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GAME PREVIEW: Miami Heat (26-19) face Charlotte Hornets (18-25) in second game of a back-to-back set

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The Heat need a win in Charlotte to snap current funk against teams with losing records.

NBA: Miami Heat at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat (26-19) face the Charlotte Hornets (18-25) in the finale of a busy week, playing five games in seven days. Oddly Miami won both of its games against a team with a winning record and lost both games to lottery teams.

Game Information

When: Saturday, January 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET

Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC

TV: Fox Sports Sun

Radio: WAXY 790AM, WAQI 710AM (Spanish)

Win probability: ESPN predictor gives Miami a 33% chance to win the game.

Probable Starters

HEAT: Goran Dragic, Derrick Jones Jr., Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Hassan Whiteside

HORNETS: Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, Dwight Howard

Injury Report

HEAT: Rodney McGruder (out, tibia surgery), Okaro White (out, foot surgery), Dion Waiters (out, ankle sprain), Tyler Johnson (out, ankle sprain)

HORNETS: Tyler Zeller (out, knee), Frank Kaminsky (questionable, ankle)

Scouting Report

Charlotte is 6-4, and Miami 8-2 in their last 10 games. The Hornets are 12-12 at home, while the Heat is 14-10 at on the road. Miami has won 18 of 29 games against Eastern Conference teams. Charlotte has won 9 of their 23 games teams in the East.

Dragic leads the Heat in points per game (17.3) and assists (4.9), Whiteside in rebounds (11.7) and blocks (2.0), Richardson in steals (1.3). Walker leads the Hornets in points per game (21.7) and assists (5.8), Howard in rebounds (12.4) and blocks (1.4), Walker in steals (1.2).

Key to the Game

Josh Richardson needs to snap out of his passive role on offense, and carry the team on his back as a future All-Star. Since his torrid stretch from Dec. 16, 2017 to Jan. 5, 2018, when he scored 18 points or more in 8 out of 10 games, Richardson has cooled down since then: scoring 11 and 12 points in Miami’s last two loses.

More worrisome is the drop-off in 3-point production since his 6-8 outburst against the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 16, 2017. In the 16 games after that one, Josh had 1 game with 5 made 3’s and two with three made 3’s. In 8 of the 16 games Richardson either didn’t make a single 3-point basket or only one.

With Derrick Jones Jr. and James Johnson struggling offensively, Richardson’s recent preference for 2-point baskets has destroyed whatever spacing the starters had since Tyler Johnson’s ankle sprain. In the last two games without Tyler, Josh hasn’t filled Tyler’s void, as 19 of Richardson’s 28 field goal attempts were in the 2-point range, and JRich converted only 3 of his 9 three-point shots.

In the Brooklyn Nets loss, the starters made a total of two 3-point baskets out of 10 attempts, and in the Milwaukee Bucks win, the five starters made a combined 4 three-point baskets. Highlighting the power outage in the second half versus the Nets, the Heat shot 2 of 11 from downtown, with Richardson going 0 for 2, and Dragic attempting and missing his only 3-point attempt.

The key to a win over the Hornets lies in the starters creating proper spacing with aggressive long-range attempts, because Charlotte’s packing the paint prevents entry passes and causes turnovers. The Hornets will copy what the Nets did in the second half against the Heat.