The New Orleans Pelicans (16-16) will look to make it a clean sweep on their two-game road trip through Florida with a victory against the Miami Heat (17-15). The Saturday matchup is slated to tip-off at 7:00 p.m. Central and will be available on both Fox Sports New Orleans and WRNO 99.5 FM.
Like the Orlando Magic, the Heat have been ravaged by injury of late. They hosted the Dallas Mavericks on Friday evening without the services of Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow. And early in that matchup, Head Coach Erik Spoelstra lost Dion Waiters to a sprained left ankle.
Unlike the Magic, the Heat have still found ways to win despite being short-handed, notching victories in four of their last five matchups. Just three days ago, the Heat knocked off the Boston Celtics with a starting lineup of Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo!
The #HEATCulture is for real, folks, and the Pelicans need to ensure they don’t take Miami for granted, regardless of who lines up against them at tip-off. Spoelstra is one of the best in the business at getting the most out of a team’s roster — need I remind anyone of the Heat’s 13-game winning streak and how they barely missed out on a postseason berth last season?
Three Keys to Victory
Guard the three-point line. The Miami Heat are very good at running opponents off the three-point line, but actively seek the long perimeter shots on their end of the floor. They’re particularly adept at shooting a lot of bombs from both corners. The New Orleans Pelicans need to take a page out of the Heat’s playbook and force Miami away from the arc, daring players like Wayne Ellington, who made 8 of 12 threes last night, to drive it all the way to the rim and into hopefully Anthony Davis or DeMarcus Cousins.
Try to match the Heat’s effort level. Miami lacks a superstar, and even when several key players sit out, the Heat remain a tough team to beat. Why? Because they are relentless for 48 minutes, always taking pride in their effort, especially defensively. Let’s hope the Pelicans remember what they’ve learned often this past month: they can’t rely on talent alone to win a game, but must also exhibit great energy throughout every contest.
Mimic the game plan against the Magic. The Pelicans made a concerted effort to #DoItBig last night in Orlando as both Davis and Cousins got a lot of attempts in the paint. If Whiteside misses another game for the Heat, the Pelicans absolutely need to attack the restricted area all night long. While no one should expect AD to be on the receiving end of another handful of lob dunks, Miami’s disciplined defense will foul opponents to prevent easy looks and send opponents to the line. Just be sure to make those free throws, guys!
What: New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat
Where: American Airlines Arena
When: December 23, 2017, 7:00 p.m. Central
How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM