When told Friday that the starting lineup had finally moved into positive plus-minus territory for this season, Chris Bosh and Luol Deng had the same request:
Somebody tell Spo.
Bosh even suggested slipping the statistic under Erik Spoelstra’s door.
Turns out that the Heat coach was already quite aware, though he was pleased that his players considered the number important. He has been tracking that unit’s effectiveness regularly since the start of the regular season, when, because of some well-chronicled fit issues, it was pacing well behind many of Miami’s other combinations. He has held at least three private meetings with the group. He has asked them to search for some answers, or else he would have no choice but to make a change.
Spoelstra did stick with the group of Bosh, Deng, Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside after a choppy November, and it has rewarded him of late. The lineup was a plus-20 in December and plus-6 in the first game of January, even though it’s time together was limited because Wade wasn’t available until the second quarter.
“You’re never there, but they’ve owned it, and they’ve worked at it,” Spoelstra said. “The first few weeks, you can’t dance around it. It’s a negative. OK, what are going to do about it? And that took a lot of work, took a lot of practice time, it took some meetings, it took film sessions and it’s taken minutes in games, under pressure, under failure, under adversity, to go through all those things to make it better. And we’re still not where we want to be. But at least right now you’re starting to see them get more comfortable.”
Spoelstra said they had to learn how to be aggressive offensively while defending at a high level and making the game easier for each other.
“And it’s taken some introspection on my part, too, to learn how to get them all in a place where they’re most comfortable,” Spoelstra said. “But I really commend them for working at it and not getting frustrated to the point of not finding solutions. We’ll continue to get better, especially as you go through the competition of it, of an NBA season.”
On Sunday in Washington, the group was a plus-8 in the first half — the first seven minutes and the final play — and was flat during its only second-half stint.
After missing three consecutive games with a sprained left ankle, Heat rookie Justise Winslow entered with 2:13 left in the first quarter. He missed his first shot, a three-pointer, but scrambled back on defense for a highlight block of Wizards star John Wall.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Heat forward Josh McRoberts missed his 13th consecutive game with what the team has termed a “bone bruise” in his knee. He made the trip to Washington but wasn’t available to reporters or on the bench.
▪ Wade was paying close attention to football on Sunday, mostly to see if his friend Brandon Marshall would finally end the NFL’s longest playoff drought. But the Jets lost, and failed to qualify. “That’s tough,” said Wade, shaking his head. Marshall has missed in all 10 NFL seasons, including twice with the Dolphins. Wade has missed the playoffs only twice in his previous 12 NBA seasons.
Monday: Pacers at Heat
When/where: 7:30 p.m.; AmericanAirlines Arena.
TV/radio: SUN, NBATV; WAXY 790, WAQI 710.
Series: Pacers lead 60-41.
Scouting report: The Pacers have won both meetings so far this season, both in Indiana. In the most recent game, Monta Ellis, who has often struggled in his first season with Indiana, led the Pacers with 24 points. Paul George is averaging 29.5 points in the two games.