Five takeaways from the Heat’s 123-95 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena — Miami’s third blowout loss in its past four games.
1. Bad third quarters cost the Heat games earlier this season, and Sunday it really couldn’t afford to have another, but it did. The Heat led early and kept the game close throughout the first half, trailing only by two points at the break. But in the third quarter, the floodgates opened as the Warriors outscored Miami 37-17 to break the game open and sweep the two-game season series.
“You can’t take away everything with that team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But as much as any team in the league, when they smell blood, they go for it. Right then, right then and right there, so many of their guys just come alive when they start to get it rolling. And each one of them becomes ignitable. We have a couple of guys that are ignitable. They have a roster full of guys that really start foaming at the mouth when the game starts to turn like that.”
The Warriors missed six of their first seven shots, allowing the Heat to storm out with a 10-2 advantage. Golden State then made 46 of its next 77 shots (59.7 percent), and shot 56 percent for the game.
The Heat also had much more defensive success in the team’s first game against the Warriors in Oakland on Nov. 6, during which Miami held Golden State to 36.8 percent shooting despite losing 97-80.
But in the third quarter, the Warriors made 15 of 21 shots, including five of nine 3-pointers as Steph Curry (30 points) and Kevin Durant (24 points) each did enough damage to afford sitting out the final period.
“We really wanted to come in trying to take away some of the easy ones,” Spoelstra said. “So they got a bunch of easy ones to start that third quarter and then the dam broke. And then they started making the tough ones. The tough ones, as long as we’re not fouling and we’re getting a contest? OK, that’s one thing. But the disappointing thing was all the easy ones, even in the first half, that were given up on a lack of discipline. The guys competed their butts off in the first half and we didn’t do it with enough discipline at both ends of the court.”
2. Despite loss, Goran Dragic snaps out of recent shooting funk. For the past week since earning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors, Dragic has been struggling with his shot. Dragic entered the game having made only seven of his past 29 attempts. But on Sunday, Dragic looked more aggressive and didn’t back down from taking the tough shots. Dragic went 7 of 10 from the field and was a perfect 4 for 4 from 3-point range to lead the Heat with 20 points.
“I don’t care about that,” Dragic said. “Even if the shot went in, we still lost the game. The most important thing is winning. Of course, it’s nice to see the ball go in, but that doesn’t mean anything if you lose.”
3. Dion Waiters, a hero last year against the Warriors, goes cold shooting this time. Waiters missed the Heat’s first meeting against Golden State this season because of the birth of his daughter. Just hours after Durant, his good friend and former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate, sang his praises to the media, he found it difficult to find the mark with Durant guarding him throughout the first half. Waiters, who scored the game-winning 3 in last year’s win over the Warriors and hit two such clutch shots on Friday against Charlotte, went 1 for 10 from the field on Sunday and finished with only 4 points.
Waiters’ only worse game this season was when he went 0 for 10 in a 25-point loss to the Pacers on Nov. 19, but he also went 3 for 10 in the Heat’s loss to New York on Wednesday and 2 for 10 in an ugly Heat win against the Bulls on Nov. 26.
“I like the work that he’s been putting in,” Spoelstra said. “Now, in the last couple of weeks, it hasn’t necessarily been the results that we’ve wanted and I know he wants better results, as well. But I like the work that he’s been putting in. He’s been diligent about trying to take more responsibility, make better plays for the team. I thought he started the game very aggressive, getting to the basket … then he missed some open ones and then the game just got out of control and in the second half it was tough to evaluate from there. He just has to stay with it and we’ll get him in spots where he can be aggressive.”
4. Bam Adebayo keeps learning and showing glimpses of his athleticism. Adebayo guarding Stephen Curry? It happened for a brief moment early in Sunday’s game. And Bam held his own pretty well. In a sequence during the second quarter, the Heat’s 6-foot, 10-inch rookie center kept up with the 6-3 Curry on the perimeter and forced him to pass to Durant, who then had a ball swatted away by Josh Richardson.
Adebayo made his third consecutive start while Hassan Whiteside continues to rehab his bruised left knee, and continued to impact the game in ways that don’t show up in the boxscore. Adebayo finished with nine points and two rebounds in 19 minutes and 56 seconds.
“It’s competitive nature,” Adebayo said. “I just go out there and play hard no matter who I’m guarding or what I’m doing. I’m just going out there to try and help my team.”
5. Although games have gotten out of hand quickly in the past three losses, Josh Richardson contributing more offensively is definitely a good thing. Coming off a career scoring night in which his 27 points helped the Heat beat the Hornets on Friday, Richardson again played well early on the offensive end against the Warriors.
Richardson has shot 27 of 48 (56.2 percent) and scored in double digits each time. This followed a three-game stretch in which Richardson shot only 3 of 19.
Richardson showed again how valuable he is on the defensive end — especially in the first half delivering a highlight-worthy rejection of Durant on a drive to the basket. But if the Heat is to maintain consistency on the offensive end, it needs Richardson to continue to build off these recent performances.