Jimmy Butler returned after a lengthy 10-game absence to lead the Heat to a slim one-point victory against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday and the team unsurprisingly looked much more like the team that was in the bubble - though there is still much work to be done. Butler’s aggressiveness looking for his own shot and getting to the free throw line was a welcome boost for the Heat’s offense, but so was his willingness to get others involved including big men Bam Adebayo and Precious Achiuwa that resulted in high-percentage shots.
Of course, the team would look even better if Goran Dragic had also returned to action but he remains day-to-day with a groin injury. Though there is a chance he returns tonight, the Heat will still be shorthanded tonight with Tyler Herro listed as questionable due to COVID health and safety protocols after playing in two games coming off of a seven-game absence from the Heat with neck spasms. The second-year guard learned his housemate had recently tested positive for COVID and he was not with the team during practice on Sunday. Kendrick Nunn did not play against the Kings as he was still awaiting the results of a COVID test, but he should be active and ready to play tonight.
The Hornets are led by Gordon Hayward with 23.2 points and Terry Rozier with 16.8 points per game. Rookie LaMelo Ball is also filling up the box score averaging 12.2 points, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals in his first 20 NBA games — all off the bench. The Heat’s Southeast Division rival are 9-11 for the season and have won two straight games against the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks, in which Ball scored a career-high 27 points and dished out nine assists.
While they’re in the bottom rankings in the league offensively, the Hornets lead the NBA in assists with an average of 28.5 per game. Charlotte’s point guard duo of Ball and Devonte’ Graham combine to average 12.3 assists so the Heat’s backcourt will have their hands full all night trying to stifle them. Hayward remains a dangerous threat from just about anywhere on the court and he already seems much more comfortable taking on a more prominent role on offense in Charlotte that recalls his time with the Utah Jazz after an up-and-down stint with the Boston Celtics.
ODDS: FiveThirtyEight gives the Heat a 71% chance to win the game.
HEAT VS HORNETS: MONDAY, FEBRUARY 1 AT 7:30 PM.
- Meyers Leonard: day-to-day (shoulder)
- Tyler Herro: questionable (COVID safety and health protocols)
- Avery Bradley: day-to-day (knee)
- Moe Harkless: day-to-day (thigh)
- Goran Dragic: day-to-day (groin)
- Chris Silva: day-to-day (hip)
|Marcus Smart||PG||Kyle Lowry|
|Jaylen Brown||SG||Max Strus|
|Jayson Tatum||SF||Jimmy Butler|
|Al Horford||PF||PJ Tucker|
|Robert Williams III||C||Bam Adebayo|
TV: FOX SPORTS SUN
RADIO: The Ticket 790AM & The HEAT Radio Network (Mike Inglis, Ruth Riley Hunter)
SPANISH RADIO: WAQI 710AM & The HEAT Spanish Radio Network (José Pañeda, Joe Pujala)
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