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NBA Preview: Can Pelicans handle adversity better against Heat?

It’ll take a great effort to beat Miami in their place

Miami Heat v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans will look to bounce back from their disappointing loss to the Wizards in Miami tonight against the oft-lauded Heat.

To the surprise of many, Miami made it all the way to the 2020 Finals and expectations were high that they would repeat their performance from the Orlando bubble. However, down years by several players and injuries limited them to a 40-32 record. They also had a quick first round exit at the hands of the Bucks.

There’s no doubt about it, these Heat look to be a more formidable opponent than last year’s group. Kyle Lowry (12.7 points, 7.3) arrived in the offseason to add stability to the point guard position. P.J. Tucker has seemingly replaced the void left by Jae Crowder two offseason ago. And then there’s been some internal improvement, none taking as large of a step forward as Tyler Herro.

Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

Coming off a stupendous run in the bubble, hopes were high Herro would form a new Big 3 in Miami with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Instead, he failed to find the necessary consistency all of last season. Well, things appear radically different.

Herro is off to a fantastic start here in 2021-22, averaging 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists. His usage rate is up considerably, but his shooting efficiency has not suffered. He is on pace for career bests in field goal percentage, three-point percentage and free throw percentage.

Herro was always going to be one of the primary focal points of the Pelicans’ defense, but depending on fate, he could sit front and center as the guy to stop.

According to Miami’s injury report, Adebayo (knee), Butler (ankle) and Dewayne Dedmon (groin) are all listed as questionable. Markieff Morris (neck) and Victor Oladipo (knee) have already been ruled out.

As we’ve learned this season, though, how difficult Wednesday’s matchup proves to be is likely to be dictated by how well the Pelicans play from start to finish. New Orleans has struggled to maintain a high level of execution for 48 minutes. Clutch minutes remain a problem. When adversity has hit, the team’s handled it poorly.

The Heat boast the fourth-best offensive rating (111.0) and the eighth strongest defensive rating (103.7). They’re relentless on the offensive glass (30.4 OREB% — 3rd) but do a great job of holding the opposition to one shot per possession (75.7 DREB% — 5th). New Orleans is going to have to do a great job rebounding on both ends of the floor — Miami ranks first in second chance points (15.9).

Defensively, the Heat sit top ten in opponent points off turnovers (10th), opponent second chance points (2nd), opponent fast break points (10th) and opponent points in the paint (1st).

Yeah, no surprise with an Erik Spoelstra-led team, these Heat are a disciplined team. They’re not going to beat themselves. The Pelicans are going to have to be on point to avoid starting this campaign with 14 losses in the first 16 games.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (2-13) at Miami Heat (9-5)

When: November 17, 2021, 6:30 pm

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.