Five takeaways from the Heat’s 110-104 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night at Phillips Arena that dropped Miami back to .500 with a matchup against the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics looming Wednesday.
1. Shorthanded or not, 19 turnovers are still way too many in any circumstance. The Heat may have been down to only nine available players on Monday night after it was learned that Goran Dragic would sit out with a strained ligament in his left elbow.
But the Heat made no excuses as, once again, too many turnovers ultimately cost Miami a chance to pull off what would have been a remarkable comeback win.
The Heat forced eight of the Hawks’ 12 turnovers in the first half, but had several defensive lapses in the second half that allowed Atlanta to take control in the third quarter and build a 14-point lead with 8:46 to go in the fourth.
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“I mean we’ve been stressing getting that under 13 [turnovers for the game],” Tyler Johnson said. “It’s hard because we’ve been playing for so long without a break that maybe some of those was fatigue but at the end of the day, we’re the ones out there on the court and we make the decisions with the ball so we can’t blame that.”
2. Dion Waiters toughs it out and nearly leads comeback. Waiters has been dealing with a stomach virus since Sunday and nearly had to sit out the game as well, which would have left the Heat with a league-minimum eight players available.
Waiters couldn’t participate in the Heat’s pregame shootaround, but found a way to give Miami one more valuable body against the Hawks as he scored 23 points and five assists, taking over the point guard role for Dragic and nearly bringing Miami back.
“It was tough,” Waiters said. “Especially I didn’t eat since yesterday but I just said I was gonna try to give it a go. I still felt like [expletive] but I knew I had to go out there and go to battle with my team by any means.”
Waiters battled down the stretch and keyed the Heat’s 8-0 run that trimmed the Hawks’ lead to 98-94 with 3:41 left. But Kent Bazemore helped Atlanta close out the game as the Heat were just a little late defensively on a couple of shots and drives to the basket.
“We were just missing the mark on the little things,” Waiters said. “We got to make adjustments. We should have made adjustments doing what we were doing and stick to our defensive principles. We was just late on things and not communicating loud enough and it cost us. If we’d have come out with that sense of urgency like we did in the fourth it would’ve been a different game. We would’ve walked out with a win.”
3. With Dragic joining the injury list, the Heat needs to start getting some players back. The Heat had plenty of energy from all nine of the players who suited up, but not enough execution to finish out a victory. So when does Miami stop needing to tax its starters? Justise Winslow, who missed his third consecutive game with a strained knee, appears to be the most likely to return first. Winslow is on the trip with the team and progressing with treatment. Dragic said Monday he would see a doctor about his injury, but felt positive about preliminary tests on the injury and said he wasn’t worried it would become a significant setback. The Heat will not get Hassan Whiteside back until at least sometime during the upcoming four-game home stretch that follows its game in Boston.
4. Josh Richardson gives another scoring lift, and said he’s comfortable in his role. Richardson is one of the Heat’s most versatile players and best defenders. But until recently, Richardson had not picked up his offensive production. With a career-high 28-point game against the Clippers and a 27-point game on Dec. 1, Richardson led the Heat with 26 points on Monday despite the loss.
Richardson said after the game that he doesn’t mind being a go-to offensive option.
“I’m a guy that can do a lot of things on the court,” Richardson said. “Whatever my team needs I can do it. If scoring is what we need, I’m going to do that.”
5. Jordan Mickey starting to show what the Heat liked in him when it signed him in the summer. Mickey came off the bench for the third consecutive game and played significant minutes for the Heat in the frontcourt. After scoring career-highs in consecutive games with eight and nine points, Mickey collected a career-high 10 rebounds and scored nine again.
“Our scouting department really liked him,” Spoelstra said. “When they brought his name to me, watched film, I liked him. And in training camp and in preseason he really showed a lot of this, particularly in practice. Since then, what he’s shown is a work ethic and a competitive, professional character behind the scenes.”