The shorthanded San Antonio Spurs came back to earth in their double-digit loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night, but they will look to put that behind them against a familiar foe. While this will be the second time they have faced the Miami Heat this season, the unfamiliar backdrop of Mexico City should make for an intriguing contest.
Head Coach Gregg Popovich will finally have his preferred starting lineup of Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan, and Jakob Poeltl on hand for the first time in three weeks. But will that be enough to overcome the star power of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro? Tune in for this matinee matchup and watch the action unfold.
San Antonio Spurs (9-19) vs Miami Heat (15-15)
December 17, 2022 | 4:00 PM CT
Watch: NBA TV, KENS 5 | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs: Blake Wesley (Out — On Assignment), Malaki Branham (Out — On Assignment), Dominick Barlow (Out — Two-Way), Josh Richardson (Out — Personal), Romeo Langford (Questionable — Ankle), Zach Collins (Probable — Ankle), Jakob Poeltl (Probable — Knee)
Heat: Omer Yurtseven (Out — Ankle), Jamal Cain (Out — Two-Way), Gabe Vincent (Out — Knee), Bam Adebayo (Questionable — Ankle), Kyle Lowry (Questionable — Knee), Caleb Martin (Questionable — Ankle), Haywood Highsmith (Questionable — Quadriceps), Udonis Haslem (Questionable — Achilles), Dewayne Dedmon (Questionable — Foot), Jimmy Butler (Probable — Knee), Tyler Herro (Probable — Ankle), Nikola Jovic (Probable — Back), Victor Oladipo (Probable — Knee), Duncan Robinson (Probable — Ankle), Orlando Robinson (Probable — Back), Max Strus (Probable — Shoulder)
Containing a white-hot Tyler Herro
Tyler Herro has been on a sweltering scoring tear in December, averaging 26.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.0 assists on .503/.513/.923 shooting splits since the month began. No one in the NBA has made more three-pointers (41) during this timeframe than the fourth-year swingman, and he set new career-highs in back-to-back contests, with 35 points versus the Thunder and 41 points against the Rockets.
Though San Antonio held Herro mostly in check last weekend, there’s no guarantee that will be the case this go-round, especially with how often head coach Erik Spoelstra has looked to put the ball in his hands as of late. Romeo Langford and Josh Richardson spent most of the first matchup in Miami defending Herro, but both wings are on the injury report as the Spurs prepare for a game on a neutral field.
After assigning Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley to the G League, Devin Vassell and Tre Jones will probably trade turns covering the slippery self-creator as the only available guards left on the roster. Tossing switchable rookie Jeremy Sochan into the mix shouldn’t be out of the question. With that said, stopping Herro isn’t the only concern. The Heat can still turn to All-Stars Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kyle Lowry.
How will the streaking Heat adjust?
Despite a sluggish start to their season, Miami is unquestionably a playoff contender with a hall-of-fame-caliber head coach. The Spurs got the best of their cross-conference opponent in their first game, but when you’re as sharp as Erik Spoelstra, you make sound adjustments to avoid committing the same mistakes twice.
San Antonio slashed to the basket at will in their tightly-contested victory over the Heat last Saturday, scoring 54 points in the paint and getting to the charity stripe a whopping 31 times. Defenders ran non-shooters off the three-point line, unnecessarily switched screens without resistance, and gave up multiple second-chance opportunities as they failed to box out.
Miami has allowed the fewest point in the paint, the second-fewest shots inside the restricted area, the tenth-fewest second-chance points, and the second-fewest points per game though a third of the regular season. Those numbers suggest the odds we see a repeat of all those blunders from the Heat are slim to none.
Regardless, the Silver and Black have reinforcements that could change the complexion of this matchup. Jakob Poeltl and Zach Collins are returning in Mexico City, and their screening, high-post passing, and pick-and-roll finishing might make a difference for a half-court offense that struggled mightily without them.
For the Heat fans’ perspective, please visit Hot Hot Hoops.
The Game Thread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action on PtR’s Twitter feed.