Miami Heat Prepping for Postseason
Miami had won five of their last seven games heading into the pause as they had rebounded from a stretch of seven losses in nine games prior to that. The Heat clinched a playoff spot and the Southeast Division crown as they are 11 games up on the Magic with eight to go. Miami is fourth in the Eastern Conference, 2.5 games behind third-place Boston and two games ahead of both Indiana and Philadelphia in the standings. The Heat is running at full speed with the lone player dealing with any kind of injury being KZ Okpala, who has dealt with an Achilles injury. With Kendrick Nunn and Bam Adebayo back in the mix, the Heat is ready to roll as they try to lock down home-court advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs.
The Heat enters this one 15th in the league in scoring offense with 112.2 points per game this season. Miami is 16th in the league in rebounding with 44.5 boards a contest while the team stands 5th in assists by dishing out 26 dimes a night. The Heat stands 11th in the league in scoring defense as they allow 108.9 points per game. Jimmy Butler leads the team with 20.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game this season. Goran Dragic contributes 16.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists per contest while Kendrick Nunn chips in 15.6 points a night. Bam Adebayo chips in 16.2 points, 10.5 rebounds plus 5.1 assists a game while Tyler Herro (13.3 points, four boards) and Duncan Robinson (12.9 points) are all putting together solid numbers so far this season. Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala, who were acquired at the trade deadline, along with Meyers Leonard and Kelly Olynyk, are going to be valuable rotation pieces going forward. Miami is tied for 7th in the league in field goal percentage as they shoot 47 percent from the floor this season. The Heat stands 6th in threes per game by draining 13.4 triples per contest and the team is first in three-point shooting by hitting 38.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Denver Nuggets Trying to Maintain Northwest Division Lead
Denver was sputtering heading into the pause as they had alternated wins and losses in their last eight games going into the break. That stretch included losses to doormats like Golden State and Cleveland, two teams near the bottom of the standings in the league. Denver enters Friday leading the Northwest Division, one game ahead of the Jazz, and stood third in the Western Conference, one game behind the second-place Clippers. The Nuggets get a slimmed-down Nikola Jokic in the mix but one has to watch for the status of Will Barton, who has been dealing with a knee injury and has been limited at practice.
The Nuggets enter this contest 20th in the league by averaging 110.4 points per game on the year. Denver is 19th in rebounding by collecting 44.3 boards per night and 4th in assists by dishing out 26.5 dimes a night. The Nuggets are 8th in the league in scoring defense as they allow 107.4 points per contest this season. Jamal Murray is second on the team with 18.8 points plus 3.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per contest this season. Nikola Jokic contributes 20.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists a night. Will Barton (15.1 points, 6.3 rebounds), Gary Harris (10.4 points), Paul Millsap (12 points) and Torrey Craig are solid contributors. Jerami Grant (11.6 points), Mason Plumlee, Monte Morris, Bol Bol and Michael Porter Jr. are key bench pieces for Mike Malone’s group. Denver is 6th in the league in field goal percentage as they shoot 47.1 percent from the floor as a team this season. The Nuggets are tied for 23rd in the league in threes per game as they knock 10.9 triples per contest while the team is 15th in three-point shooting by hitting 35.8 percent from beyond the arc.