The Miami Heat will restart its 2020 season Saturday against the Denver Nuggets (43-22), the current third seed in the Western Conference, in what will be both teams’ first regular-season action since the NBA’s shutdown.
With expectations to rise or remain firm in the Eastern Conference standings, a victory vs. Denver solidifies a hot-start entering Miami’s eight “seeding” games.
Here’s three essentials for the Heat heading into their first meaningful game at Disney World.
Key 1: Shake off the Rust and Continue the Hot Shooting.
Coming into the league’s “bubble,” the Heat were shooting a league-high 41.3 percent from beyond the arc. In their three exhibitions, Miami shot a below-average 30.3 percent (40/132) from deep, taking over 40 three-pointers in each game.
Playing a talented team like Denver, there’s no polishing offensively early, as Miami will be forced to come out strong and keep that rhythm pumping.
That starts with Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro, who’ve struggled at times to enter their usual groove at Disney. In the case of Robinson, who’s averaged 3.7 made three-pointers per game on 46.7 percent shooting this season, he kicked things off strong vs. the Sacramento Kings, scoring 18 points, including 5 threes.
Robinson’s shooting was mediocre in the final two scrimmages, hitting 1 of 5 shots from deep against the Utah Jazz and 3 of 6 vs. the Memphis Grizzlies.
As for Herro, he’s shot a disappointing 15 percent (3/20) from three-point range in the Heat’s three scrimmages. Coming off an ankle injury that kept him out for 15 of Miami’s last 16 games, it’s understandable at one point why the rookie guard has yet to strive from deep.
However, that time has expired. With just eight games keeping Miami away from the 2019-20 postseason, perfection on the offensive side of the court needs to begin emerging.
Key 2: Limit the Joker.
In their first and only meeting of the season, Miami did a great job limiting Nikola Jockic, as he finished with just 9 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Still, the Heat felt Denver’s raft, as they were defeated 109-89.
While it was early on in the season, it could correlate to Saturday’s game, as limiting Jokic on the scoring end might not be the biggest worry. Instead, it’ll be his ability to facilitate.
Averaging 6.9 assists, the way Jockic passes the ball as a big man is unprecedented and trendsetting, which causes concerns for a Heat team that’s shown struggles against centers early on in the scrimmages — Rudy Gobert and Jonas Valanciunas.
Not doubling the 7-footer won’t be a reliable option, as his 20.2 points, along with 10.2 rebounds per contest hint his talent to contribute at all times.
Key 3: Be Ready for the Unexpected, Bol Bol.
Bol Bol set the internet ablaze in his first glimpse of NBA basketball, finishing with 16 points, 10 rebound and 6 blocks vs. the Washington Wizards. Bol’s season debut will be against a Heat team that drafted him with the 44th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft before being immediately traded to the Nuggets.
With so much limited film on him, the Heat could have to find ways to match up with the 7-foot-2 player that has three-point range on the fly, mixed with a 7-foot-9 wingspan capable of making damage on both ends of the court.