In the fourth quarter of Heat games against the better NBA teams recently, South Florida’s team tends to get left behind.
And maybe that is to be expected.
“We’re still working on what late-game packages we’re going to have,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “That’s a difficult journey. But we’ll get it done eventually. When we do get those packages, learning what’s open, the reads, what this means when this guy’s here. There’s all these different elements that come into the game after that. Then, we’ll be able to play those games more comfortably.
“And, at least, we’ll be executing and getting looks at the basket. Because that’s all you can ask for in late-game situations. You’re probably not going to get many late-game layups.”
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Miami was outscored 53-38 in the second half of its home loss to Milwaukee and 28-24 in the final 12 minutes of a loss at Atlanta. You could say that didn’t happen to the Heat against the Clippers on Nov.20, but Los Angeles got up so big, so fast, so early, the fourth quarter just filled out the official game.
“Continuity doesn’t happen overnight,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You have to work on habits. What is our game? Where do we want the ball going? When the level of duress is up, can you execute?
“That’s part of the growth of this team. To go through those painful steps and come back on a day like [Wednesday] and get to work.”
The “that” to which Spoelstra referred was Tuesday’s 114-97 scorching by Golden State that saw the Heat outscored 23-11 in the fourth quarter, including a 19-2 closing run.
None of the aforementioned opponents need to spend the first part of the season adjusting to losing the world’s best player in addition to at least two other members of their regular rotation (veterans Ray Allen, Shane Battier). That’s the Heat’s mission, whether or not it wants to accept it, and the team has been doing it without Dwyane Wade and his strained right hamstring for the past two weeks.
Wade practiced Wednesday and will work out Thursday. He still sounded cautious about possibly playing Sunday against the Knicks in New York.
“We knew coming into this season we were going to take some lumps. We knew that,” Bosh said. “Especially with guys out. We had a bunch of our vet guys out. It’s difficult down the stretch. We’re not to the point where we know right off the bat what we’re going to run. Or sets, where the spacing is going to be, the proper place to be when it’s time. That’s all you have to go off of. You have to play off instinct in those final minutes of a game and you have to execute. We’re not to the point where we’re just executing off the jump.”
The last time the Heat went through something like this was four years ago, when people were wondering whether Spoelstra could coach Bosh, Wade and LeBron James or whether Wade and James could play together.
Bosh referenced that time with a dry throwaway: “But I think we’ve been 8-7 before.”
The Heat will take Thanksgiving Day off — “I don’t want them thinking about basketball for 30 hours,” Spoelstra said — before returning to practice Friday.