As painful and embarrassing as Thursday night’s blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers was for the Miami Heat to live through in person, coach Erik Spoelstra made sure his team experienced it for a second time on Friday.
After doing 15 to 20 minutes of defensive drills, Spoelstra sat his team down and put on “the horror show.”
“We didn’t just want to let it go. That’s not our style,” Spoelstra said after his team allowed the Lakers to shoot 59.5 percent from the field and score 131 points, only third time since Pat Riley took the reigns of the franchise in 1995 that the Heat allowed an opponent to score more than 130 points in regulation.
“It’s not easy to defend in this league and what we’re trying to with our team is not easy, it’s not supposed to be easy. But we don’t want to make that a habit of having those kind of defensive games. And seeing it on film was important, to see how far off we were and how much more we needed to bring, not only from effort, energy, disposition standpoint, but also from a focus-to-detail standpoint. It was pretty obvious to see. It was a horror show watching it.”
The defensive breakdowns, Spoelstra said, happened everywhere. Miami surrendered 22 points in transition in the first half (none in the second) and another 48 in the paint as the Lakers, the No. 1 team in the league in pace, simply beat them up and down the court for easy buckets.
“It’s an effort thing, sprinting back first,” Spoelstra said of the Heat’s transition defense failures. “Then it’s an awareness and a communication challenge after that. And then it’s a scramble, even if it’s not perfect, you just have to fund a way to get it done. We did a poor job in all those areas last night.
“We’re a top-five pick-and-roll defensive team in the league, but all across the board last night we were poor, transition, containing the ball in the post, pick-and-roll, catch-and-shoot, one-on-one. I could go on and on, on the list where we were bad. We’re much better than that. And I anticipate we’ll be much better [Saturday] nigtht.”
The Heat, still holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the East at 32-30, has no choice. Saturday’s game against the Pistons (29-32) is pivotal in the playoff race. Detroit, which plays in Orlando on Friday night, leads the season series with Miami 2-1, and if the Pistons win Saturday they will own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Heat for the season while also picking up a game in the standings.
“Tomorrow is a really important game for us, basically it counts as two,” All-Star point guard Goran Dragic said. “So, what happened last night, it’s already over, so we just need to get ready for the next one. And it’s going to be a one good one tomorrow.”
▪ Wayne Ellington and Tyler Johnson, who missed Thursday’s game with left quad contusions, did not practice Friday and are doubtful to play Saturday against the Pistons, Spoelstra said.
▪ Center Hassan Whiteside, who played only 18 minutes and 30 seconds in Thursday’s loss, said he’s at odds with Heat doctors about continuing to wear the knee brace they’ve asked him to wear to protect his left knee after he missed the 13 games prior to Christmas with a bone bruise.
“I’m trying to get it off,” said Whiteside, who played Saturday’s game against Memphis without the brace before wearing it again Tuesday against the Lakers. “I’m going back and forth with the doctors. That’s the toughest thing right now.”
Whiteside insists he can play at a fast pace with the brace on.
“Even with the brace on, I’m comfortable just running up and down and bringing that thing along with me,” he said.
Whiteside said he could have done a better job Tuesday blitzing Lakers center Brook Lopez and getting the ball out of his hands.
“I could have [done] stuff better,” Whiteside said. “We all could have done things better, but that’s what film is for. That’s what we’re here for, to get better and that’s what you have practice for.”
▪ What is it like to sit and experience “a horror show” with Spoelstra? Few have lived it more than Dwyane Wade.
“[That’s when] he’s at his best,” Wade said. “That’s what coaches get paid for. It’s not easy when everything is going right. That’s when coaches feel alive. They’re at their best when its time to come in and teach. ... It’s frustrating when you lose that way. But we all understand it. You learn from it, move on and try to be better the next time you get on the floor.”