Miami Heat

Frustrated Heat enters rough back-to-back looking to halt unforced errors, blown leads

Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay, right, drives the lane past Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic, of Slovenia, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Fri., Nov. 3, 2017, in Denver. The Nuggets won 95-94.
Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay, right, drives the lane past Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic, of Slovenia, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Fri., Nov. 3, 2017, in Denver. The Nuggets won 95-94. AP

The Miami Heat enters Sunday afternoon’s game against the Clippers at the Staples Center a frustrated bunch mostly because of the self-inflicted wounds that have led to the team’s 3-5 start.

At the top of the list for point guard and leading scorer Goran Dragic: the boneheaded, unforced turnovers that have befallen the Heat this season.

“We need to clean it up,” Dragic said sternly after the Heat’s heartbreaking 95-94 loss at Denver on Friday night in which Miami committed 23 turnovers, one fewer than the season-high 24 it had in an overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“It’s not like [Denver] played really good defense pressuring us. It’s those passes where we’re not careful. It’s those lazy passes. Like in the second quarter. We had like seven in a row like that. It hurts.”

The Heat didn’t have a stretch Friday where it turned the ball over seven times in a row, but it did cough up the ball on six of nine possessions — when the second unit was on the floor and Dragic on the bench — from the 1:21 mark of the first quarter to the 8:42 mark of the second quarter.

The Heat, which made 15 of its first 19 shots and scored 37 points in the opening quarter, combined to score 34 points between the second and third quarters. Miami turned it over 14 times over those 24 minutes and was a ghastly 3-of-18 shooting in a season-low 13-point third quarter.

Goran Dragic stayed hot in the second quarter and had 18 points at halftime on 7-of-8 shooting including a perfect 4-of-4 on threes.

Dragic is certainly on to something when he talks about unforced errors and lazy passes.

Of Miami’s 132 turnovers through eight games (a 16.5 average, which ranks 22nd in the league), 61 have come on errant passes (11 of which were simply thrown out of bounds), 38 were lost balls (14 were balls dribbled off knees or feet), 11 were traveling calls, two were plays in which Josh Richardson stepped out of bounds, and one was a discontinued dribble call against Dion Waiters.

“You do the math and turn some of those lazy turnovers into points and we’ve probably got a few more wins,” Dragic said.

For perspective, the Heat ranked 11th in turnovers last season when it averaged 13.4 per game.

Hassan Whiteside had 13 points and three rebounds in 24 foul-plagued minutes. Waiters finished with 15 points and three assists.

BLOWING LEADS IS COMMON THEME

The Heat has led at halftime in five of its eight games this season and yet is under .500 because it is the worst third-quarter team in the league.

Miami has been outscored by a league-high 48 points in the 12 minutes after halftime. Not only does the Heat shoot a league-worst 36.9 percent in the third period, but its assist-to-turnover ratio is an eye-gouging 31 to 43.

“We let up,” Waiters explained of why the Heat seems to blow leads on a nightly basis. “The starting unit’s job is to go out there and get that spark, get that flow, get it going, and then you know the bench has to come in with that same type of energy. Sometimes if the starting five is BS’ing, sometimes the bench comes in and gives us that spark. But I feel as though we’ve been getting off to good starts. We just need to keep that same mindset going into games for 48 minutes. Because we’re not where we want to be yet. So we can’t have the meltdowns and the [turnovers and bad plays] we had now. Because it’s not going to work.”

▪ Although the Heat finally broke out of its three-point shooting slump with 15 three-pointers against the Nuggets on Friday, Miami still lost for the first time in a game when making 15 or more threes since April 9, 2014, at Memphis. The Heat is 22-6 when it makes 15 threes or more.

The Miami Heat lost to the Denver Nuggets 95-94 on Friday night.

▪ Center Hassan Whiteside expressed frustration in playing only 24 minutes in Friday’s loss. The league’s reigning rebounding champ scored 13 points including eight in the opening quarter. But he didn’t grab his first rebound until the third quarter and finished with only three for the game, ending a run of nine consecutive double-doubles.

“It’s hard to get a rebound when they’re scoring and Jerkish, [Nikola] Jokic, I don’t really know how to say his name, he was at the three-point line [and they were] posting up Millsap,” a frustrated Whiteside said following Friday’s loss. “When you’re taking it out of the net, it’s tough.”

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