Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 120-95 loss to the Indiana Pacers Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena - its most lopsided defeat of the season and fifth home setback in its past six.
1. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he had no answers for the Heat’s terrible performance just two days after its most inspiring victory. But the Heat better find a solution fast with the Boston Celtics coming to town Wednesday night with the NBA’s best record (15-2) and riding a 15-game winning streak. Very little other than Wayne Ellington’s sharp shooting (7 of 12 from three-point range, matching a career-high for made threes) went right for the Heat, which trailed by as many as 30 in the second half and let the game slip away after a putrid third quarter in which it was outscored 32-13.
The Pacers won for the first time in Miami since Nov. 12, 2014 snapping a streak of six consecutive victories for the Heat.
"There was some points in the game where our guys competed," Spoelstra said. "There’s some guys that did. So that’s it. We’ll find a solution. We’ll find a way to play Miami Heat basketball one way or another."
When asked if it was a lack of sustained effort from his team, Spoelstra answered: "They scored 120 points and shot 60 percent. That's a rhetorical question with a rhetorical answer. We will find a solution one way or another to get this team playing Miami Heat basketball."
2. Heat players also don’t appear to have a reason for how they can go from a great win in Washington to such a disappointing result two days later. The Heat continues to leave those who watch it dumbfounded as to how it can play at such a high and such a low level at times. Less than two days after securing its first victory over a team with a winning record in Washington, the Pacers’ trouncing of the Heat showed it hasn’t figured out the reason for its inconsistency through the season’s first 16 games.
"There is no answer," Ellington said. "But we understand that it’s a problem that we have. The consistency, our effort and energy, that’s something we can control. We can’t control if shots are going to fall every night. But we can control if we come in here with the same effort every night and energy. I think sometimes we forget about that bad taste that we had in our mouth after last season. That’s something that we got to come here every night and remember."
Goran Dragic, who has scored eight points or less the past two games, thinks more hustle is needed.
"It’s not the system because you had the same system last year," Dragic said. "If you play with a lot of energy you can correct even some mistakes you usually do.
"I don’t think we should forget this game because if you forget it then you don’t correct no things and then maybe in the future that game is going to come back. we need to find a way to correct it so this kind of game never happen again.
3. Dion Waiters disappeared Sunday and for the Heat’s sake he better put it behind him quickly. Waiters said earlier this season he’d rather go 0-for-30 than go 0-for-9 because it meant you’d lost confidence in his shot. That futile shooting game came Sunday night. Waiters was held scoreless for the first time as a member of the Heat after going 0 for 10 from the field and 0 for 3 from three-point range in 26 minutes and five seconds of play. Waiters finished with a plus/minus of minus-24.
The last time Waiters failed to score in a game was March 26, 2016 against the San Antonio Spurs as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Aside from a five-point output on Oct. 28 against the Celtics (Miami’s next opponent), Waiters had scored in double figures in the Heat’s other 14 games this season.
Waiters left before the media entered the locker room after the game.
4. Pacers center Myles Turner helped set the tone early and contributed to the Heat’s lack of presence in the paint. Turner, who was out in the Heat’s 112-108 win over the Pacers on Oct. 21 while in concussion protocol, scored Indiana’s first six points and finished with 25 as the Pacers crowded the paint and limited Miami’s drives to the basket. Until the 11:04 mark of the fourth quarter, the Heat made only one trip to the free throw line with Kelly Olynyk making their only two attempts.
Hassan Whiteside, who also sat out the Heat’s first game against Indiana with the bone bruise in his left knee, played only 22 minutes and 24 seconds. He finished with 15 points, but had his streak of 20 consecutive double-doubles at home snapped after finishing with only eight rebounds.
Whiteside was subbed out in the third quarter for Bam Adebayo as the Heat looked for a spark of energy, but even that didn’t change much.
"I don't know, man. I don't look into it that much," Whiteside said. "He probably just wanted to see what Bam was going to do when he went out there.
"I can't really say much else. It sucks. They came in here and hit us in the chin."
5. The Heat shot a season-high 37 three-pointers one game after shooting 35 in Washington even though the outcome of the two games were drastically different. Are the Heat too reliant on the three-point shot lately and did that contribute to its lack of trips to the foul line until the fourth quarter (when the game was out of reach) on Sunday?
"I wouldn’t say that," Ellington said. "I think they packed the paint on us. I think they packed the paint. But at the same time, we still got to continue to get in that paint. Our attackers got to continue to get in that paint to attack and attack and attack and force some fouls to be called. That’s something that obviously we will continue to get better at."