Chris Bosh was the last player on the practice court Saturday, and he wasn’t happy with himself or his team when he walked off of it.
The back-to-back defending championship Heat has lost more than it has won recently, and the team’s players all say they’re in a bad place right now — Bosh especially, who never has it easy. These aren’t the same Heatles, who, only a few weeks ago, were banding together and drumming opponents and had finally figured out how to play consistently with an on-again, off-again superstar.
No, this is the full roster, with Dwyane Wade moving confidently toward some semblance of full health, now struggling against one of the worst teams in the NBA.
For the Denver Nuggets, Friday’s upset of the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena was perhaps the high-water mark of a season spent near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. For the Heat, it was just another referendum on how much work is left before the playoffs.
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Wade is back to feeling good again, and the team is back to figuring out its identity. Bosh’s shots have gone away. LeBron James is out of rhythm and trying to coexist with Wade in the fourth quarters of games. It’s almost like the beginning of the season all over again.
“You know [how] we’ve learned about this process of being around each other for so long, and going through all those battles together?” Heat coach Spoelstra asked rhetorically Saturday. “It’s that it never stops. As much equity and experience as we have together, that doesn’t mean you have to go through it again. You have to go through it again, and maybe differently — most likely differently.
And so there was Bosh, sweating out the frustration on the Heat’s practice court, working on his baseline moves and three-point attempts all by his lonesome. On Friday, Bosh started the game 1 of 8 from the field and went 0 of 4 from three-point range overall.
“I think we’re all in a position of ‘what can we do today to help tomorrow and the days after that?’ ” Bosh said. “This is when you see what you’re made of, and I think what you do in times like these define who you are.
“When things are going well and everybody is nice to you, it’s easy. But there are no frontrunners here. We just love to compete, love to work and this is what it’s all about for us.”
So the Heat rolled up the sleeves a little bit Saturday, and tried to figure out how to win again.
Since trailing from start to finish March 4 in Houston, the Heat has lost five of its last six games. The loss to Denver was especially puzzling. The Heat (44-19) led by double digits early on but then gave it all to the way to a group of Nuggets reserve led by second-year player Evan Fournier of France.
Most tangibly, the biggest problem has been turnovers. During the losing skid, the Heat is averaging 15.8 turnovers per game and committed 20 against the Nuggets.
Spoelstra said the team’s “mental resolve” needs to improve during the middle of games.
“That’s between me, D-Wade and C.B.,” James said. “We’ve got to do a better job of that. We are the main ball-handlers.”
The other problems the team is going through right now are a little more complicated. James and Bosh carried the team for long stretches this season with Wade on the mend. Now that Wade is feeling better, the offense is going through an adjustment phase, especially late in games. James has made one shot in the fourth quarters of his past two games.
“That’s the balance that we’re working with right now,” James said. “Because [Wade] has been playing so well as of late and he has been handling the ball a lot and I kind of have gotten out of rhythm with it, and that’s something I got to figure out.
“It’s a challenge. When he was in and out, I knew exactly what I had to do, and exactly how I attack the game, and go from there. And his health has gotten better. It’s going to be better for the team, but it kind of has gotten me out of rhythm right now as an individual.”
How are all these stars going to play together? That should sound slightly familiar. It’s the same old song everyone has been singing about the Heat since 2010. The team has somehow managed to make it work.
“It’s not like this our first year playing together,” James said. “It’ something we figured out Year One, but you can’t take it for granted. You still got to try to figure it back out, and that’s something I’m going through right now.”