Miami Heat

Goliath awaits in Golden State, but Heat focused on itself

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30), Kevin Durant (35) and Klay Thompson (11) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers Wed., Jan. 4, 2017, in Oakland, Calif.
Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30), Kevin Durant (35) and Klay Thompson (11) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers Wed., Jan. 4, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. AP

The focus for the Miami Heat these days isn’t so much on the Goliath set to host them Tuesday night.

At 11-28, the problems are bigger for coach Erik Spoelstra than the mighty Golden State Warriors.

“We’re at the point right now where we have to focus on us, and just building what we do, more consistently, better, harder, and get guys on the same page where all those things are happening at the same time,” Spoelstra said of his team, which has won only twice over it’s last 13 games.

“Our guys are competitors, so it's not like they're going to shy away from the game or the competition,” he continued. “Everybody knows that Golden State is an elite basketball team, playing at an extremely high level. That’s why I don’t want our guys overwhelming themselves about that. It’s about us and what we’re doing.”

The Heat dropped a 98-86 decision Sunday in Hassan Whiteside's return to the lineup. Jan. 8, 2017.

While the Warriors (32-6) are busy taking turns beating up on the competition with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, Spoelstra has been busy the last couple days drilling basic defensive principles and trying to get the offense to avoid long scoring droughts.

The Lakers scorched the Heat by 27 points and piled up 68 points in the paint last Friday. In Sunday’s loss to the Clippers, Miami shot under 40 percent for the ninth time this season.

Yes, injuries have certainly hampered the Heat this season. Miami leads the league with games lost to due injury this season (120) according to Man-GamesLost.com and that’s without counting 11-time All-Star Chris Bosh, who has been inactive all season.

But the fact Spoelstra is still drilling basic defensive principles and going over the team’s offense shows you just how far behind this team is in terms of building cohesion and chemistry 39 games into the season.

It’s why Tuesday’s game against the loaded Warriors almost doesn’t seem like a fair fight. Still, Heat players said Monday they are looking forward to facing the team with the league’s best record and testing themselves.

“It’s about competition at the end of the day,” said guard Dion Waiters, who said he recently spoke with Durant, his former Oklahoma City teammate and along with Curry is one of two former league MVPs on the Warriors roster. “We have to get up for those types of games because if you don’t, you get beat bad. I think you just got to go in there with a sense of urgency, play hard, play smart and play the right way. It should be fun.”

Miami Heat's Josh Richardson said Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, that he sprained his foot against the Boston Celtics Dec. 30 and tried to play through it.

Said Heat point guard Goran Dragic: “They’re such a talented team that for them some bad shots are good shots. It’s just crazy to watch because they have so much talent and so many weapons.”

Dragic said the Warriors are on the same level as the Heat’s Big Three teams of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh in terms of talent and ability. But in his eyes they still have more to prove before they are lumped in with those Heat teams.

“That Miami team went to four straight Finals and won two championships,” Dragic said. “So if they want to be up there, they still need to prove it.”

▪ The league office on Monday fined Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson $15,000 for the forearm he used to strike Goran Dragic above the shoulders last Friday. Dragic, who was ejected from the game along with Clarkson, said the league spoke to him about the incident Saturday and he doesn’t expect to be fined since he never swung a fist or hit Clarkson in retaliation.

He also said he doesn’t care that Clarkson was fined. “I’m past that,” he said. “I'm never happy to see a guy get fined. It is what it is.”

Spoelstra, however, was pleased the league did something, essentially validating Clarkson was in the wrong.

“That’s how we would have seen it after the fact,” Spoelstra said. “The only difference obviously would have been for Goran to continue to play. Maybe a technical, but still being able to contribute in that game.”

▪ Waiters, who was ejected Sunday in the third quarter for a Flagrant Foul 2 on the Clippers’ JJ Redick, said he’s supposed to meet with league officials to review his foul. Waiters said Monday he was surprised he was ejected.

“That was soft. That was a terrible call,” he said. “It wasn’t like I did it on purpose. I was trying to box out. It just so happens that he moved. My arm slid up. First time I’ve ever been ejected. You just can’t play physical in the league, I guess. It wasn’t intentional.”

COMING UP NEXT

Tuesday: Heat (11-28) at Warriors (32-6)

When/where: 10:30 p.m., Oracle Arena, Oakland, Calif.

TV/radio: NBATV, SUN; WAXY 790, WAQI 710 (Spanish)

Series: Warriors lead 28-27

Scouting report: Heat guard Josh Richardson (sprained left foot) did not practice Monday and is likely to miss his second consecutive game. Forward Udonis Haslem (cold) didn’t practice either Monday. The Warriors have won consecutive games against the Heat and are 16-3 at home including 10-1 overall vs. the Eastern Conference.

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