Sun, 25 Aug 2019

Heat close out long road trip against Pelicans

Sports Xchange
16 Dec 2018, 10:49 GMT+10

The Miami Heat are concluding a lengthy road trip. The New Orleans Pelicans are about to embark on one.

But first, the teams meet Sunday as the Heat wrap up a six-game road trip and the Pelicans conclude a two-game homestand before hitting the road for four games in eight days.

Miami has been up and down during its trip, but it's on an up note. The Heat won the first two games on the trip -- at the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Clippers -- then lost at the Los Angeles Lakers and suffered a season-worst 111-84 loss at Utah in which they trailed by as many as 42 points on Wednesday.

But they bounced back with a 100-97 victory at Memphis on Friday night, outrebounding the Grizzlies 50-34 and holding them to 42 percent shooting.

"There's probably a lot of people out there that looked at this game and said, 'Oh boy, that's ugly,'" Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told the Miami Herald. "And then there's the traditionalist that saw it and saw some beauty and teams really competing defensively."

The Heat welcomed back starting center Hassan Whiteside on Friday after a four-game absence for the birth of his first child. Whiteside had six points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes.

"It's great to have him back," Spoelstra told the Herald. "The locker room was excited to have him back. Even in the minutes he gave us tonight, (they were) really impactful."

Miami is guaranteed at least a split on the trip, but it's hoping for more against a Pelicans team that's coming off a 118-114 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, which continued a nine-game stretch in which New Orleans has alternated wins and losses.

"It's just big for us to bounce back coming back off that loss in Utah, and a tough one in L.A., to get this one," Miami's Kelly Olynyk told the Herald. "Now we're going to New Orleans to get another win. We've had a solid trip up to now. (There) wouldn't be a better way to end it than to get one more."

The Pelicans should be well-rested after having three days between games. It was the first time they had more than one day between games in five weeks. Additionally, New Orleans and the Toronto Raptors were the first two NBA teams to reach 30 games played when they did so Wednesday.

"We needed it," forward Julius Randle said of the break.

Pelicans forward Anthony Davis has scored more than 40 points in each of his last two games, getting a season-high 44 points and grabbing 18 rebounds against the Thunder. He had 41 points in a 113-100 loss on Monday at Boston.

Davis played 40 minutes and guard Jrue Holiday 34. Coach Alvin Gentry said before Wednesday's game that he planned to start reducing the minutes for Davis and Holiday, who are playing the most and second-most minutes in the NBA (36-plus each). But he added that he's not going to sacrifice opportunities to win games in order to cut back on their minutes.

"If that's what we've got to do to win games, then that's what we've got to do," Gentry said. "We're going to rest them when we can, but we've got to try and win some games."

Forward E'Twaun Moore, who has missed the last two games because of a calf strain, practiced Saturday and is hopeful of playing Sunday. Forward Nikola Mirotic, who missed the last game and the second-half against the Celtics after aggravating an ankle injury in the first half in Boston, is unlikely to play.

Sunday is the Pelicans' only game during a six-day stretch. Their road trip begins Wednesday in Milwaukee and also has them facing the Lakers, Sacramento Kings and Dallas Mavericks.

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