The Golden State Warriors (20-13) continue their seven-game road trip tonight with a stop at the house of the Miami Heat (24-7). The Warriors World staff discusses the matchup in this latest installment of 3-on-3.
1. Who will be the second-best player tonight?
Danny Leroux: Statistically, Stephen Curry. In terms of overall impact, I’m going to go with Andre Iguodala because he will have to do it on both ends for the Warriors to have any meaningful chance of another surprising win. He also has the potential to have a better offensive game because Miami will likely elect to cross-match LeBron onto someone like Klay or Lee for most of the game and put someone with less physical ability on Andre. If so, he could have some nice buckets on back cuts and in transition.
Jordan Ramirez: Klay Thompson will need to be the second best player for the Warriors to win this game. In the Warriors 97-95 victory over the Heat in South Beach last season, Thompson led the team with 27 points of 11-of-22 shooting — including five threes — and limited Dwyane Wade to 14 points 5-of-11 shooting. Thompson will need a similar output on both ends of the floor Thursday night, with the added hope that him an Stephen Curry can get to the free throw line (they combined to shoot zero in South Beach last season). Dwyane Wade is a game-time decision with back spasms, so it looks like Thompson — regardless if Wade plays or not — will have a favorable matchup on the offensive end. If he can find his shooting touch early he can very well have another big outing.
J.M. Poulard: Stephen Curry. With the best player on the planet in the building, everyone is left contemplating the silver medal. Still, Curry will get a multitude of opportunities to make it rain provided that he attacks off the bounce and also plays off the ball. Miami’s trapping scheme against the pick-and-roll often results in multiple rotations, which allows shooters to shake free if the ball is swung fast enough.
If Andre Iguodala consistently makes the proper read in the pick-and-roll, Curry will be afforded with a variety of opportunities to make plays and look every bit like the stud point guard he is.
2. Game tied with five minutes to go: who is Andre Iguodala defending?
Danny Leroux: LeBron James. I reject any other argument unless James is out due to injury or foul trouble. Mark Jackson should put Draymond Green on Wade to really limit what the Heat can do and make a devastating defensive crunch-time lineup.
Jordan Ramirez: I don’t want Andre Iguodala defending anyone but LeBron James in this situation. It’s matchups like this that truly display the importance of an Iguodala, and it’s important games like this that made Joe Lacob pull the trigger on the trade for the former All-Star. Barring an injury to either player, I’d be shocked to see anyone else on James with five minutes to go.
J.M. Poulard: LeBron James. The answer might seem obvious, but it’s not necessarily a no-brainer. LeBron probably gets his against most top-notch defenders (even Andre Iguodala), whereas Dwyane Wade might look to force things a little against someone with Iggy’s defensive acumen and hold back the offense a little.
With that said, you put the second coming of Scottie Pippen on James because he has the best shot at making the two-time champion look average even by his incredible standards.
3. The winner of tonight’s contest is….
Danny Leroux: Miami. They are a team that only gets up for certain games during a season but I have a sneaking suspicion that one of those games will be against a team that upset them in their house last season.
The Warriors actually have the personnel to play the Heat well but have to be efficient on offense by not settling for jumpers and throwing lazy passes to short circuit the Flying Death Machine that is the Miami fast break. If they can do that, they will have a chance but still not a strong one.
Jordan Ramirez: The Miami Heat don’t get up for regular season games often, even more so this season with the Eastern Conference being so putrid. Miami can flip a switch that no other team can and turn themselves into the devastating, hounding squad that has won them back-to-back championships. Don’t think for a second that the Heat forgot how they lost to the Warriors on their home floor last season, and they’d love nothing more than to show the Warriors who runs this league. That’s not to say the Warriors don’t have a chance at beating them again, but Miami has the personnel to greatly expose the Warriors two biggest areas of concern this season: turnovers and second-unit scoring.
J.M. Poulard: Miami Heat. The biggest reason to pick the defending champs is simple: turnovers. The Heat are the best team in the league at forcing miscues and it allows them to get out in transition for easy scores. The Warriors have struggled with ball security all season and I’m inclined to believe the issue will show up tonight.