No break for struggling Heat, as Warriors visit
After failing to beat the worst, now the Miami Heat will face the best.
On Monday, the Heat lost their sixth straight home game, falling 124-121 to the lowly Phoenix Suns, who have the NBA's worst record. The Suns trailed for the entire first half before rallying and snapping their franchise-record 17-game losing streak.
"This game hurts," said Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade, a 13-time NBA All-Star playing his final season before starting his retirement this summer. "It's unfortunate."
On Wednesday, the Heat will host the Golden State Warriors, who have won the past two NBA titles and are a power once again, holding the best record (43-17) in the Western Conference.
Miami was without four rotation players on Monday, and it is not yet known if any of them will return to face the Warriors.
Three Heat rotation players were out due to injuries: power forward James Johnson (left shoulder), wing Rodney McGruder (right knee) and guard Justise Winslow (left knee). In addition, Heat forward Derrick Jones was out due to illness.
Miami players have missed 137 games this season due to injuries or illness.
Golden State, which has the best road record in the Western Conference at 20-9, is healthy compared to the Heat, as its top nine scorers are all available. The Warriors haven't lost consecutive games in the new year, and the Warriors are 20-4 since Dec. 29.
Everyone knows about superstars Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson as well as deluxe glue man Draymond Green. But in Monday's 121-110 win at the Charlotte Hornets, the Warriors got even more dangerous, as center DeMarcus Cousins scored a season-high 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
"I think this is the best he has looked," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Cousins, who played a season-high 31 minutes. "He made a couple of moves around the hoop where he showed great agility."
Cousins, who had season-ending Achilles surgery in January of 2017 while he was a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, signed with the Warriors this past July, getting a one-year, $5.3 million contract.
He didn't make his Warriors debut until last month, scoring 14 points on Jan. 18.
Cousins, an All-American at Kentucky and a four-time NBA All-Star, completes what could be the best starting five in the league. He is a 6-foot-11, 270-pound center with skills, and his new Warriors teammates have encouraged him to shoot more.
"(Durant) has been telling me to stop thinking about it and just play my game," Cousins said. "He wants me to be more aggressive."
The more comfortable Cousins gets, the worst it will be for Warriors opponents, and that includes the Heat on Wednesday. Miami will have to contend with Curry, who is third in the league in scoring (28.4); Durant, who is fifth (27.5); and Thompson, who is 20th (21.8).
Green, a 6-7, 230-pound forward, bonds the team with his all-around skills, leading the Warriors in assists (7.3) while playing sticky defense, scoring 7.2 points, grabbing 7.5 rebounds and also contributing steals (1.5) and blocks (1.0).
Cousins, who has played 14 games for the Warriors, has been rounding into form lately. In his past three games, he is 13-for-13 from the foul line and 19-for-39 from the floor while averaging 11.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.7 blocks.
Despite its ugly loss on Monday and its home struggles (11-18 for the season), Miami gave the Warriors a battle at Golden State on Feb. 20. The Warriors prevailed 120-118.
In that game, Durant scored 39 points to help Golden State rally from a 19-point deficit, and Cousins made two crucial free throws with 5.4 seconds left in the contest.
"We started off sluggish," Durant said after that game. "We treated it like it was a Sunday walk in the park, and (the Heat) were excited to play against us.
"After a while, we finally locked in and played hard."
Heat shooting guard Josh Richardson set a career high with 37 points in that game.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 26, 2019