miami has allowed 96.0 points per 100 possessions. In its 13 losses, Miami has allowed 113.3 points per 100 possessions. … Over his past five games, Heat sixth man Tyler Johnson is averaging 16.6 points on a scorching 60.8 percent shooting from the field and 48.1 percent shooting from 3-point range.
After two straight losses, Miami (5-10) got a much-needed 90-81 win over Memphis on Friday at FedExForum to avoid a losing road trip. The Heat finished the four-game trip with a 2-2 record.
Miami was without starting point guard Goran Dragic (strained left elbow) and starting small forward Justise Winslow (sprained left wrist). Guard Wayne Ellington (right thigh contusion) and center Willie Reed (hyper-extended right knee) also missed Friday’s game.
But the Heat had enough thanks to their defense. Miami held Memphis to 35.4 percent shooting to snap the Grizzlies’ six-game winning streak.
“I think it’s one of the best times in the league is when you have adversity, guys are out, you’re on the road at the end of the trip,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You have opportunities to build character and build your identity of not making excuses.”
The Heat return home to face the Grizzlies again Saturday on the second night of the home-and-home set.
Here are our five takeaways from Friday’s game …
1. Heat need more team meetings: Although Heat coaches and players stopped short of calling it a team meeting, players talked about what went wrong in Wednesday’s disappointing loss to the Pistons immediately after the game. Whatever was said in the meeting, it apparently worked. The Heat turned in an inspired performance against the Grizzlies despite not having starters Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow. Miami never trailed and led by as much as 17 points.
2. Defense will win Heat games: It’s not exactly difficult to figure it out. The Heat’s defense has to be good for them to win games. Entering Friday’s game, Miami was holding opponents to 39.3 percent shooting in wins compared to 44.4 percent in losses. The Heat’s limited offense isn’t good enough to consistently overcome bad defensive performances this season. Friday’s victory in Memphis was a perfect example, as Miami used a strong defensive performance to record a quality win. The Heat held the Grizzlies to 35.4 percent shooting and forced 17 Memphis turnovers.
“We have enough capable guys in there when we get to how we want to play and that’s trying to be tough and physical defensively,” Spoelstra said. “We didn’t feel so much pressure on our offense when we were able to get multiple stops.”
3. Tyler Johnson the scorer: The Heat need this desperately from Tyler Johnson this season. Without many players on the roster who can create offense off the dribble, Johnson’s growth in that department is vital to Miami’s success. The 24-year-old filled that need in Miami’s win over Memphis, finishing with a team-high 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting off the bench. That’s good news for the Heat considering that Johnson had made 10 of his last 37 shots (27 percent) entering Friday’s game.
“He’s being aggressive where we need him to be aggressive,” Spoelstra said of Johnson. “He’s in a great groove right now and we would like to keep it that way.”
4. Why isn’t Hassan Whiteside scoring?: Points haven’t been easy to come by lately for Hassan Whiteside. The Heat’s center has scored 10 points over the past two games, which includes his four-point performance against Memphis on Friday. This scoring slump comes after Whiteside scored a career-high 32 points against the 76ers on Monday. What’s the issue? The Heat aren’t putting him in a position to get many good shots, as he’s attempted 14 shots over the past two games. And opponents are packing the paint to make it difficult for the Heat to get the ball to Whiteside in the post. Miami will have to make outside shots to help create some space for Whiteside moving forward. Despite his low point total, Whiteside still impacted the game with 12 rebounds and two blocks.
“Hassan really set the tone,” Spoelstra said. “His box score does not really tell the true story of his impact on this game. He really had a great impact. He even had some great words right before we went out there for the team to follow his lead and guys did that particularly on the defensive end.”
5. Udonis Haslem made a difference: It had been a quiet start to the season for Udonis Haslem. The 14-year veteran had scored one point and grabbed six rebounds in his first four games of the season. But his fifth appearance of the season was his best … so far. After Hassan Whiteside picked up his fourth foul with 9:05 remaining in the third quarter, Haslem entered the game and played the rest of the period. Haslem provided quality minutes, as the Heat outscored the Grizzlies by five with him on the court in the third despite Whiteside sitting on the bench for most of the quarter. Haslem finished with a season-high four points and grabbed three rebounds to go with solid defense in Whiteside’s absence.
“That’s why he’s here, still to contribute and then to offer the Miami Heat culture leadership example,” Spoelstra said of Haslem. “He’s been outstanding with that. But we need him particularly in those moments. That’s exactly why we have him. … I trust him as much as I trust anybody.”
With a bunch of new faces and no Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, this Heat’s roster is full of question marks. But Miami’s new brand of basketball should be fun to watch, as the Heat will play fast and shoot a lot of three-pointers. A core of Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson should keep Miami in the playoff race for most of the season. Record: 40-42
Although the Heat are rebuilding, they will be entertaining. Miami is athletic, is going to hoist a lot of threes, will play hard and still has Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic leading the way. But it doesn’t have Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh and all that youth means the Heat will be sitting at home when the playoffs start for just the third time in the last 14 seasons. Record: 38-44
Too much depends on what the record looks like by the trading deadline in February to make much of an intelligent forecast. If Hassan Whiteside develops a more reliable offensive game and a thicker skin, Miami could be flirting with .500 by then. On the other hand, if Goran Dragic and the other guards don’t mesh into something comprehensible, Pat Riley could decide to blow the whole thing up by midseason. We’ll split the difference and say no disaster but no playoffs either. Record: 36-46
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will rebuild his coaching staff this summer.
The first departure was longtime assistant David Fizdale, who was hired as the head coach at Memphis. Now it appears Fizdale is taking fellow Miami assistant Keith Smart with him.
ESPN reported Thursday that Smart, who joined the Heat in 2014 after a brief stint as Sacramento’s head coach, is leaving for the same position in Memphis. The only remaining assistant coach for Spoelstra now is 32-year-old Chris Quinn. Spoelstra likely will fill one of the vacancies with Dan Craig, currently the Heat’s D-League head coach.
This was a difficult season for Smart as he battled a rare form of skin cancer and had multiple extended absences for treatment.
“It was a tough year emotionally for this team, starting with Coach Smart,” Spoelstra said at the end of the season. “I’ve never been through anything like that. We were reflecting just now about the meeting in my office when he told the coaching staff. That was a tough blow. Strange things happened in the course of the year. One game I only had two assistant coaches, because of (family) deaths and Keith’s situation.”
That’s what he calls himself now. “There’s three Z’s. You got it?” He’s adamant about that.
The basketball player formerly known as Chris Andersen, Birdman, Bird and Birdzilla — along with several other monikers not fit for print — was traded by the Miami Heat to the Memphis Grizzlies in a cost-cutting move two weeks ago.
While he was an important contributor to a title-winning Heat team, the people of Miami will likely remember him more for the fun and energy he brought to the franchise both on and off the court. The hair, tattoos, nicknames, high-flying dunks and emphatic blocks made this man one of the most endearing players the team has ever had.
“Miami’s always gonna be in my heart, man,” Andersen said by phone this week. “The whole situation of me coming into Miami during one of the worst times of my life and the way they embraced me down there and welcomed me with open arms, they just made me feel wanted and made me feel like I was a part of their culture and their city. Winning a championship down there and being a part of that, it’s priceless. I will never forget that.
“All I can say is thank you. Thank you for all the good times and all the support. The greatest thank you I could give to them was helping their team win a championship. It was a great time. I wish it would’ve been longer, but it is what it is. I’ll always be down in Miami.”