Miami Heat

The Heat’s defense hasn’t been as bad as you probably think, but random lulls have hurt

Goran Dragic discusses his lingering knee injury

Goran Dragic had fluid drained from his knee after missing the Miami Heat's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The team has already ruled him out for Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets and two more games.
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Goran Dragic had fluid drained from his knee after missing the Miami Heat's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The team has already ruled him out for Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets and two more games.

With a 7-13 record through 20 games this season, it feels like the Heat’s defense is struggling.

But according to the numbers, Miami’s defense has actually been solid. The Heat entered Thursday with the league’s ninth-best defensive rating, allowing 107.2 points per 100 possessions.

“We’re struggling, but we’re ninth in the league in defense. It’s just the way the league is,” guard Dwyane Wade said after Thursday’s practice. “The shot goes in by [Josh Richardson], we won another game. But the shot comes out, so now it’s like everything continues to fall down. It’s this league. We just got to continue to stay with it, continue to believe in our habits and just get a little bit better at them, and things can change.”

The No. 1 thing that has to change is the defensive lulls the Heat runs into during games.

It happened in the first half of Tuesday’s loss to the Hawks, when Atlanta scored 68 points on 56.1 percent shooting. The Heat then limited the Hawks to 47 points on 38.5 percent shooting over the final two quarters.

“It’s more of a matter of consistency for us,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There are some things we’re doing very well. And in the same game, you’ll see some of our best defense and some of our worst. Clearly we need to tighten that up.”

How does the Heat explain its inconsistency issues?

“We just zone out,” Richardson said. “We just go through periods of time where we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing, and it’s cost us quite a few games. I think if we can cut those lulls out, I think our record will start evening out.

“We see what we’re capable of. We’ve seen what we’re capable of in the fourth quarter of quite a few games, but we wait until it’s too late. We just got to stop waiting.”

For Wade, it’s about learning from the bad stretches.

“Continue to watch the film, continue to see the moments where we do good and try to duplicate that more,” Wade said. “You can tell what you do bad when you watch film. Film don’t lie. So try to limit the mistakes you have individually and it will make the team defense better. I think we all are making a lot of individual mistakes at certain times and then we all are doing some incredible things individually, which makes our team defense good.”

Injury update

Heat guards Goran Dragic (right knee) and Tyler Johnson (right hamstring strain) are expected to miss Friday’s home game against the Pelicans. It would mark the sixth consecutive game Dragic has missed and the fifth consecutive game Johnson has missed with their respective injuries.

Dragic did practice Thursday, though, and he is nearing a return. But Johnson will be out for at least another week, according to a team spokesman.

Forward Justise Winslow (right knee contusion) is listed as probable for Friday’s contest. The Heat remains without Dion Waiters (left ankle surgery).

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