Last season, the Miami Heat handed the Warriors one of their fifteen defeats, beating them 105-102 at American Airlines Arena. The Warriors came into Miami, in the midst of their 6-game road trip, looking for a measure of revenge. The Warriors would be short-handed in this game as Andre Iguodala missed his second straight game resting a sore knee but it would not ultimately cost them. While the Heat kept things close in the first half, the Warriors outscored the Heat by 20 points in the third quarter on their way to a 123-95 victory Sunday night.
Curry was scorching hot against the Heat
Sunday night was one of those classic Stephen Curry games where his offensive brilliance shines brightly for everyone to see. In the first quarter, when the Heat still held a lead, Curry was making shots and playing in such a way that you knew that there was the potential for it to be an explosive evening for the Warriors guard.
Curry scored 16 points in the first quarter, and four more in the second to give him 20 points at the end of the first half, leading all scorers at halftime. While Curry’s offense was prodigious in the first two quarters, he would take it to an even higher level in the third.
As part of a 12-2 run that pushed the Warriors lead from two at halftime to 12, Curry was, appropriately enough, on fire. On that 12-2 run, Curry scored eight points, including this 3-pointer that pushed the lead to double-digits.
In that quarter, one where the Warriors put the game out of reach, with another dominant third frame, Curry also had a great assist, seeing Kevin Durant moving towards the basket and taking advantage of the Heat’s lack of defenders in the paint.
But Curry’s most eye-catching play of the game wasn’t a 3-pointer nor was it a wild assist. Rather, it came on a shot with seven and a half minutes left in the third.
You're just showing off now, Steph pic.twitter.com/VLPhr8EOPJ— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) December 4, 2017
Getting in deep in the key with Goran Dragic guarding him, Curry threw up the circus-style layup from just underneath the hoop that spun back and went in. Against the Heat, Curry scored 30 points in just 30 minutes of action, sitting out the fourth quarter. After this display, it felt safe to say that Curry had figured out how to play with the hand injury that so negatively affected his shooting in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
The Heat’s hot shooting does not last for the entire game
While the Warriors won the game by a very comfortable margin, the game was close for much of the first half, with the Heat leading for most of the first quarter and parts of the second. They were able to keep things close because of the play of Dragic and Wayne Ellington. Dragic scored 14 points in the first half, going 3 for 3 from distance, while Ellington scored nine points coming off the bench while shooting three for four from 3-point range.
As a team, the Heat shot 50% from 3-point range, well above their season average of 35.8% coming into this game. That the Heat were able to make 3-point shots allowed them to keep it close even while the Warriors shot 50% from the field in the first half.
Warriors- have a 62-60 halftime lead over Heat. Curry (20 pts), Klay (11) & Durant (11) all doing what they need to do offensively. But Heat shooting 48.9% from field & 50% from 3.— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) December 4, 2017
The second half, however, was a different story for the Heat as they shot 26.3% from 3-point range. Dragic scored just six more points while Ellington was held scoreless in the second half as the Heat could not keep up with the surging Warriors. The Heat’s regression back to the mean in 3-point shooting, coupled with the Warriors offensive explosion, turned the game into a blowout very quickly and removed the possibility of any drama in the fourth quarter.
Green and Thompson lead the Warriors defensive effort
More than the Warriors’ impressive offensive display, as they scored 123 points against a team that allows only 102.8 points per game, it was the Warriors’ defense that really stood out. Though the Heat are nobody’s idea of an offensive juggernaut, the Warriors held them to under 100 points and the Warriors defensive intensity was very high, particularly in the second half.
Miami’s most explosive offensive player, Dion Waiters, had his worst scoring night of the season ending with just four points on an abysmal one for ten shooting. Klay Thompson’s defense on Waiters was outstanding, as he stayed with the guard when he drove to the basket while also knowing when to play off of him and allow Waiters to take unwise perimeter shots.
The Warriors’ players with the highest plus/minus for this game were Thompson and Draymond Green. In short, both players were being productive and helping their team on offense (Thompson scored 19 points while Green had nine assists) as well as on defense (with Thompson’s defense on Waiters and Green grabbing seven defensive rebounds).
Maybe it was because head coach Steve Kerr gave them a day off after they arrived in Miami, but the Warriors’ defense looked as good in the second half against the Heat as it has at any other point in this season. While the Warriors have been able to score this season, their defense has been a bit on the shaky side. But now, it looks as though they are rounding into shape on the defensive side of the ball.
Remember when the Warriors were in the bottom half of defensive efficiency and there were worries they might never be a high-ranked team again? They're currently tied for 5th.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) December 4, 2017
Despite his struggles from 3-point range, Durant still finds ways to score
While Curry had one of his better performances of the season, Durant had a rough game (by his standards at least). Durant shot 28.5% from 3-point range, well below his season average of 41.9%. Durant also turned the ball over four times, making up the majority of the team’s nine turnovers.
Even though he was the most turnover-prone Warrior and missed shots he would normally make (particularly from 3-point range), Durant still had a good game. He would finish with 24 points in 28 minutes, going 9 for 18 from the field as well as handing out seven assists. Durant was able to do the bulk of his scoring by driving and scoring at the basket.
Durant posterizes Olynyk pic.twitter.com/flzpklOssE— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) December 4, 2017
With the Heat’s best front court player, Hassan Whiteside, out of the lineup, the paint was more open than it would otherwise be when playing against the Heat. Durant and the other Warriors took advantage, totaling 58 points in the paint compared to the Heat’s 32.
While Curry’s excellent play should command the most attention, seeing Durant struggle with his jumper but still taking the ball to the basket and attacking the rim was a positive development in this game as well.
Livingston’s night ends early
The Warriors were already down a man with Iguodala sitting out Sunday night to rest his knee and they would be even thinner on the bench as Shaun Livingston was ejected from the game in the second quarter.
Shaun Livingston ejected after making contact with a ref pic.twitter.com/ZRGfDEG7vc— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) December 4, 2017
What prompted Livingston’s ejection by official Courtney Kirkland was not just that Livingston argued with his calls but that he made contact with Kirkland while arguing. However, it appears as though the contact emerged primarily from Kirkland coming towards Livingston while going back-and-forth with the Warriors guard.
That’s not to say that Livingston did not deserve a technical foul there, as he was letting the official hear all his complaints about his calls. But for the incident that really precipitated the ejection to be, to some degree, the result of the official’s actions? That seems a bit too much for me. Ultimately it didn’t hurt the Warriors to not have Livingston on the bench, and it allowed him to get even more rest since he will still be out for Monday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans. But it was still a very tense and strange moment in Sunday night’s game.
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