Miami Heat

Miami Heat’s search for consistency continues into the new year

Hassan Whiteside on adjusting to offensive changes

Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside returned Tuesday after missing 11 games. He talks about getting back to full strength and adjusting to changes in Heat’s offense.
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Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside returned Tuesday after missing 11 games. He talks about getting back to full strength and adjusting to changes in Heat’s offense.

So why does this keep happening to the Heat?

Their players and coaches are still searching for the answers.

Entering Friday’s game having won seven of its past 10, the Heat were blown out at home, 111-87, by a then-13-22 Brooklyn squad, a game in which the Nets outscored Miami 85-37 over two quarters.

“Well, obviously, it is an extremely challenging team to figure out,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after Friday’s game. “I am speechless about it. I don’t know. We will keep on fighting and digging until we figure it out.”

The Heat (18-17) has drifted around the .500 mark for the majority of its first 35 games, never going more than two games over or under.

It hasn’t won more than three consecutive games or lost more than three in a row this season.

Most mystifying: Why is this team good enough to be 10-8 on the road — with quality wins at Boston, Minnesota and Washington — but 8-9 at home, with five of those nine home losses by 15 or more (to San Antonio, Indiana, Golden State, New Orleans and now Brooklyn).

“It’s consistency, and that’s what we’ve been working on obviously for a long period of time,” Spoelstra said prior to Saturday’s game in Orlando. “We’re not the only team working on that. We’re making progress, and as tough and sometimes painful as it can be, I do see progress with our team. It starts with your habits. It starts with your behavior. It starts with your approach. When you’re consistent with those things, every single day, with your mood, then you start to see consistency out on the court.”

The Heat’s offense was abysmal on Friday, with Miami closing at a season-low 33.7 percent from the field (30 for 89), including a 3-for-12 night from Goran Dragic, 2 for 10 from Wayne Ellington, 4 for 15 from Tyler Johnson and 1 for 7 from Kelly Olynyk.

The Heat shot 3 for 26 on threes. This marked the first time in the last 207 games that the Heat has made fewer than five threes in a game, dating to Nov. 15, 2016.

But the Heat’s defense also was deplorable at times, and Johnson admitted that effort — a Heat hallmark — was absent at times.

“Sadly, it is hard to say this, but it is,” Johnson said when asked whether Heat effort was an issue. “They wanted this game more than we did. That is rare to say about a group like this, but they just wanted the game more.”

Said Dragic: “We started the game well [up 18-8], but too much our defense was bad. Our offense too. They had open threes. We didn’t get back [on defense]. It was hard to watch.

“They were faster and hungrier. We need to bring our hearts and compete. We’re dropping games too easily, especially against teams below us. They’re still an NBA team. You have to respect them.”

Co-captain Udonis Haslem delivered some “choice words,” at halftime, Heat forward Jordan Mickey said. But not even that could inspire a better effort, with Brooklyn’s 30-point halftime lead growing to 38 in the third quarter.

Haslem “felt tonight we didn’t compete or step up to the challenge,” Mickey said. “He said those are the types of games you’ve got to get, that we always drop games we shouldn’t lose.”

Spoelstra’s patience with his team was also tested, including one sequence in the first quarter when Quincy Acy shot a wide-open three in front of the Heat bench. Spoelstra then admonished his team.

“That possession was a microcosm of the entire game,” Spoelstra said. “The lack of urgency to get back, to scramble. To make multiple efforts actually felt like, ‘Hey, there’s an open guy, let him shoot’ in a semi-transition situation. It was a very delayed break that led to a wide-open shot that we didn’t make an effort to get to. Those plays piled up from there.

“It was just a bad basketball game. We certainly didn’t show resolve when the shots weren’t going in. Brooklyn was playing at a different pace than us.”

The Heat has not moved three games over .500 since April 2016, when Dwyane Wade was still with the team.

“We do have a tough-minded group, a very competitive group,” Spoelstra said Saturday. “Finding a way to channel that every night consistently has been something we’ve been working on. But there’s character in that locker room. We’re not expecting this to be anything other than an absolute dogfight. It’s hard to win in this league. It’s hard to win at home. It’s hard to win on the road when you take that for granted, that’s when you end up getting beat.

Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside returned Tuesday after missing 11 games. He talks about getting back to full strength and adjusting to changes in Heat’s offense.

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