Miami Heat

Heat closes West Coast trip with worst offensive game of season. Takeaways from Heat-Lakers

After defeating the Suns in Phoenix on Thursday night, the Heat just didn’t have enough on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Heat closed its three-game trip with a 95-80 loss to the Lakers on Friday at Staples Center. Miami comes home with a solid 6-3 record following a 1-2 trip.

The Lakers extended their winning streak to seven games and moved to 7-1 for the season.

Here are five takeaways from the Heat’s loss to the Lakers ...

1. If there’s such a thing as a scheduled loss, this is about as close as it gets for the Heat.

Not only was Friday the second night of a back-to-back, it also marked the end of the Heat’s three-game West Coast trip. Miami could have packed it in against a Lakers team that was coming off two days of rest and a 6-1 start to the season.

But the Heat kept it close against the Lakers for most of the first half. The Lakers opened the game on a 13-2 run, but the Heat slowly chipped away at the deficit and even took a 40-39 lead with 4:02 to play in the first half.

The Heat entered halftime trailing only by two, 48-46.

The Lakers pulled ahead by as many as 14 points in the third quarter, but the Heat didn’t let up. Miami pulled within six with 7:48 to play.

That’s when the Lakers closed the game on a 13-4 run to seal the victory.

“Obviously, we didn’t have all of our juice,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, referring to the back-to-back. “We’re not making any excuses by any means. That’s a great team. But we just wanted to keep on kicking this down the road and keep this a possession game. It was ugly in the first half. I really wanted to see us get over that hump. A couple times, we had free-throw opportunities just to take the lead and we weren’t able to do it.”

The Heat’s offense struggled all night against the Lakers’ strong defense. Los Angeles owns the top defensive rating in the NBA and it showed, with Miami scoring a season-low 80 points on a season-worst 35 percent shooting from the field and 17.1 percent (6 of 35) shooting on threes Friday.

The Heat’s six made threes marks the fewest it has hit when taking 35 or more threes in a game in franchise history. The previous low was eight made threes, when the Heat finished 8 of 35 in a win over the Bucks on April 9, 2013 and 8 of 41 in a loss to the Nets on April 10 to close last season.

“That’s probably the most we’ve struggled offensively against anybody this season,” Spoelstra said. “We faced a good defensive team [Phoenix] last night and scored 124. Tonight, it just looked like we were fighting for clean looks the entire night. That’s a credit to them. A very good defensive system and they have unusual length that’s unique that we didn’t really manage well throughout the course of the game.”

Jimmy Butler led Miami with 22 points on 7 of 16 shooting, six rebounds and three assists. Goran Dragic contributed 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting off the bench.

The rest of the team combined for 39 points on 29.2 percent shooting.

2. The Heat prevented LeBron James from earning his fourth consecutive triple-double. That’s a positive for the Heat.

James entered Friday’s game with three consecutive triple-double performances, becoming the first Laker with three straight triple-doubles since Magic Johnson logged four in a row in 1987.

James could not extend his streak, finishing with an otherwise solid stat line of 25 points, four rebounds and six assists against the Heat.

Lakers star forward Anthony Davis was excellent, with 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

3. The retired Dwyane Wade was sitting next to the Heat’s bench ... as a spectator ... at Staples Center.

Sitting adjacent to the team bench, Wade watched the Heat take on the Lakers in a red and black outfit. It marked the first time he has attended a Heat game since retiring at the end of last season.

Wade, who has relocated to the Los Angeles area, spoke to the Heat hours before Friday’s game about the the importance of upholding the team’s culture that Udonis Haslem and him helped build.

“We preach culture,” Wade said during an in-game interview Friday with Fox Sports Sun’s Jason Jackson. “A lot of people hear that word but don’t really know what it means. I wanted to go in today and talk a little bit about that word culture. I expressed to them that before I stepped away, me and UD had conversations about that. There was a little nervousness from our side about who’s going to carry the torch of the culture.

“I wanted to tell them how proud I am of them for carrying that torch. I know it’s only eight games in, but as one of the old heads that played in that same jersey, they’re doing a hell of a job of moving that culture forward and representing the Miami Heat the way us former legends of Miami love to do.”

4. The Heat’s zone defense made its season debut.

After using zone defense more than any other team in the league last season, the Heat broke out the 2-3 look for the first time this season Friday against the Lakers. The Heat began playing zone toward the end of the first quarter and continued mixing in the zone throughout the rest of the game.

“I’m sure Pat [Riley] was just shocked with how much zone we ran tonight,” Spoelstra said with a grin. “But whatever it takes.”

The zone produced mixed results for the Heat, with the Lakers shooting 44.9 percent from the field and grabbing 10 offensive rebounds. Los Angeles was limited to 8 of 32 shooting on threes.

“We had to slow it down a little bit,” Dragic said of the Heat’s zone. “It’s a back-to-back for us. Its tough, especially against them. They’re a high-tempo team and they push the ball. They got AD, LeBron and all those guys. So we tried to change the tempo of the game a little bit, change the rhythm. We feel like we did it at some point. But in the end, it just wasn’t enough.”

It’s fitting, though, that the Heat would break out the zone for the first time this season in Los Angeles. Miami began using the 2-3 scheme last season in a victory over the Clippers at Staples Center on Dec. 8.

5. The Heat continues to play shorthanded.

Dion Waiters (illness), Derrick Jones. Jr. (left hip strain), KZ Okpala (left Achilles strain), Justise Winslow (concussion protocol) and Daryl Macon (G League) were all unavailable, leaving the Heat with 11 available players against the Lakers.

With a shorthanded roster, Miami played forward James Johnson for 15 minutes and inserted two-way contract forward Chris Silva in the first quarter of Friday’s game.

“No matter what, we got a group full of NBA guys and guys that know what they’re doing and play multiple positions,” Butler said. “Whether we got a healthy team, two people or three people down, we still got a job to do.”

Waiters has now missed the first nine games of the season after serving his one-game suspension in the Oct. 23 season opener for “conduct detrimental to the team.” He was dealing with a stomach illness leading up to Thursday’s game against the Suns, according to the Heat. He was in the locker room following the Heat’s win in Phoenix and traveled with the team to Los Angeles.

Jones missed his fifth game of the season Friday, this time with a left hip strain he suffered during Thursday’s win over the Suns . The previous four games he missed were because of a left groin strain.

Winslow was out after he was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol following Tuesday’s collision between Winslow and Nuggets forward Paul Millsap. He has already missed four games this season.

Okpala has missed five consecutive games with his Achilles injury. Macon is playing with the Heat’s developmental affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, as part of his two-way contract.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.
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