Miami Heat

Josh McRoberts gets his first Heat start

Miami Heat forward Josh McRoberts (4) shoots in front of Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, in Washington.
Miami Heat forward Josh McRoberts (4) shoots in front of Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, in Washington. AP

Power forward Josh McRoberts said the Heat never told him he would be a starter when team officials recruited him this summer. “I couldn’t care less about it,” he said Wednesday morning.

Hours later, what seemed inevitable finally happened, when McRoberts moved into the starting lineup for the first time as a member of the Heat.

After starting in all 78 of his appearances for Charlotte last season, McRoberts played off the bench behind Shawne Williams in his first 13 games for the Heat.

That happened because McRoberts missed nearly all of training camp, as well as the first game of the regular season, because he aggravated a toe injury that required offseason surgery.

Before moving him to the starting lineup, coach Erik Spoelstra on Wednesday downplayed the importance of McRoberts starting.

“It’s more about just getting Josh out there and getting guys comfortable with him,” Spoelstra said. “His conditioning level is greatly improved. He has to continue to get used to the pounding.”

Williams had scored just seven points on combined 2-for-7 shooting in the Heat’s previous two games. McRoberts has started 161 of his 364 NBA appearances.

▪  Norris Cole missed the game because he is “under the weather,” according to Spoelstra. Mario Chalmers made his seventh start in Cole’s absence.

DEFENSIVE ISSUES

The Heat entered play Wednesday with one key statistic that’s strikingly similar to its 15-67 team of 2007-’08 — and very much uncharacteristic of this franchise in the 21st century.

The Heat is allowing teams to shoot 46.8 percent from the field, sixth-worst in the league and barely ahead of woeful Philadelphia. That’s the same percentage that the ’07-’08 team permitted, when Miami finished ninth-worst in that category.

Before this season, the Heat finished in the top six in field-goal percentage defense in eight of the past 11 seasons. Miami fell off last season to 16th, at 45.7.

Chris Bosh said coaches have discussed that statistic with players “all the time” and it simply must improve.

“We need to have one of the best defenses, top 10, top 30 percent of the league, if we want to be a good team,” Bosh said. “Defensively, when it’s time to get stops, we are going to have to get stops. That’s something we really, really have to work on. … We’re having inconsistencies all over the board.

“Things that take the will to do it, like one-on-one defense, preventing blow-bys. We know we’ll give up some things because guys aren’t used to the system, things like not being in the right place at the right time. But one-on-one defense, closing out, boxing out — those are things we can control.”

Dwyane Wade said effort generally isn’t the problem. “Everyone who comes here has a learning curve because of the system here,” Wade said.

That system, Luol Deng said, is “built on trust” and knowing “where your teammates are going to be. In Chicago, defensively, we didn’t rotate as much. That’s a huge difference.”

And as Wade pointed out, “we don’t have the luxury to have a big guy down low to clean up a lot of our mistakes. We’re not a big team. If we make mistakes, we have to pay for it by being a smaller team.”

The good news for the Heat defensively: Miami is ninth in points allowed, at 97.0 per game, and 12th in three-point field goal percentage allowed, at 34.2.

“The one thing I will say about this team is they roll up their sleeves and get to work. That’s why I really respect this group,” Spoelstra said. “If you commit to that type of work, eventually you will start to see the results that you want.

“There are times we’re playing to the identity we want, with the intensity and the schemes of guys being on the same page, and times where it’s not. Guys getting comfortable and learning our system takes time.”

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