The Miami Heat (41-14) are hosting the Memphis Grizzlies (38-18) on Friday evening, and the home squad will be looking to topple a team that embarrassed them early in the 2012-13 campaign.
These franchises have gone in two different directions in the months since that battle took place, as the Heat look primed to defend their title and Memphis looks to be a fringe challenger—at best.
Let’s take a look at where you can watch this nationally televised game, highlight some superstars to keep an eye on, point out the most important matchup and more in our preview.
When: Friday, March 1 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena
Live Stream: ESPN3 (Check coverage map here)
Grizzlies Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
No major injuries to report
Heat Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
SF Shane Battier, Questionable, Hamstring
Key Storyline: Rematch
The Griz absolutely dominated the Heat in Memphis back in early November, but things have drastically changed since their initial matchup.
Wayne Ellington of all people was the hero of that contest, making 7-of-11 three-point attempts and torching Miami for 25 points. Rudy Gay was also instrumental in picking up the “W”, as he scored 21 points, grabbed eight boards, dished five assists, recorded four steals and swatted two shots.
Those money-saving moves certainly make it tougher to get past the Heat again, as the starting unit and reserves in South Beach have been as steady as any over the past three seasons.
We expect that the Heat stars—LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade—still have a bad taste in their mouths from being humbled, 104-86, in their last meeting with this squad. Watch out, as this "Big Three" will likely bring their “A” game on Friday night.
Key Matchup: Dwyane Wade vs. Tayshaun Prince/Tony Allen
There’s a good chance Wade will be seeing face time with both of the premiere Griz defenders in this game, and he’s going to have to play better than he was in the first bout if Miami is going to win.
In that early-season showdown, the superstar shooting guard was apparently plagued by illness and had a lot of problems getting his shot to drop. D-Wade finished with eight points (on 3-of-15 field goal shooting) and eight rebounds in the loss.
While it’s easy to blame the struggles on sickness, much of the credit has to go to Memphis’ prolific group of wing and post defenders—a stable that now includes Prince, Allen, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
As one of the better defensive teams in the entire league, expect the Griz to continually throw new looks at not only Wade, but also LeBron, Bosh and anyone else who may be getting hot for the Heat.
The Heat have won 12 straight contests coming into this one, and it doesn’t appear that anyone will slow them down.
They finally appear to be in form and firing on all cylinders, a bad omen for the rest of the league. Even a team like Memphis, which is just three off in the league's win column, has absolutely no shot of slowing them down.
Which team will win?
Prior to the two separate salary-dumping transactions that the Griz participated in, it would have been a different story. In that scenario, we’d suspect a close game and both teams to be battling back and forth throughout the night.
Now, it just doesn’t have the same luster. Without Gay, Memphis is lacking the premier perimeter player that can match buckets with James. They lost their go-to superstar and will have to rely on Z-Bo to make tough, contested shots in the paint in order to keep things remotely close.
Factor in that this game is taking place in the Heat’s home arena and you have a potential blowout more likely than not. As much as we’d like to think the Griz would make this competitive, it’s not happening.
Heat 104—Grizzlies 95