The Miami Heat got a dose of good news Thursday: An MRI exam revealed that Goran Dragic has only a mild strain of his left calf, not a bad strain as the starting point guard said he was initially diagnosed with Tuesday.
It means Dragic’s time away from the team shouldn’t extend beyond a week or so. And the way things have been going lately for the Heat — a loser of three straight — consider that a huge victory as the team heads to Denver on Friday.
When the Heat left a week ago to start this six-game West Coast trip, Dwyane Wade called it the team’s greatest challenge of the season. Wednesday night’s 104-90 loss to the Clippers was so disheartening and rife with what Wade called “inner dilemmas,” it left the Heat’s leaders wondering if there are fundamental issues at the core of this team.
“Our mentality right now is just really, really bad, and we have to fix it,” Chris Bosh said after Miami turned the ball over a season-high 24 times, including a handful while simply inbounding the ball.
“It’s the same thing that we have been saying, been talking about: game-to-game focus,” Bosh said. “I am just really disappointed because everybody was asking us if we took a step forward against Golden State [Monday]. And I told everybody, ‘No. Of course we’re going to focus and play hard because they’re the champs. They’re always going to get people’s best.’ We are unrealistic right now if we think this is the effort and focus we are going to bring day to day. We’re mistaken.”
MYRIAD OF BREAKDOWNS
The list of breakdowns the Heat had in blowing a 16-point, first-half lead was so long that coach Erik Spoelstra didn’t want to get into them afterward. But it was obvious Wade and Bosh were equally frustrated with the guys around them as they were in themselves. Wade had seven turnovers and Bosh was 3 of 11 from the field for 11 points.
They took blame for their parts in Wednesday’s loss, but also took aim at teammates during and after the game.
After a failed 2-on-1 fastbreak when he and Gerald Green couldn’t get on the same page, Wade got in Green’s face and yelled at him. Earlier in the game, he grabbed the back of Hassan Whiteside’s jersey and gave him an earful for not being in the right place on the offensive end.
Talking is great. I’ll come in here and I’ll bark all day. I’ll pound my chest and say some speech from
Bosh said afterward the Heat’s defense was so lax there were two instances when “nobody moved” as the Clippers attempted wide-open three-point shots. Spoelstra immediately called timeout after one of them. Bosh said the Heat isn’t doing simple things on defense like talking.
“As a guy who has been to the Finals five times, it’s hard to always preach and always tell guys [to play for each other],” Wade said. “Guys have to want it. If we don’t, this could be awful. We could lose a lot of ballgames this month and see ourselves outside the playoff picture in no time.”
For years Wade and Bosh not only had the benefit of playing alongside LeBron James, but also saavy veterans such as Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Those complimentary pieces always seemed to know where to be on the court.
Miami’s new role players, meanwhile, have struggled to fit in the way Wade and Bosh would like. And with Dragic out Wednesday, the dysfunction in the offense showed even more.
Second-year guard Tyler Johnson shared the point-guard duties with 33-year-old veteran Beno Udrih, who made the start in Dragic’s place. They combined for 16 points and seven assists, but also six turnovers.
“We kind of took for granted how much Goran actually does getting guys in the right spots,” Johnson said. “Playing hard for me isn’t the problem. It’s getting everybody else organized. On my end, I did a poor job of that.”
Johnson accepted some of the blame for the Heat’s offensive struggles. But Whiteside, who came off the bench for the first time this season and had 10 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in 27 minutes, didn’t necessarily see himself as part of the problem.
“I did what I normally do — block shots, rebound, and when I get the ball I dunk it,” he said. “It’s pretty much what I’ve been doing since I got here.”
Asked about Whiteside’s effort, considering the center has been playing through knee tendinitis, Bosh said: “Nobody is going to play a violin for” him.
Added Bosh: “We all have to make a decision if we’re just going to continue to talk or if we’re going to act on it. Talking is great. I’ll come in here and I’ll bark all day. I’ll pound my chest and say some speech from 300 and be corny or whatever. But we’ve got to do it. We have to go out there and do it. Actions speak louder than words.”
FRIDAY: HEAT AT NUGGETS
When, where: 9 p.m., Pepsi Center, Denver, Colo.
TV, radio: SUN; WAXY (790), WAQI (710, Spanish).
Series: Heat lead 29-27.
Scouting report: The Nuggets (15-24) beat Golden State 112-110 on Wednesday with Draymond Green out. Not only is Dragic out for the Heat on Friday, but Chris Andersen (left knee soreness) will also be out, along with Josh McRoberts (bruised right knee). Miami has won two of the past three games in Denver, but is 6-13 overall in the past 19 meetings with the Nuggets.