The last time the Miami Heat had a couple of days off before embarking on a road trip, coach Erik Spoelstra worked his team through two rigorous training camp style practices. It resulted in a back-to-back road wins at Minnesota and Chicago.
This time around film study seems to have been the priority for Spoelstra, who did a good job according to Dion Waiters pointing out some of the Heat’s flaws on offense as well as ways to fix them.
Among those messages delivered in film study: the need for better decision making from Waiters (Spoelstra said he often settles too much for low percentage pull-up shots), better ball movement on the perimeter to go from a good shot to a better one, and the need for players like Justise Winslow, who has defenses sag off him, to take an open shot and not hesitate when it is available.
“When you’re aggressive man sometimes you’re going to make mistakes because you’re trying to make the right play,” said Waiters, who is coming off a 1 for 10 shooting performance in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Warriors and said he saw in film study how he didn’t take a single clean open look in the game.
“But you know things happen especially when you know defenses are playing you different. They’re kind of blitzing me a lot. They’re forcing me to make that pass. Like I tell guys like Justise, you’ve got to be ready. You’ve got to shoot the ball and shoot the ball with confidence too. Same with J-Rich. If you got it shoot it. I tell Kelly Olynyk all the time – shoot the ball. Kelly is shooting 48 percent from three. Kelly, you’ve got to shoot it. You know I tell him like ‘Man, that's the same thing with Wayne.’ Last year Wayne would pump fake and he would have to run a suicide [drill]. You’ve got to shoot to the ball. You all make it easier for us and open up it too [when you shoot].”
The Heat, one of the better offensive teams in the league in the first half of games, rank 27th overall in scoring (100 points per game) and 25th in assists (20.8) despite ranking fourth in three-point shots attempted (32.6 per game). Usually, the struggles happen in the second half when opponents make adjustments.
Both Waiters and point guard Goran Dragic said opponents have made a much more concerted effort to take away the paint from the Heat, often collapsing all five defenders on the team’s two primary playmakers.
“Last year what I got a lot [when I drove to the basket] was [an open] Rodney McGruder on that cut because I saw how they were playing him and that’s why Rodney was able to get so many baskets – that slot cut,” Waiters explained. “We’re doing it now, but not right off the bat. We’ve just got to get used to it. Like I said, the lineup is different. We were just so used to playing with each other last year – we just knew what to do. We didn’t have to say nothing. I knew Rodney cuts. I knew Luke [Babbitt] was going to be where Luke was going to be at. Everything was on a string. Right now, we’re still figuring that out. Once we start clicking like how we’re going to click, man, it makes everything else easier. Guys aren’t going to be able to pack the paint or guard me as much as they’re doing now.”
WHITESIDE STAYING HOME
Center Hassan Whiteside, who has missed three consecutive games with a bone bruise in his left knee, will not be making trip with the Heat to San Antonio, Mexico City or Memphis on this road venture. Spoelstra said Whiteside will stay in Miami and “do a lot of treatment, a lot of conditioning and whatever corrective strength exercises he can do.”
That means the Heat will take on the Spurs Wednesday night without their most dominant defensive post presence in the game yet again. When San Antonio cruised to a 117-100 win at Miami on Oct. 25 (the Spurs eight straight win over the Heat), All-Star big man LaMarcus Aldridge had 31 points and seven rebounds. Whiteside missed the game with a bone bruise.
The Heat (11-12) has a defensive rating of 99.3 when Whiteside is on the floor this season and 107.7 when he is off it.
“Certainly Hassan brings a tremendous amount to our defense, even our philosophy of how we defend,” Spoelstra said. “But we’re better than what we have been and we simply have to be more committed to it. [Bam Adebayo has been growing steadily each week. This is a different challenge. This is a proven All-Star low-post scorer. You don’t see that every single night. So it’s going to require great discipline, great effort, great focus. But it also will be a team concept. It’s not just going to be on any of our bigs’ shoulders just to defend one on one.”