Standout rookies bump heads as Heat face Warriors

Dec 27, 2023, 12:58 PM | Updated: Dec 28, 2023, 1:10 pm

Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat shoots a jump shot past Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Wa...

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 01: Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat shoots a jump shot past Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors during the fourth quarter at FTX Arena on November 1, 2022 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

One of the league’s best road teams will encounter a hot home squad when the Miami Heat open a five-game trip with a matchup against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night in San Francisco.

The Heat have won three in a row overall and three straight on the road to improve their record away from Miami to 9-6. At the start of play Wednesday, only the Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks had more road wins, each with 10.

Miami, however, ruled out forwards Jimmy Butler (calf) and Caleb Martin (ankle) as well as guard Kyle Lowry (soreness) for Thursday’s game. Guard Josh Richardson (back) remains doubtful for the contest.

Miami is coming off a 119-113 home win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Christmas. Impressive rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. contributed career highs in points (31) and rebounds (10) to the victory.

Making just his seventh start, Jaquez became the first rookie in 38 years to post a 30-point/10-rebound double-double in a Christmas Day game. Only four rookies — Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Walt Bellamy and Patrick Ewing — previously had accomplished the feat.

“Great to get a win, career night, Christmas,” Jaquez said after the performance. “I grew up watching these games, and to be able to play and have a career night, I just go back to all the hard work, late nights in the gym, preparing for moments like this.”

Most of those moments took place in Southern California, where Jaquez was born (Irvine), went to high school (Camarillo) and played 134 games for UCLA the past four seasons.

The 22-year-old will be returning to California for the first time in his NBA career at the start of the Heat’s trip. He will head to his old stomping grounds for matchups against the Los Angeles Clippers on New Year’s Day and the Lakers next Wednesday.

Jaquez has started the past three games in place of Butler, who has been bothered by a strained right calf. Butler made the trip to California but won’t play in the Golden State game.

The Warriors lost their Christmas Day showcase 120-114 to the Denver Nuggets on the road. The Miami meeting begins a run of seven in a row at home for a team that’s won its past eight games inside its own building.

Jaquez wasn’t the only rookie with a historic performance on Christmas. Golden State’s Brandin Podziemski had 13 points, nine rebounds, six assists and five steals in the defeat.

No rookie had posted that combination of stats in any game since Ben Simmons did it in 2017. The last Warriors rookie to do it was Purvis Short in 1978.

Also, his season-best steals total made him one of just three Warriors rookies in the past 20 years to swipe five in a game, joining Stephen Curry (twice) in 2010 and Eric Paschall in 2020.

Podziemski has teamed with fellow rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis to ignite a Warriors turnaround in recent games with Draymond Green on suspension. Golden State had a five-game winning streak snapped in Denver.

Curry noted neither he nor his teammates are surprised by the improved play of late, which has followed much national scrutiny over the team’s slow start.

“It’s been like that for years now, even before we won the ’22 championship,” Curry said of media negativity. “They always find something to nitpick, and that’s because there’s expectations for us to win. So you kind of take that in stride.

“For me, my approach is to dumb it down to just … win a game at a time, give ourselves some momentum, some confidence, some energy.”

–Field Level Media


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