Miami Heat

Goran Dragic working hard to improve his shooting

Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) attempts to block a shot by Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, in Miami.
Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) attempts to block a shot by Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, in Miami. AP

Goran Dragic not only led all point guards in shooting percentage each of the past two seasons, but he also was the NBA’s only guard, period, to make at least half of his shots each of those years.

So it’s mystifying to Dragic why he entered Saturday shooting just 41.7 percent from the field, 23rd among point guards.

“I’ve lost a little bit of confidence on my shot, but I’m working on it,” Dragic said Saturday. “I’m staying after practice shooting the ball, trying to get back that feeling. I think I’m thinking too much about it.”

Two big differences with Dragic from a year ago:

▪ Last season, Dragic made 70 percent of his shots at the rim, best among guards. This season, he’s at 55.6 percent.

“I’m missing even easy shots, layups,” he said.

▪ Last season, Dragic made 35.5 percent of his shots beyond 10 feet. This season, it’s 27.6 percent — 4 for 17 from 10 to 16 feet, 4 for 12 from 17 feet to just before three-point range, and 8 for 31 on three-pointers (25.8 percent).

Also, Dragic is shooting 29.9 percent on jump shots, compared with 35.8 last season.

Nobody expected this, not after Dragic shot 50.5 percent and 50.1 percent from the field over the past two seasons.

“I’m getting all the shots I want,” Dragic said.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said his staff hasn’t changed anything mechanically with Dragic’s release because “we don’t want to break his shot. He’s proven he can shoot. The way I look at it, the odds are in our favor.”

still popular

LeBron James’ departure diminished the Heat’s national profile, but it hasn’t affected the team’s popularity locally.

Saturday marked the 206th consecutive regular-season home sellout, a streak dating back to James’ first game with the Heat in the 2010-11 season. Ticket of America CEO Michael Lipman said the Heat helped ensure strong premium seat sales by cutting prices this season.

What’s more, Heat games in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale TV market are averaging a 5.1 rating on Fox Sports Sun (a bit ahead of the 5.0 average last season) and 5.7 overall, when ESPN’s Heat ratings are factored in.

That means Heat ratings, among all NBA markets, rank fourth behind only Cleveland, San Antonio and Oklahoma City, and also means that 5.7 percent of Dade/Broward homes watch each Heat game, on average.

By contrast, Dolphins ratings remain worst in the country for NFL markets with only one team. The local ratings for the past two games (15.1 for Bills, 15.7 for Eagles) fall below last season’s 16.9 average.

And UM football ratings keep declining, from a 5.5 for the Clemson blowout, to 3.2 for Duke, 3.3 for Virginia and 2.4 for North Carolina, which is about 40,000 homes.

getting better

Hassan Whiteside picked up two fouls early in Thursday’s game but only one more the rest of the way, prompting Kings coach George Karl to say that Whiteside “did the same cheap foul five times” in the second half and it was never called.

Spoelstra said with Whiteside, “we don’t talk about avoiding fouls. We talk about technique, using his feet to be in position early and awareness. He’s seeing things before they happen and that’s probably the most important thing of staying out of foul trouble is being aware of things early, being alert early.

“He’s getting better in those areas. If he does get a couple extra fouls, we still want him to challenge, still want him to be aggressive at the rim. That’s what we have the depth for.”