The Miami Heat versus New Orleans Pelicans game see-sawed back and forth for most of the first half and third quarter. With 5:54 left in the third period Josh Richardson committed a personal foul, and was subbed out by Wayne Ellington. At that point Miami trailed by a pair of baskets 68-64.
When Richardson checked back in for Goran Dragic less than two minutes later, the Heat trailed 79-64 as the Pelicans went on a 11-0 run in his absence. While Josh was on the bench the following happened: Ian Clark made a 3-pointer, Anthony Davis blocked Tyler Johnson’s shot, Clark made another 3-point basket, Jordan Mickey turned the ball over, Davis made a 3-point basket, Johnson missed a jump shot, Rajon Rondo made 2-points on a lay-up.
Richardson re-entered the game at that point, but a Johnson bad pass eventually lead to Davis extending the Pelicans lead to 81-64. Difficult to imagine one player could make such a difference in the game, but it happened.
The Heat had difficult choices to make before coming into the game on how to defend the rim against Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Instead the Pelicans shot 60% from the beyond the 3-point line, as the Heat guards had little help defending the perimeter.
While Richardson’s offense has drawn rave reviews lately, he still hangs his hat on defense. The loss to the Pelicans was dramatic evidence of that fact. But Miami missed Dion Waiters’ 3-point defense, and Bam Adebayo was busy in the paint defending Cousins and Davis.
In the last 5 games, the Heat’s best 3-point defenders were Waiters 38.6%, Richardson 39.8%, Adebayo 40.2%. Conversely the worst 3-point defenders were Derrick Walton Jr. 62.5%, Mickey 47.8%, Udonis Haslem 46.7%. The surprise here is the absence of Waiters might be felt in a totally unexpected way.
Richardson’s 54% shooting, 48% from downtown, over the last 5 games, has already turned heads. Paired with his elite defense, it’s just a matter of time before he gets his just due in the league. Josh has 49 games left to see if he can be the one to lead the team to the playoffs this season.
Once Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside return with their defensive prowess, Miami’s forwards will be able to wander out to guard the perimeter threats once again.