Every game counts.
That’s the message Heat center Chris Bosh has been preaching to his team recently as it slides through another losing skid. The Heat is in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings at the start of the New Year and, with one of its most difficult stretches of the season now here, Bosh is aware already that every victory or loss could mean the difference between simply making the playoffs or not.
“I think we’re to that point right now,” Bosh said. “Before, we had the ability and that strength to just show up, and we won a lot of games by just being there. A lot of them you had to play and eventually our talent and experience would overcome everything, but I think it’s just a different thing this year.”
In other words, the days of relying on LeBron James to win games are long gone. The challenges are many facing the post-LeBron Heat, and a combination of factors, Bosh said, has made an already difficult transitional season become a nightly battle just to remain in contention for one of the last spots in the playoffs. Bosh reeled off a list of circumstances on Saturday morning after the Heat’s shootaround that had the Heat five games below .500 at the beginning of January.
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“We’ve had injury,” Bosh said. “We never really dealt with injury before. We got young guys. We never really had young guys. We’ve got new guys. We never really had new guys. I mean, it’s just different. Everything is different all at the same time, and then you throw on top that it’s very hard to win games, and we have to kind of relearn how to do that by paying attention to detail the whole entire game.
“Something that came naturally to us before, we have to work at it again now.”
In his morning interview, Bosh emphasized “whole …. entire …. game” with a few dramatic pauses in between the words. Entering Saturday’s game in Houston, the Heat was ranked last in the NBA in third-quarter scoring (21.5 points) and last in second-half scoring (44.5 points).
“We can talk about it and say third quarters this and that, but at the end of the day you’ve still got to focus on the first, and you still got to focus on the second,” Dwyane Wade said. “You can’t just jump to the third.”
Scoring has been a problem in third period, but so, too, has defense.
“A lot of times there are short lapses — six to seven minutes in a game — where we don’t defend the way we’re capable of, and it has to be group commitment to it,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The Heat is allowing opponents to shoot 48.5 percent in the third quarters of games. Only the Minnesota Timberwolves (51.9 percent) and Los Angeles Lakers (51.6 percent) have been worse.
Bosh chose to remain in Miami this offseason rather than take a similarly guaranteed maximum contract to play for the Houston Rockets. The Heat is now struggling to remain in the playoff chase, and the Rockets are a title contender. Bosh said he’s still happy with his decision and knew going into the season that things could turn difficult for the Heat.
“That was a possibility,” Bosh said. “I didn’t think it would come the way it has came, but I knew it was going to be a possibility, and I think that was one of the major challenges that I was really looking forward to.
“I wanted to see if I was able to have that increased role and still be successful, and it’s out there in front of me, and it’s out in front of this team. I just have to make sure I do my part in making sure we don’t lose track of what’s important as far as our effort and energy on the court. We just have to continue to bring it no matter what happens.”
When/where: 6 p.m.; AmericanAirlines Arena.
TV/radio: Sun Sports; WAXY 104.3 FM, 790 AM, WAQI 710 AM (Spanish)
Series: Heat leads 61-45.
Noteworthy: The Heat has dominated the Nets so far this season, but the Heat is now crashing down through the Eastern Conference standings while the Nets have won six of their past seven games. … The Heat desperately needs a home victory before embarking on a difficult five-game trip out West. Miami is 6-12 at home.