Fresh off a win in a rematch of the 2011 Finals, a game that would’ve been more interesting if Shawn Marion wasn’t the most important Dallas player from the championship squad that played in that game, the Miami Heat look to extend their 3 game win streak against the Jazz. At 14-13, Utah looks to be a borderline playoff team in the West. Our nERD rankings agree, as they are currently the 16th ranked team by this metric. While the Heat may be the favorites, there are still several factors of which Miami should be wary if they want to come out victorious.
The strength of this Jazz team is the play of its bigs, as their four highest ranked players by nERD are power forwards or centers. As Miami has played small ball as much as possible this season, it should come as no surprise that they have had trouble stopping opposing big men from scoring. Power forwards playing against the Heat are shooting an effective field goal percentage of 50.8 percent and centers are hitting shots with an effective field goal percentage of 53.1 percent. As the vast majority of Utah’s production comes from their front court, they could be in a good position to pound Miami down low for the whole game.
Despite all their size, Utah is surprisingly bad preventing second chance opportunities for opponents. The Jazz have the 27th ranked defensive rebounding percentage, grabbing only 71 percent of opponent misses. While normally, Miami’s abysmal offensive rebounding is one of their biggest weaknesses, it might not hurt them that much against Utah.
Defense On the Rise
Miami’s defense has been mediocre for much of the season, but it has looked pretty good as of late. On the current win streak, the Heat have yet to allow an opponent to score at better than a rate of 100 points per 100 possessions. Three games is hardly conclusive evidence, but for Heat fans who have been looking for any signs that this squad can still play defense at their championship level from last season, this is cause for hope.