Dragic said he and Whiteside have always had chemistry
In the middle of the second quarter Monday night a Heat fan was trotted out onto the court to attempt a three-pointer while sitting in a chair. He banked the shot in and won himself a Samsung Galaxy tablet.
The home team had a much tougher time burying shots in the first half. Miami missed its first 14 three-point attempts, scored a season-low 31 points over the first two quarters, and never was really able to catch up to the visiting Boston Celtics.
Despite a season-high 42 points in the third quarter, the banged up Heat fell to 2-7 at home with a 112-104 loss at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Celtics (10-7) made 11 three-pointers, got 43 combined points from its starting backcourt of Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas, and led by double digits basically from the middle of the second quarter on.
“We weren’t really well organized,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of his offense in the first half. “That’s not how this team is built to go play like that. It has to be five-man, team basketball, get organized, run an action and play off actions and share the ball. The second half we played harder. It started with that. We were able to get some opportunities with a little bit more pace.”
The good news for Miami: starting point guard Goran Dragic, who missed back-to-back games against the Grizzlies over the weekend with a strained left elbow, got back to looking like his old self. He had season-highs of 27 points, 17 assists and only one turnover in 38 minutes.
More importantly, he also began reestablishing some pick-and-roll chemistry with center Hassan Whiteside, feeding him on three alley-oop dunks when the Heat’s offense finally got rolling in the second half.
“Give me 10 points and a win, I’ll take that immediately,” Dragic said of his big statistical night. “I’ve already proven in this league that I can score. That doesn’t mean [anything] to me. We just need to continue to grow and get better. We have so many times where we’re not focused enough and in those five minutes we don’t know what we’re doing, if I’m honest, we don’t talk on defense. We score and they’re walking to halfcourt and they pitch ahead and it’s a wide open dunk. You can’t win games like that. We need to figure out something for sure.”
Whiteside, who had an MRI performed on his sore left knee prior to Monday’s game, didn’t take his first shot until 3:43 remained in the first half and put up an air-ball jump hook. He eventually found his groove, though, and closed with 25 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks, recording his 14th double-double of the season.
“It was stiff in the early going,” Whiteside said of his knee. “I had to get a little loose. Once it got warm I was back to being myself.”
In all, Dragic collected nine assists feeding Whiteside for baskets.
Dragic and Whiteside both said the return of three-point specialist Wayne Ellington, who scored nine points in his regular season debut and played 27 minutes, had a lot to do with the open lanes in the second half that allowed Miami’s point guard and center to work.
“That is the Goran Dragic we know,” Spoelstra said. “It’s my responsibility to actually get him to that level more frequently. But he was downhill the majority of that second half. He was getting into the paint, making the right plays, making the right reads and he was even connecting with Hassan. The two of them worked on it this morning in shoot-around. They’ve had that connection. So that’s something we’ll start to build on when we go on the road.”
Miami (5-12) now hits the road to play three games in four nights out beginning Wednesday in Denver.
▪ Shooting guard Dion Waiters, who missed his first game of the season Monday with a strained groin, hopes to be back on the court by then. He had been playing through the soreness, but the Heat training staff didn’t want him to aggravate the injury and make it worse.
“I hate to miss games. You can see I don’t do good missing games,” said Waiters, who scored a season-high 28 points in Saturday’s loss to the Grizzlies. “It pisses me off. But I know it’s best for me. If I could, I would have been out there. I think everybody knows that. It’s tough.”
▪ Forward Justise Winslow, who missed his eight consecutive game with a sore left wrist, said he’s feeling better but still has not begun participating in basketball activities. That’s a big hurdle he still has to cross. His wrist has been immobilized in a brace for more than a week now.
“We’re going in a positive direction,” he said.