Miami Heat: Goran Dragic probable to return vs Bucks

Jan 19, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center/forward Greg Monroe (15) looks to pass the ball against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 19, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center/forward Greg Monroe (15) looks to pass the ball against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Miami Heat seek redemption after an embarrassing loss against the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this month.

Heat (25-21) vs Bucks (20-28)
Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center – Milwaukee, Wisconsin 
When: Friday, Jan. 28, 8 PM ET
Watch: FS-SUN, NBA League Pass

After suffering a brutal loss to the Milwaukee Bucks earlier in January, the Miami Heat will try to tie the series Friday night, and they will probably have Goran Dragic to help them do it.

Dragic has missed the past eight games with a calf strain. He last played on Jan. 11 in a loss against the Golden State Warriors, and did not play in Miami’s 91-79 loss to Milwaukee on Jan. 19.

The last time these two teams played, the Heat had a hard time getting to the rim and making plays in their drive-and-kick fashion. Milwuakee’s length bothered the Miami players, who couldn’t seem to get a clean shot off. Outside of Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside in that game, the rest of the team shot just 24 percent.

More heat: Heat Check Podcast: A future without Whiteside?

However, the Heat are on a two-game win streak (yes, we’re at the point of calling that a streak) and the team seems to be playing well. Beno Udrih is back from a shoulder injury, Justise Winslow is shooting the best he has in his career, and Dwyane Wade has scored 20-plus points in the three games he’s played since struggling against the Bucks (he went 1-of-6 for 2 points).

Meanwhile, Milwaukee has lost three of their last four games, but have won nine of their last 12 at home. Guard Khris Middleton is having his best month of the season, averaging 22 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game in January. He scored 22 points and had seven rebounds and seven assists in that game against the Heat.

Matchup To Watch: Goran Dragic vs Michael Carter-Williams

Michael Carter-Williams had an impactful game in the first matchup against Miami this season, finishing with a plus-20 plus/minus despite scoring just seven points. That’s because of the long point guard’s tough defense.

Sure, he was going against Tyler Johnson–who started the game at point for Miami due to injuries–but MCW is a good defender. He has a plus-0.7 defensive box plus/minus for his career, according to basketball-reference.com, and will pose a challenge to the recovering Dragic.

Dragic, when healthy, has the speed and craftiness to get by MCW. Dragic likes to probe the defense, get in the paint and kick it out to open shooters. If Carter-Williams stays on his hip, his length (he’s a 6-6 point guard) will make that kick out tougher. If Dragic is healthy, I think he has enough speed to get by him and open up that window.

X-Factor: Justise Winslow

Justise Winlsow is on a nice shooting streak, making 9-of-11 shots for 21 points in his last two games. He also has 16 rebounds and six assists in that time. Winslow’s enjoyed the space playing along with Chris Bosh and Luol Deng in the front court.

Against the Bulls earlier this week, Winslow spent much of the fourth quarter bring the ball up as a point-forward. Should the Heat try to get Dragic open catch-and-shoot looks, they could roll out this strategy again.

Most importantly, however, Winslow will likely draw the most difficult defensive assignment against Giannis Antetokounmpo (totally copied and pasted that) and could spend some time on Jabari Parker as well.

More heat: Justise Winslow left off Rising Stars roster

Key Stats:

Miami Heat offensive efficiency: 23rd, 101.4 points per 100 possessions
Miami Heat defensive efficiency: 6th, 100.1 points allowed per 100 possessionsMilwaukee Bucks offensive efficiency: 22nd, 101.7 points per 100 possessions
Milwaukee Bucks defensive efficiency: 28th, 106.3 points allowed per 100 possessions