For perhaps the first time this season, New Orleans enters a game Wednesday with the opposing team potentially missing more vital production from its lineup than the Pelicans, as Miami listed three rotation members as questionable on its official injury report. Jimmy Butler (right ankle sprain), Bam Adebayo (left knee bruise) and Dewayne Dedmon (right groin strain) are all uncertain to be on the floor against New Orleans. Markieff Morris (neck whiplash) and Victor Oladipo (right knee surgery) are out.
Butler and Adebayo are Miami’s leading and third-leading scorers this season, averaging a combined 43.3 points per game. Dedmon filled in for Adebayo at starting center during the Heat’s Monday win in Oklahoma City.
Jonas Valanciunas on how New Orleans needs to maintain its pace throughout games, after second-half stagnation contributed to Monday’s loss in Washington: “We’ve just got to push the ball. Be faster. Push ahead. Simple to say, but it’s not simple to do.”
MIAMI SCOUTING REPORT
Offensive efficiency rank: 4 (111.0)
Defensive efficiency rank: 8 (103.7)
Net rating: 3 (+7.4)
Pace: 24 (97.79)
Streak: Won 2
Go-to guy: The top of Miami’s stat sheet is very evenly distributed, with Butler, Adebayo and Tyler Herro all averaging between 23.6 and 19.7 points. Herro has been on a tear over the past week, scoring at least 23 points in four consecutive games, including averaging 26.5 points in road wins at Utah and Oklahoma City. The Kentucky product has drained at least four three-pointers in six separate games, making at least 50 percent of his trey attempts every time.
On the rise: In one example of how Miami doesn’t rely much on youth, Herro is the only Heat player born after Y2K (compared to New Orleans, which has four players born in 2000 or later). Largely unknown prior to making 39 appearances last season, 25-year-old wing Max Strus is shooting 39 percent from three-point range in 2021-22. Strus shot 3/5 at OKC on Monday.
PREVIOUS GAME STARTING LINEUPS
NEW ORLEANS (2-13)
Monday loss at Washington
Devonte’ Graham, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas
Notes: This group is 1-2. … Hart has been part of three of New Orleans’ four different starting lineup combinations. The only exception consists of Herbert Jones at a forward spot instead of Hart. That lineup is 1-4. … New Orleans plays three of its next five games against the East, prior to seven straight vs. the West.
Monday win at Oklahoma City
Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, P.J. Tucker, Dewayne Dedmon
Notes: This group is 1-0. Miami’s primary starting five features Butler and Adebayo (replacing Herro and Dedmon) and has compiled a 6-3 record. … The Heat have used five different starting lineups. … After Wednesday’s game, Miami plays Washington in consecutive games on Thursday and Saturday.
FANDUEL KEYS TO THE GAME
ATTACK THE PAINT
The good news from Monday’s game in Washington was New Orleans set team season highs for free throws made (29) and attempted (34). Not so great, although a dip in usage for Valanciunas was to be expected with Ingram returning to the lineup, Valanciunas has only taken 19 shots over the past two games. That’s the center’s lowest consecutive-game tally of the season.
It’s imperative that New Orleans becomes more efficient in close games. As defined by NBA.com, the Pelicans are 0-8 in clutch time this season. They’re shooting 26 percent from the field and are 0/11 on three-pointers in the final five minutes of games in which the score is within five points or less.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Herro was the No. 13 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, four slots before Alexander-Walker was chosen. Both players can get hot from the perimeter, but are most dangerous when they mix up some drives or mid-range shots into their offensive arsenal. In the only game Alexander-Walker has played at what’s now called FTX Arena, he scored 27 points as a rookie against the Heat.